One third of Brooklyn-based hip-hop trio Hand Job Academy, rising MC Meg Skaff (Uncle Meg) has been making a name as a solo artist with the bold release of her debut five-track EP Dangerfield. Though it’s difficult to singlehandedly top HJA’s buzzy tracks “Lena Dunham” and “Shark Week,” Skaff’s approach to music-making alone is just as beautifully queer with a noticeable shift from tongue-in-cheek humor toward darker, more intimate lyricism.
Skaff confidently scalps her naysayers on the opening track, “Uncle Freestyle,” repeatedly spitting the cocky hook: “Do what I wanna do, I do this shit regardless;” she brightens things a bit with the bubbly sun-soaked cut, “Angel Dust,” featuring Laura Lee Bishop; and lends her grizzling rhymes to aggressive production on “Pretty Boi,” evocative of early 2000’s Lady Sovereign.
We caught up with the promising rapper to discuss being genderqueer (because we’re still at a point socially when greater visibility is important), getting fed chicken tenders by prostitutes and producing her Dangerfield cut, “Me, The Demon.”
What does your genderqueer identity mean to you?
“I identify as ‘genderqueer’ because I’m very in touch with both the feminine and masculine sides of myself. And my identity even goes a little further than just gender. ‘Uncle,’ to me, is all sides of myself—my whole identity. Uncle is a redneck from my West Virginia roots; Uncle is a nerd with a little bit of swag; Uncle is a pimp; Uncle has a dark mental side and can be morbid; and Uncle is a loyal caretaker that will niece and nephew your children. I got to this point by just being honest with who I am and who I’ve always been—embracing it and not apologizing for it.”
How does this perspective influence your music?
“All of my music is influenced by who Uncle Meg is. I try to be as honest as I can when I write, and everything that comes out of me is 100% Uncle. The darker stuff I write is usually about intimacy, vulnerability and mental illness. The goofier lyrics are actually about very similar things, but with a lighter touch. It’s like I’m almost making fun of myself sometimes. I can make fun of my flaws and the dark things I’ve experienced, but at the same time embrace them for exactly what they are and were. Writing and making music is a practice of self-love for who I am and acceptance for where I’m at in any current moment.”
Tell me about the process behind honing your sound.
“I think I’m always in a constant process of developing my style and sound. My goal is to create catchy, goofy [and] simple hooks that people can rap or sing along to—phrases that most people can relate to. But inside the song, I want the lyrics in the verses to be a little darker and intellectual; that’s really where I dig in.”
Describe your wildest night out in New York.
“My wildest night out was probably one night in 2010 around Halloween. Me and some friends were going down to Coney Island to see the Freak Show, but we didn’t make it in time and were really pissed for some reason. I ended up taking the train alone back up to Bed-Stuy where I was living at the time. But I fell asleep on the F train and then the next thing I know, I woke up in Jamaica Queens at a McDonald’s with prostitutes feeding me chicken tenders. They helped me figure out how to get home.”
“I’ve always loved rap and hip-hop music, and I’ve also always written poetry. I actually had no idea that I would become a rapper until I met my homegirls from my rap group, Hand Job Academy. They brought a confidence out in me that I didn’t think I had before and it saved my life. I stopped caring so much about what other people thought of me, which is still a process, and started getting acquainted with the person I am inside.”
What role does humor play in your work?
“I like the juxtaposition of using hidden dark lyrics against a beat and hook that someone might not perceive as depressing or sad. In my song ‘Uncle Freestyle’ I write, ‘wavy everyday, swerving but okay, overdo it all the time, I can’t stay, k?’ The flow is very upbeat, but its talking about my anxiety and being worked up to the point where you are about to explode.
In my song, ‘Me, The Demon’, I write- ‘and I stay weezin’ when my baby walking in the room, chain smoking, heading straight for the tomb like, bury me, wad up Jesus?’ What I’m really talking about is how uncomfortable I really am with cigarette consumption because ultimately I’m scared of death because I don’t have a clear idea of where my spirit will go. I haven’t figured that out yet. I’m thinking of trying past life regression therapy.”
You produced “Me, The Demon.” Tell me about this.
“‘Me, The Demon’ was actually the second beat I ever produced. I became interested in making my own beats and I bought a Maschine Mikro and taught myself one day. I’m a total control freak and nerd. I like learning new technology and being involved and in charge of my whole creative process as much as I can. In ‘Me, The Demon,’ I make fun of myself a lot and kind of call myself out on some things to the point that it’s almost self-pitying, but I put the whole thing over a trap beat. This was actually most people’s favorite song off the EP Dangerfield I put out in September. The hook is all about how I have all these inner demons just like everyone else and I’m asking, Don’t you wanna be with me? Don’t you wanna fuck with me? Who is out there that can accept me for who I am?”
You just shot a music video for the track. What’s the premise of the clip?
“There are two groups—Cats and Rats—fighting over me and I can’t choose between the leader of the rats or the leader of the cats. It’s gonna be goofy and hilarious, which is another juxtaposition that I love—putting weirdo, quirky visuals over something that could also be interpreted as something darker and deeper. Because I always want the cat and everyone knows that the cat is good for me, but there is something about that rat that I want because something inside wants drama and destruction. And then on top of that, I love making fun of drama and destruction and when girls throw bitch fits—when I throw bitch fits.”