“We all know the kind of harassment that is just waiting at every corner of the internet for us.”
Trap Beat Tranny (“TBT 4 da sissies!”) is a Boston-based Black trans rapper who recently put out CYBERBULLY, a 16-track genre-defying album that is simultaneously a “long-form diss track” to the internet, a reflection on the hectic year that was 2020, and an examination of the ways in which Black people of marginalized genders are harassed online.
Focused on clapping back at racist, sexist internet trolls, and more broadly, at the internet itself, TBT’s raw lyrics—sung and rapped over catchy trap and pop—make it hard to choose between dancing along or sitting and musing on their powerful honesty. CYBERBULLY also pays homage to Blackness and queerness, and raises a glass to those who struggle to survive in a world that is unsympathetic at best and violent at worst.
My favorite track is “Pack It Up Crystal Gems!” In the song, TBT sings and raps about being a “tender queer with the gender fear.” The song is surprisingly joyous despite the violence it describes. As they switch from gentle crooning to defiant rapping, TBT is both on the attack and on the defense. At the end, a child’s voice teasingly sings, “Black people can’t marry white people!” TBT tells me that the child’s voice was sampled from a Steven Universe PSA that aired on Cartoon Network in 2020 in an attempt to teach children to “acknowledge racism.” Go figure. That’s only one of the many wonderfully sardonic Easter eggs “CYBERBULLY” has to offer.
I spoke with TBT to talk about their music.
I would love to hear about how you got started in music, and about your first mixtape, Femmetasy.
I was studying theater at Boston University. This was my first time at art school, actually. And so I found myself expanding my definition of what I thought I could do as an artist. I sort of started to go into poetry… and I found it was really, really easy to kind of go from a spoken word, like slam lens into a rap lens. So I was like, Okay, wait. Let’s make a shift.
Femmetasy was the first project that I worked on after leaving college. And it was kind of me being like, “All right, let me test the waters. … I’m going to put a project out just to show people that I can do this.”
The [first] summer that I experienced that of college … I was working a catering job doing double and triple shifts. That was while working on a show at a local Boston theater company. … It was a stamina game, multiple days a week to do that. … So, you know, I [was] very much just focused on like, How am I surviving this? [Femmetasy] kind of helped me get through that.
Let’s talk about CYBERBULLY. It’s very pointed, right, very direct. You talk a lot about race and gender. I wanted to hear about what it was like for you when writing the songs and figuring out what messages you wanted to include.
So, the most popular track on Femmetasy is a track called “Hex Ur Ex.” It got placed on a Spotify editorial playlist and it has almost 17,000 streams now [Ed. note: It has even more now]. Part of the struggle of that summer was an unfortunate situation that involved me living with an ex who threatened to evict me. The details of that are all laid out in the song … and when it was getting all this attention, I was like, Okay, well, let me see if I can go in this direction a little bit more for CYBERBULLY … Y’all like my diss tracks, so what if I take that to its logical extreme?
What influenced my creative process was that I, as a Black person who exists and is of a gender experience that’s marginalized, we all know the kind of harassment that is just waiting at every corner of the internet for us. So, I was like, I will say everything that I want to say about this. And then we’re going to leave it here. And if ever anybody says something, or if ever anything like this comes up, I’ll just be like, Refer to CYBERBULLY. I already talked about this.
Describe the era of CYBERBULLY for you.
It’s lowkey antisocial media … it’s anti-discourse. I think we’ve reached a point online where the way that we talk about identity is so divorced from material realities of how people just literally move through the world. And I find that when it comes to Black trans people, especially specifically, it feels like there’s more debating about whether our experiences are valid online than actually like helping us, you know. And so I’m like, Enough talk…it just doesn’t ever go anywhere.
I felt like 2020 was one of those years where, because of how politically charged as well as everything else that was happening … that all just created a situation where everybody was very much so online, like unfortunate degrees of online. And I think that that has, I’ve only seen an increase in the levels of harassment against my population specifically, I feel like every other day, I’m seeing one of us getting dogpiled for speaking the truth, or I’m seeing somebody questioning the validity of why so many of us have a GoFundMe.
It’s literally always something and I’m just like, You know, that’s exhausting. That’s very, very exhausting. Over the course of the time that I was writing this album, I went from somebody who was very, very on social media yet to somebody who’s like very, very not on social media. And so [CYBERBULLY] also kind of chronicles this transition. … By the end of the album I’m more concerned with taking care of myself and doing what I need to do to move through the world as myself and bring my full self to the situations that I’m in, regardless of all the bullshit.
How would you describe your relationship with the internet now, today?
Very measured. Very, very measured. I’m off Facebook entirely. I’m off Instagram entirely.
TBT on the future:
I’m going to keep things rolling with the rollouts. I am planning on a music video eventually. Probably for “Pack It Up Crystal Gems!” … I won’t do another full-length project for awhile because I have to build myself up to that. I mean, this is the first time I’ve ever actually worked on a music project. This took a whole year. [I’ve] never worked on a musical project for that long.
Babi Oloko hails from new New Jersey and is currently pursuing a BA in literature and art history at Harvard University. She writes art reviews, personal essays, and fiction pieces for various publications. You can find more of her writing in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Harvard Crimson, and Unpublished Zine.