By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly
For queers who love hip-hop, there may be nothing more magical than a “sissy bounce” show. The synchronized gyrations of booty-clad backup dancers. The sequin-encrusted bling. The beats that shake all pretense to the floor.
Vockah Redu — a New Orleans-based artist and contemporary of bounce royalty such as Big Freedia and Katey Red — will bring that primal, spiritual experience to Portland June 16.
Sandwiched between two Seattle performances, Redu (pronounced Rah-doo) will headline Hey Girl Hey!, a queer pride dance party from DJ Roy G Biv (Bent) and Plan B.
“I am indeed uper uper super [excited] about this show; not just because I’m performing, but [because] it’s celebrating pride and self-freedom,” Redu says.
He’ll be bringing his Cru, which currently features Shortee Whop (Glendell Weir), Energyzah (Clarence Mosley), and Taveion Rodeo (Donte Brown). A quick perusal of YouTube reveals the Cru to be particularly skilled at booty popping. (It really is a skill — complete with YouTube tutorials.) That they have their own stripper pole speaks to their dedication to perfecting their sultry moves.
Because when it comes down to it, bounce is a verb. Beats per minute become synonymous with bounces per minute, and the crowd transforms into a human metronome, vibrating in time with the rhythm.
“I know the show is going well at the end of the show when my Beatfreakquincyz [audience] is still dancing,” Redu says.
Pushing through an entire bounce set is a physically taxing feat, but Redu isn’t asking for anything he isn’t willing to bring to the stage. He combines an eclectic mix of African, hip-hop, and modern dance with over-the-top theatrical costuming and gunfire-fast raps to create a powerfully contagious energy.
“Fashion is a feeling and I wear what makes me feel good,” Redu says of his performance aesthetic, which has in the past included glowing Gaga-like glasses, metallic space suits, and bright sequined jackets. “Performing, to me, is my therapy. It does by body right, no left.”
There is something about bounce music that, when fully engaged, has the ability exorcise one’s demons — if only temporarily. The West Coast experienced its first booty poppin’ revivals thanks to DJ Beyondadoubt (Hole in My Soul), who introduced sissy bounce artists through her dance night Buck and Bounce and continues to spin her own queer bounce creations at party’s such as Mrs.
“Bounce is on the rise and I am happy that people of all different lives are enjoying [it],” Redu says.
Beyondadoubt, who recently toured Europe with Gossip, will also be performing at Hey Girl Hey!, alongside NW power DJs LA Kendall (Hard Times Seattle), Roy G Biv (Bent), Mr. Charming (Gaycation), Freddie Says Relax (Wicked Awesome), and Pocket Rock-It (Magic Mouth/Bridge Club).
Bloodhound Photography will be on hand with a photobooth to document the shortness of the shorts, while gogo dancers Leila, Jade Fair, Nicoleta Gaywad, Kiel, Tita Compere, and Boys + Mixtapes will provide the inspiration.
Redu credits an equally diverse cast of muses.
“My inspiration [is] the Creator, my mother, Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Al Jarreau, Prince, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Andre 3000, Lil Wayne, Beyonce, Grace Jones, Janelle Monae, Sir Mix-a-Lot, [and] Lady Gaga,” Redu says.
He recently had the opportunity to collaborate with one of his influences when he recorded “Fantahsea (Shake Yo’ Bones)” with Seattle-based emcee and producer (of “Baby Got Back” fame) Sir Mix-a-Lot. The project includes a video, the trailer for which can be seen on Redu’s website.
But the multi-talented performer has more than sick beats and hot moves up sometimes-eccentric sleeves. Redu has plans to start a rock band (perhaps to help him earn the “latter-day George Clinton” title bestowed on him by New York Times Magazine) as well as film, fashion, and fitness projects.
“What’s next for me? I’m working on this movie in NYC this fall, this play in New Orleans called ‘Lilly’s Revenge,’ new music, exercise video, music video, fashion shows and underwear line, [and] being a great father and human being,” Redu says.
He didn’t mention where he gets his inexhaustible energy. But considering that he identifies as a “unicorn” (among other things), it probably wouldn’t hurt to bottle up his sweat. Who knows what queer magic it contains? (If you need to lure him closer, we hear he likes peanut butter and jelly.)