[Interview] Mr Strange, first openly gay rapper talks UK Rap Industry and Viral Fame.

“I’m from the same places as most of these rappers, we’ve done the same things, but the roads don’t go anywhere”

UK’s first openly gay rapper speaks of hyper masculine rap industry.

Following the success of his freestyle video that went viral across social media, British rapper Mr Strange discusses his new found fame and his sexuality in an industry where homosexuality or open queerness isn’t usually accepted.

The video was released on Youtube platform BL@CKBOX and was later shared on @SpotlightFirst_‘s Twitter where it amassed over one million views and gained national coverage.

The calm and collected 20-year-old rapper from Hounslow is the first artist to bring something different to UK’s rap scene. Mr Strange said he hopes to bring ‘more transparency, story-telling and greatness.’

After a busy week of interviews and guest appearances, Mr Strange sat under our spotlight, to share his goals for his rap career.

How have things been for you since the release of your video?

MS: Since I released my video, things have been crazy none stop! I think this week was when things have actually started to slow down a bit.

In your freestyle you spoke about your sexuality which had mixed reviews. How did your friends accept your sexuality when you first came out?

MS: My friendships most definitely changed. The people I used to hang around with, I’m not really with them anymore. But the people that are around me now accept me for what I do and take me in properly.

When did you get into music?

MS: I started making music when I was about 14, 15 so for like 5 years. But I only started taking it seriously 3 years. So you could say I’ve been making music for a while now.

When you first started rapping, how was your new choice of career perceived by your friends and family?

MS: Do you know what? I never really had a conversation about whether this was what I wanted to do. I’ve just kinda always made music and slowly myself I just took it seriously. I didn’t ask them if it was going to be hard as I’m gay I just really got on with it.

Do you find it hard being yourself in a hyper masculine environment?

MS: I don’t really find it hard. But like you said it is a masculine environment. But I don’t necessarily find something that prevents me from doing what I’m doing. I’ve got tunnel vision. I just see things for what it is and I get on with it.

The competition in the industry is rife. Do you ever feel like you have to pretend to live up to a certain lifestyle due to your sexuality?

MS: I literally spit what I live. Obviously, I’m from the same places as most of these rappers. We all do the same things. The roads don’t really go anywhere. So I don’t like to make a major thing about it. I just rap about what I know.

Where do you see yourself in the scene as an artist?

MS: I definitely want to be put down as one of the greats. 100% I think I have such a unique message and point of view and you’ll find out more about that in more interviews and the music that I make and whatever. But I definitely want to be remembered as a person that made a difference, for everyone.

Can you describe the feeling of what it was like when you went viral?

MS: I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes I don’t take things in properly, I’m just so laid back and chilled out. It was surreal, definitely surreal. Obviously my life still continues in the same way. I’ve still got things that I need to do. I’ve got the routine. It’s kinda weird cause all this is going on and is everything I’ve dreamed for but my life is still pretty much the same.

Did you ever expect to go viral?

MS: You know what, I always knew at some point I was going to catch a lot of attention. But just the feeling of going viral and seeing one million views, nah, I wasn’t expecting that!

Your flow is actually hard! What do you have to say to people that overlook your skills just because of your sexuality?

MS: Do you know what I can’t really say much to them. You don’t have to agree with what I’m saying, you don’t have to play it in your car but if someone asks you and you say ‘it’s shit (?)’  I’ll just be like come on now (laughs).

Do you feel like rappers in the scene are purely being themselves?

MS: Not everything rappers say is going to be true and that’s with anyone. If you’ve built up a reputation about your past life, you might exaggerate. It might be far away from the truth.

What message would you like to send out to people that are afraid of living their truths?

MS: It’s so cliché but honestly you just have to be yourself. Continue to break your own personal boundaries and the boundaries that are set around you. That will make your life easier in whatever you’re doing, you just have to make sure you are being true to yourself.

What can we expect from you?

MS: More of me, more music, more greatness, more people to understand me you know, I’m quite a transparent person, I’m not afraid to expose myself, I don’t want to be seen as a major massive ego.

I want people to understand me as a person, I wear my heart on my sleeve, show them that you can just be yourself.

Where can we find you? It seems like you’re not a fan of social media!?

MS: I took a year off. You have to know how to use social media otherwise it can eat you up. I’m at a place where I can look at negative comments, send them to my friends and just laugh. If someone says a bad thing, can’t take it so literally, to the point where you believe it. But I am on socials

You can only speak about your life and the world can make assumptions. What is the main thing you want the world to know about Mr Strange?

MS: I don’t know any gay people like me that aren’t very flamboyant. I have so many qualities that people would say are feminine. I’m showing you, you can be emotional and you can laugh.

There are gay people everywhere, especially where I come from, you can’t really show that side of you.  People have an idea of what a gay person is so I’m kinda underrepresented. I just want to bring people together. 

If I can show people from my background that you can get on with someone who is gay rapper, then it might start with me and the next person and so on.

Interview with Mr Strange. Words by Tolubxo with additional questions from TalkwithTonte. Filmed and Edited by Teeyanaaromi.

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