Heidi Barton Stink on Guante, Pride and staying positive
|Photo by RJ Lawrence|
PRIDE weekend in the Twin Cities is known for its epic parties, spectacular parades and over-the-top everything. Behind the hoopla, of course, you can find countless organizers, performers and activists working tirelessly to rally the masses under a banner of equality and self-love.
Gimme Noise caught up with self-proclaimed transgender community organizer, activist and hip hop artist Heidi Barton Stink this week to chat about Pride, and her role as an activist in the Queer community, her debut full-length A Charming Gut, a buoyant, thought-provoking boom bap effort with memorable contributions by rising star Guante.
GN: On A Charming Gut, you touch on a range of heavy topics, but still "celebrate the bittersweet." How did you develop this positive approach to music (and life) and why is it so integrally important to who you are as an artist?
Heidi: I'm not actually a positive person, but I look up to positive people and want to be a positive person. Positive hip-hop was what I wanted to make originally. I grew up on A Tribe Called Quest, a lot of that stuff. In actuality I am really a cynical person, but See More Perspective [the album's producer] is a really positive hip-hop artist, a positive person who takes that into everything in his life. And so I think he really helped me put that influence back in the direction I was going. If I have a song about an issue, I try to have some sort of resolution or some ideas for change or hope and action. And not just be like "this sucks" or "I'm against rape." Everyone's against rape. So instead I rap about some ideas to help people practice better consent, see that as an issue they can personally in their life make changes and not just be against.
GN: So is the transformative power of the art you hope to create something you also get to reap the benefits of?
Heidi: Absolutely! You know, what's the Stuart Smalley word... affirmations. I get stuff tattooed on me so I remember not to be a sad sack. It totally helps me and I've had those experiences where someone tells me to listen to my own song. Practice what you preach. It's hard to internalize good ideas come out of your head and mouth.
GN: How does your buoyant aesthetic bolster this philosophy?
Heidi: That's born out of doing a lot of live shows. There's a couple songs on the record that I would probably never do live since the audience would just stand and look at me. But if it's a catchy song, maybe they'll go home and have it stuck in their head and listen to the content.
GN: Was it the influence of See More Perspective that really brought out this boom bap-heavy sound, or was that what drew you to him in the first place?
Heidi: That's what brought me to him in the first place, not that it was just the vinyl boom bap, but that it was in an interesting, weird way. Like I definitely didn't want something that sounded like DJ Premier circa 1993, like that stuff's good and everything but See More really brings his own flavor to that kinda boom bap stuff.
GN: You worked with Guante on this album as well - what role did he play on the record?
Heidi: He helped me A LOT, in many ways. In terms of organization and as far as just being an influence - like you can be out there in the hip hop scene AND give a shit and do a lot of community work. He's also an honest ear, what's working and what's not working. So yea, Guante for President. I was also kinda mad that he showed me up [on Intersecting Lines] with the best verse on gender on the whole album [laughing]. And that's what I wanted to get - he's this straight guy, but rape culture, patriarchy, patriarchy and the media and how that affects a dude and affects a dude that's really smart and aware of it.