Queer Filipinx Rapper Kimmortal On “Jungle,” the SHE Festival and Overcoming her Stutter
“In all my art and music, there is an ever-present longing for connection. That longing stems from being part of a marginalized community in the face of white supremacist patriarchy.”
Kimmortal is a Vancouver, British Columbia-based rap-soul emcee and singer-songwriter. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, this Filipinx-Canadian artist is known for her beautiful political music based around concepts of identity, gender and community. Kimmortal blends hip-hop beats with unexpected instruments like ukulele, delivering authentic and meaningful performances that remain playful and full of love and hope.
Kimmortal recently released a new music video for the song “Jungle,” featuring Jillthy and Missy D. Wear Your Voice has had the opportunity to catch up with Kim regarding the video, her recent work, identity and the current North American political climate. Here’s what she had to say.
Wear Your Voice: Tell us a little bit about how you discovered your love for music. Who or what inspired you most in the beginning? How did you start creating it?
Kimmortal: I dealt with anxiety and a stutter throughout my last years in high school. I would wake up crying from dreams where I was speaking eloquently and powerfully. I led a hip-hop dance team at the time, and it was through motion that I could express myself, but it was my voice that I wanted to access, because I knew it was my power. Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged lifted me up throughout all this. That album was the first time I was exposed to the honest struggle of an artist from a spiritual lens. I could really relate.
I really started embracing my voice when I realized I could write and bring words to song. I picked up the guitar and started writing emo songs when I was in grade 10. I’d extract writings from my journal when trying to find lyrics. My cadence became rap rhythmic, empowered by my experience, and I’ve just been experimenting ever since.
WYV: How does your identity as a Filipinx play into your work? What other intersections does your work touch upon?
K: My ancestors inform and play a part in all the work that I do, whether I acknowledge it or not. My mom’s unapologetic fire is in my drive on stage. My dad’s hands, and his mother’s hands, are in the way I hold a pen when drawing. My psyche has been molded by their working-class immigrant mentalities, their struggle to prove themselves in predominantly white middle-class communities.
I identify as someone of Filipino ancestry born on indigenous land — I’ve only been to the Philippines once when I was younger, and I remember feeling so dissonant because I couldn’t speak Tagalog and felt so western and alien there. At the same time, I feel like I have to prove my intelligence and my worth everywhere I go as a brown non-binary queerdo here in Canada.
Being involved in Filipino activist community and QPOC communities has given me tools to deconstruct how colonialism informs this alienation in racialized, diasporic bodies. In all my art and music, there is an ever-present longing for connection. That longing stems from being so far from the motherland, being part of a marginalized community in the face of white supremacist patriarchy and wanting to connect to my wholeness.
I am many things and made up of many layers, and often feel like I’m not taken for my wholeness. I believe art can mend these fragments.
WYV: What inspired the song and video “Jungle?” Can you tell us a bit about the production of the video?
K: I made the song “Jungle” on Ableton one day when experimenting with beatmaking. I sampled the Kulintang instrument off a YouTube film, sped it up, chopped up beat samples and made a drum kit out of cell phone recordings of these caged birds that were in my mom’s kitchen. I sent it over to my friends Missy D. and Jillthy and had them write a verse somewhere along the lines of being women of color emcees and the fire in that. Fire bars.
The video was filmed on a summer day last year by Khalil (AKA Khingz). We filmed in parking lots, in front of concrete rubble and brick walls. I tend to edit my own work, so I did that with this piece as well.
WYV: Who inspires you most?
K: Currently, Princess Nokia’s movement has been activating me. She is an intelligent brown and proud woman and I’m so grateful her intentions exist in music right now on planet Earth. She inhabits many different realms and brings it into her music. I’ve probably watched all her interviews and cried after every one. I really feel her and I think the world has been craving someone like her fine self to say it all like it is.
My friends who are poets, activists, writers, artists, dancers, musicians and emcees push me to keep going deeper.
WYV: What do you hope to give back to the community? How do you feel art supports community?
K: I would love queerdo people of color, outcasts, femmes, women of color, and diasporic bodies to feel affirmed and represented and empowered through my music. I hope they can access healing and fire and water for their spirits through my music. I hope my music can provide a glimpse into the life of a queer filipino women of color.
WYV: How does your music address current political issues in North America?
K: There is a need for artists to utilize their creative mediums to lift up communities that are being attacked. Communities I belong to are being attacked and this deeply affects and me and shows up in my music. I usually write from the place of wanting to assert marginalized voices into the equation as a form of resistance, bombarding sonic waves with my voice, which has been influenced by the voices of my teachers, ancestors, homies. These people have activated me, and so I hope to continue that circle/cycle of activation when I push my music out there. Music and art has been my way of showing up and resisting because it’s my greatest power.
WYV: What do you hope to do with the SHE festival?
K: I’m trying to make it a more than one-day thing that includes free workshops for self-identified black, indigenous, girls of color in order to pass the baton and share skills and experience. Fostering more conversations amongst artists and community.
WYV: Where do you hope to see your work in the next few years? How has it changed since you began?
K: I want to have more music and art projects out and hopefully travel the world to reach people and feel them. I feel as though the world has not seen what I have been kindling inside me for a long-ass time. Music started off as an experiment, dabbling. It’s surprising to see how much can drastically change once you make a decision to be an artist or pursue music for real, for real. I never thought I would have opened up for my favorite artists like Shad K or Gabriel Teodros or headlined for a local Pride fest, but it’s all from making a choice and dreaming and going full throttle, manifesting your dreams, obsessively thinking about it every day. That’s my life and the life I want to live.
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