Photo by: Bianca Lecompte
In the midst of a global pandemic and ongoing protests in support of #BlackLivesMatter and defunding the police, I can’t imagine a more appropriate time for the world to experience Backxwash’s latest album, “God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It.” A trans rapper (she/her/it) originally from Zambia, Backxwash delivers a record that feels like the perfect cataclysm of rage and loneliness that amplifies the tumultuous emotions of so many underrepresented communities. Riddled with an unbelievable amount of sonic texture, her music can sometimes be uncomfortable to listen to; but it nevertheless begs the listener to remain present and consider where their discomfort is truly stemming from.
With a constant low hum and fuzziness on the bass, the record begins with the title track and the harrowingly repetitive scream of, “Oh, no, no, please God help me.” Setting a religious backdrop, Backxwash laments, “Mama keep telling me, ask the lord for forgiveness / I want war with these bitches, I want corpses and weapons.” Her anger is so furiously looking for a place to land and settles itself into the body of the following songs “Black Magic,” “Spells,” and “Black Sheep.” These three songs all seem to embrace the darkness and supposed nature of Blackness as a presumed evil, perhaps examining the racial disparities that have left the artist on the margins of society. But what really resonates in these songs is the hurt that underlies her growing anger. After describing the traumas of loved ones lost and the grief she feels for her own life, Backxwash raps, “I feel so alone, but I don’t wanna pick up the phone cause I fuck with black magic.” The power behind her chaotic energy reveals itself to be precariously balanced against her sadness, making for a heartbreaking reveal into her inner psyche. The multiple voices and whispers that are embedded in these tracks also make Backxwash’s lyrics sound like they are resonating in an echo chamber, so devastatingly empty despite the urgency in her voice.
“Into the Void” is the pinnacle of the album as it explicitly details the dangers of existing in this world as a Black trans womxn. Caught between a place of loneliness and paranoia, Backxwash illustrates the violence she anticipates in even the most mundane of places. As she raps, “I’m walking down the street I’m anticipating death,” the listener is forced to walk in her shoes and feel the peril she lives in every single day. That uncomfortably low buzz on the bass, that continues to persist in the record, finally makes itself known as the battle field in which she was born and cannot escape. And the final track of the record acts as her reconciliation with the pain of that fact.
“Redemption” is where it all comes into focus after diving into the belly of the beast. Backxwash can’t help but put her whole heart on the line as she so beautifully demonstrates what we all want as human beings: to be seen and understood. But, make no mistake. The trials and tribulations each of us face to achieve that sense of compassion are still informed by the heteronormative, racist structures and ideologies that guide so many other principles in our daily lives. Our collective struggle for empathy is not a fair race. And such injustices and emotional reparations need to be put into affect. Her final lyrics of the album are so perfectly distilled, it feels only appropriate to end this article with her own words:
“I will dare anyone /
To face me up headfirst while I’m layering these drums /
The pain that I’ve done compared to the pain I’ve undone /
It’s weighing a ton it’s heavy I don’t wait for no one”
Written by: Misao McGregor