"Flip-flops in the club? HOW DARE YOU!" Big Dipper talks queer hip-hop, fashion, FOMO, fat shaming, hate-watching, and shitloads more.
Photos by Rene Rodriguez
“Basically, when I see a donut, I have to eat it,” says Big Dipper, digging in. I’ve brought him to possibly the least trendy diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, one of the self-consciously trendiest enclaves in the world. The juxtaposition of tacky, acrylic-taloned waitresses carrying carbs-on-carbs, as stick-thin 20-somethings stroll by our window in Hood By Air feels like the perfect setting. As a Brooklyn-via-Chicago transplant, Big Dipper sits comfortably between the world of ultra-chic Manhattan and the truer, less serious side of New York. He prefers Daisy Dukes to baggy jeans, raps more like Nicki than Wayne, and jokes about being broke rather than bragging about rolling in it. And like any of life’s great juxtapositions, Big Dipper is fucking fascinating.
For someone who’s not working with a ton of bank, the queer, big boy rapper sure likes to be generous. He hands out free bacon, donuts, and French fries at his shows, not to mention he posts all his music (and videos) online for free. Once you start following him on socials, scrolling through his Instagram, or hitting up his performances and DJ sets, you’ll want to become part of the eccentric and whimsically fun world of Big Dipper—an ongoing party full of pigtails, cute outfits, fierce rhymes, and eating candy behind DJ booths. He puts in a shit-ton of hard work.
Today, Big Dipper is releasing his Free Money EP (below), as well as the music video for the lead single “Da Money,” both premiering here. We talk to Big Dipper about queer hip-hop, fashion, fat shaming, FOMO, hate-watching, and shitloads more. It’s #2015, and Big Dipper’s coming out to fuck shit up/make it really cute.
All photos by Rene Rodriguez.
Noisey: What were you doing before you were rapping as Big Dipper?
Big Dipper: When I was living in Chicago, I was dancing and doing queer performance in some nightlife scenes. Performances, salons, dance parties, and that sort of thing. I was working in theater. I was a director, I was a teacher, and I was a choreographer. I was very confident, but all behind the scenes. I was not about being a performer. So dancing gave me that confidence, and a confidence in my sexuality and my body. We would sort of strip. There was a burlesque element to it. I remember the first time I took off my shirt, and I looked the same [as I do now], and the people I was dancing with, they had very different bodies from me—they were more traditionally fit. And the reaction I got…people would say things like, “It’s great to see someone covered in hair with their shirt off, or someone with a belly.” And I was like, “Oh, people are sort of into that other body type.” So that gave me a lot of confidence.
And then in the back of my mind, I always dreamt of being a rapper. I grew up listening to hip-hop. You know, if you have any sort of inkling to become a performer, any sort of impulse to write lyrics or rap along to a song, you probably have somewhere floating around in your brain the thought, “I could be a rapper.”
How did you transition into actually making music?
I had just recently met Dan Foley and asked if he’d be into making a song. The first song was really a joke. The first song was like, “This is an experiment. Let’s try something.” It was “Drip Drop.” And it was the first video we made too. But sort of looking back on that video, it was way jokier and hockier than I’d like. Like you could go back to some of the first work you ever did on anything and you’re like, “Girl really? So embarrassing.”
But I don’t want to claim embarrassment about it. I look back and I’m like, “Oh girl, her? Ms. Drip Drop? I don’t even like to perform her live!” But, people want it and that’s what people find first and that’s how people get to know me.
Your music is dope but also has an overt, humorous attitude. Are you ever wondering about how seriously people will take your rapping?
It’s 100 percent on my mind because I am my own team for everything. I have a huge group of people that work with me who are tirelessly slaving over music edits and video edits and are basically just part of the Big Dipper team, but ain’t nobody on no pay roll. I do what I enjoy. So I’m being as authentic to my own sensibility as possible. And then I make something, step away from it, and look at it objectively. I can look like, “If this were to be presented as a parody of rap music, The Lonely Island or whatever, we could spin it that way. And then if this were to be presented as very serous, legitimate musicianship, we could spin it that way too.” I think since it falls in the middle, people make the decision. I get comments, “Oh my God, you’re so hilarious,” to which I’m like, “Cool, thank you.” And then I get comments like, “You have helped me to embrace the way that I look and to be confident and to think that I’m sexy, because I’ve been chubby all my life.” So if I can do both, I’m into that.
I’m not a journalist and I’m not a publicist. What’s nice about it is when I’m presented with an idea, I never stop myself and think, “Will I be thought of as a comedian?” I just do what I want to do. So I’m really grateful that I have no filter when it comes to the creative, but that I can become very thoughtful about how I want to push it out to the world, because I feel like I’m able to manage both the artistic and strategic sides.
Your music is also relatively humble compared to other rap. You’re never bragging about your bank account or Lamborghinis.
Yeah but like, when people are rapping, do they actually have a Lamborghini? And if you don’t, how dare you and shame on you! I can only rap about what I know. Maybe when I have $50,000, I’ll talk about having $50,000. But like, [quoting Nicki Minaj’s verse in “Monster”] “50k for a verse, no album out.” My shit is like, “BEG you for a verse, got some YouTube out.” I remember when I first started writing, there were these conventions in hip-hop that I tried to lean into. I was like, “How does Lil Wayne talk about bitches and pussy? Maybe I can rap about men like that.” And then it was like, “No!” I would try writing these lyrics and it didn’t feel like me.
What was it like for you when you first came to New York, where there is already a large scene of queer rappers?
I don’t know how to be the cool kid. I don’t do very well standing in the club looking cool, wearing the right clothes, and posing. It’s challenging. And those are the kids that get featured on all the blogs and those are the kids that get the write-ups on whatever. But then if you really dig into what they’re doing, it’s like, there can be a lot of substance, but sometimes the substance is different than the image they’re presenting, or there isn’t any substance and it’s all image.
So I used to get envious about that. I was like, “Why are they getting all this attention and I’m just out here trying to function?” And the more I stopped caring about it, the more I put my head down to do work, and the more I understood that going to a nightclub and standing and posing doesn’t make me any money. But putting in work and being flown all around the country to play shows for private events makes me money. That’s how I make my living. So I need to deliver the product that people want to see, not the illusion or the image of a product, but actually put out music. Like an EP. Or fucking put out more music videos. That’s what’s important. It’s not just about being seen.
Do you feel that you’ve been pigeonholed as a “gay rapper?” If so, does it bother you?
If your core audience latches onto you because—maybe not 100%—but because you are presenting this queer identity, I see some pride in that. I remember in 2013 there was that explosion with queer hip-hop. It was like, yes, but that’s also about visibility. It’s not about the birth of something. There’s been gay rappers since there’s been rappers. From the jump, some faggot got on the mic and started rapping, whether we knew he was gay or not. With the visibility it’s like…I don’t know that we’re there yet. I don’t know if the general public is ready to see rapper Big Dipper. But I used to call myself “Gay Bear Rapper.” I was like, “Give me any label I can get. I want to be in front of your eyes.”
Then that turned into “queer” because my politics and my identity is much more of a queer person than it is of a gay male or a bear, specifically. I really do identify as a queer person, so I started saying that in my press releases. And then in my most recent one, I think I just said “Big Boy Rapper.” Because I’m like, I can be whatever I want to be—especially with the new content. The new content is not about gay penetrative sex. My older content is more that. Especially with this club EP, some of the tracks have a sexy beat, but I’m not saying “Penis in your butthole, penis in your butthole.” So it can appeal to a more universal audience… Call me a fucking cannibal rapper. I don’t care. You could be like, “Metaphorically! He eats up all the beats!”
When you read the comments under your videos, they’re super polarized between a lot of love and some serious hatred. How do you react to these?
I’ve been working with World of Wonder, which is the production company that does Rupaul’s Drag Race and Million Dollar Listing. They have a YouTube channel where they’re creating a lot of web content, so I’m doing this little series called “Big Dipper’s World.” I’m really excited about it, but the comments are so crazy. Because there’s so much love and then there’s so much fat shaming.
It’s more fat shaming than homophobia?
Yeah, because it’s from within the community. It’s gay people saying, “You’re a shame. You’re a disgrace to the gay community. I don’t want you ever representing me.” And then there’s like, “Ew, shoulder hair,” and someone was like “#FocusOnHealth, #DoASitUp.” But then people are also like, “I’m so happy to see myself reflected on the screen.”
And girl, let’s be honest. In the grand scheme of things, and in our country, I’m like average size. Like I consider myself big—I wear big shirts, I go into Urban Outfitters and I can’t buy pants. But when I fly and I go to Middle America and I’m on this airplane, I see people like crammed into seats. I’m like, “Girl, you are fat shaming a medium-sized person.” It’s all very fascinating and I’m happy that I was raised right and that I’m not 18 and that I realize that half the reason that kind of content becomes exciting is because people will hate-watch it, and everybody loves a good hate-watching, and it has nothing to do with me as a person. It has everything to do with me as an entertainer. It doesn’t bother me.
On top of rapping, you also make the rounds as a DJ. What are some of your go-to items for a set?
So last night I DJed and wore sweatpants. I’m a huge fan of being comfortable—especially when you’re behind the DJ booth. It’s like, no one’s looking at you. I mean it’s an outfit for sure. It’s a look, but sweatpants. I always carry candy with me when I’m DJing, because I like to have candy in the booth. Peanut butter M&M’s or sour gummy worms. I always have a secret 5-hour energy, which feels like it’s burning my soul when I drink them. I always bring extra cords because you never know, especially girl, out here in Brooklyn.
What’s a huge “do” in nightlife?
A huge “do” at the club for me is gum or mints, because people have that stale-ass alcohol and cigarette breath, and they try to yell in your ear and get so close and just breath their hot breathe on you. Also, I never fuck with coat check because I always want to make a quick exit. When it’s time to leave, it’s time to leave. So I always make sure my jacket works with my look so I can just wear my jacket in the club. And then if I’m really gonna turn up, you put all your shit in your shoes or your pockets or whatever and you just throw your jacket. I can fit money in my socks or put my phone down the sides [of my shoes]. But I usually like to hold my phone. I feel like holding your phone while you dance, it’s like a decent accessory. Because also if someone gets really crazy and you want to highlight them, you can turn your flashlight on on your phone.
Do you ever get FOMO?
I am a hugely plagued by FOMO. I will sit at home and look through an Instagram feed and be like, why didn’t I go to that show? Why didn’t I go to that party? And it’s like, you know why? Because you were taking care of yourself. #SELFCARE2015. You were taking care of yourself. You were working at home. You were on your own hustle. And guess what? You missed it. You don’t need to be sad. But literally, FOMO has gotten the best of me so many times. I feel like a child.
What’s a fashion trend you can’t stand?
I feel like I dress like a fool so much that like, who am I to read a bitch for what they’re wearing? But when I first moved here, I really noticed that everyone, especially in Brooklyn, was wearing so much sporty clothing, like Under Armour and the leggings and stuff. I was like, “Why is everyone doing this?” Not that I was actively falling into the trend, but eventually you’re like, “Oh, this is cute.” Now I have so much sportswear and I know exactly why everyone was wearing it. Because you’re just in your pajamas all the time. You’re in the most comfortable clothes, literally all the time. I can’t believe I’m in jeans today. I wear sweatpants non-stop, all the time now. Like, I don’t give a fuck.
What’s another hot trend you love?
One thing that I’m obsessed with is crop tops. When that started being a thing that people were seeing more visibly out in the world, that sort of 90s revival of the crop top, I was so into it. And I remember—not that men weren’t wearing crop tops before I was wearing crop tops—but I remember cutting a bunch of my shirts and people were gagged that I had my belly out. I was like, “Girl, I’m wearing a crop top.” I love wearing them and Daisy Dukes.
What are your rules of dating?
Good breath, be ready to fuck, make sure you have money with you, and expect the unexpected. The thing I think is hard is people’s expectation of what a date should be or how a date should work. “Oh, he asked me out so he’s paying. Oh, we’re going on a date, so it needs to include a meal, a stroll, and a movie.” Like, do people do that anymore? To me, it’s always a tit for tat. You pay this; I’ll pay the next. Or let’s just fucking split it. Money comes and goes. It shouldn’t be about that. Also, the date should be about something fun and something that shows your personality, not about how nice a restaurant is. Are people still materialistic? I’ve been broke for so long. I understand wanting a ton of money, but the reason I want a ton of money is so I can do whatever I want with my friends.
Let’s get back to the music talk about the EP and the video you’re releasing today.
It’s been a long time coming. Most of my stuff is really verse-heavy: I really am a performer and a lyricist so it’s about being on top. It’s about working it together, but I always like to ride on top of the beat. So it was like, let’s do a club EP because it’s something totally different, and something that DJs wanna play. Alot of my stuff you have to really listen to, or watch the music video for. I want it to be able to be a part of nightlife culture and have to have everyone hear the punch lines or the wordplay. So sort of getting all these elements together for a club EP ended up taking time. And then I wanted to find a really good home to release it.
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