Alice Villa steps to a mic outside Dive Bar and immediately starts reciting poetry. Her words, quick and nimble, land like grenades on unprepared ears. A few moments later, Villa’s mic goes out, so she speaks louder. Technical issues are no match when your vocal chords double as a loudspeaker.
Villa, better known as rapper Lil Lavedy, can spit some bars. “I’m out, loud and proud/Ain’t gotta be passing to be passing you up/If you are what you eat/You must be my dust,” she raps on her single “TransCending,” recorded at Naked City Audio and dropped digitally in August. “You keep talking about how you get them bitches/Here’s a lesson/Drop that sexist rhetoric/Learn to be more sensitive/And you might have a girlfriend/Instead of a sh*tty opinion of women.”
Ruminating on transphobia and misogyny, Lil Lavedy’s more than a fierce emcee. There’s a thoughtfulness to her art that envelops every angle. “TransCending,” for example, features a sample from 1968 documentary The Queen, in which ballroom queen Crystal LaBeija can be heard exclaiming, “I am beautiful, and I know I’m beautiful!”
Ahead of Lil Lavedy’s set opening for B. Dolan and Wheelchair Sports Camp at the Bunkhouse, the Weekly caught up with her to talk about her punk roots, being trans in the hip-hop scene and how poetry can be its own form of activism.
Were you born and raised in Vegas? I was seven when I moved here. I spent up until early adulthood here, and [then] I was like, I’m not ready for responsibilities yet, and I dirty-kidded it up for two years. I’ve lived in Seattle, Colorado and Nashville and have been through 24 states hitchhiking and riding trains. Sometime last year, through going sober and being tired of that culture, I was just like, I’m done.
You grew up in the punk scene. What got you into hip-hop? We all wanted to drink 40s behind 7-11 as teenagers, right? I was actually obsessed with hip-hop for a really long time, sitting next to my little AM/FM radio with a tape deck, recording songs that I liked. I only found punk rock because that was the place that accepted me for being as weird as I was.
Have you had any challenges being an out trans artist in the hip-hop community? No one seems to give a f*ck … You just show up and spit bars and they don’t give a f*ck. There were people that were worried, and it was unwarranted. I started showing up to hip-hop shows and just existing before thinking about asking to play. I just wanted to exist and see if I was accepted and see if my presence was going to feel threatened.
It’s honestly been way more accepting than punk has. [With] punk, there’s a thousand people wanting to argue and call things out. Hip-hop’s just like, okay, you’re here, you’re queer, whatever. Punk wants to make it a big deal and I’m just like, I want to make the music that I want to make. I feel like punk has always been about discourse, that’s the point of punk. Hip-hop is about listening to other people’s discourse—or challenging people and ideas without making it concrete. No one really [knows] how to fix the world. Punk has absolutes. Hip-hop is still a dream.
You released a music video for your song called “TranScending” back in August. What influenced that video? That’s a perfect example of my punk roots. You have this skill and you want to do something with it, and I have this skill, let’s do something with it, let’s work together. There doesn’t need to be any more planning than there has to be. It’s been weird trying to carry that ethic from punk rock into hip-hop, because hip-hop isn’t like that. Hip-hop is like, pay for your beats, and you never talk to them while they’re making it and that’s it.
I have a friend, Tyler Moar, who I watched make an Enclave video, and I was super impressed. And thankfully they were just as excited about doing something with me as I was doing something with them. We didn’t plan anything. We were just like, let’s get dolled up and goof off for a couple of hours. It was just me and some friends goofing off, drinking Arizona teas outside an abandoned porno store.
You’re an MC, a poet and a spoken-word artist. What are you inspired by? A constant fear of caring too much or not caring enough, all the time. I see things in the world that I have problems with, and I want to challenge that and fight it. But at the same time the other half of me is weak and debilitated and doesn’t do anything about it. I tried, when I was younger, getting into activism, and I felt really bamboozled, ’cause I didn’t see an immediate change in what I was doing. Having someone go, “Wow ,that really spoke to me,” felt so much better.
Were you in a lot of bands growing up? I was in a hardcore band. I played ukulele in a punk band. I spent about eight years in folk-punk, the stupid genre of washboards and bad haircuts. When I was talking about removing myself from the genre, it wasn’t so much punk rock itself, but removing myself from folk-punk … It’s rampant with alcohol abuse, and I haven’t drank in over a year. I’ve been sober and I quit smoking, and I’m just trying to handle myself, ’cause that was enough.
Where did the name Lil Lavedy come from? I spent three days straight on Google trying to find something that, when I typed it in, didn’t come up with anything. I was in a band called Alexander the Terrible, and whenever you Googled that, only results for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day came up … So I’m looking, and I found this weird part of Wikipedia on something that had to do with the word lady … apparently, it's a precursor to the word lady. It’s pre-middle English, something like that, for a woman who made bread. And I thought that had some quality hip-hop—one who makes dough, yeah!
You’re opening for B. Dolan and Wheelchair Sports Camp. How did that come about? When Hassan shared that video of me, that’s how I got on that show … I’ve been working hard with music since I was 15, and never once have I ever gotten an opportunity [to] play with an act of that stature before. I’ve been so over the moon since I’ve been asked.
What’s next after that? I try to tour, at least leave town for music once a year, ’cause it’s a way to travel. It’s like a paid vacation where you just play music, if you do it right. I’m really low maintenance in the first place, I just need to have food in my stomach and gas in my car. It’s going to be interesting doing it in a completely new genre. It’s going to be fun but scary at the same time. Even though hip-hop here has been nothing but welcoming—what’s it going to be like elsewhere?
Lil Lavedy With B. Dolan, Wheelchair Sports Camp and Hassan. October 14, 9 p.m., $8-$10.