New Ypsilanti festival to feature hip-hop and rap from Ypsi, Flint, Detroit, and California

This story is part of a series about arts and culture in Washtenaw County. It is made possible by the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Destination Ann Arbor, Larry and Lucie Nisson, and the University Musical Society.

On Jan. 27, Ypsilanti's Regal Beagle will host Audacity Fest, a night of hip-hop, rap, and alt-rap, featuring artists from as nearby as Ypsilanti and as far as California. THOT SQUAD, the Flint-based hip-hop artist who collaborated with the Ypsilanti Art Incubator to organize the event, says it was originally "supposed to just be a concert," but the artists on the bill "all just say the stuff we want to say and it's very audacious" – ergo Audacity Fest.
We recently got on the phone with THOT SQUAD to talk about their style, influences, and goals, as well as what audiences can expect from Audacity Fest. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: What can you tell me about the performers appearing at Audacity Fest?
A: Rob Apollo, who is from Detroit — he has a lot of good punchlines. It's very like, "Did he just say that? He just said that! What is goin' — Ahhh!" I don't know how you're gonna type that in a quote.

Rob Apollo.
DAMAG3 is a trans performer and rapper from California. She's flying from California to come do the show. Actually, she told me about Rob Apollo a while back in Detroit. And I was like, "This is the time for us all to come together!" But she makes a lot of music that's just in your face: "We're speaking truth to power. This is how things really are. We're not sugarcoating anything."

So then there's Heavenly Jones. She is a native of Ypsilanti. She makes music that's a little bit lighter, so she's opening it up. She's getting everybody introduced to what's going on. She's our local girl. She brings the people out. She gets the people excited.

Heavenly Jones.
Then there's the DJ. Her name is Problematic Black Hottie. She is very lady-centric in the music that she plays. I feel like I've been to parties where they will play literally only men. And I'm like, this is supposed to be a party. Ain't we supposed to be dancing? We aren't supposed to just be sitting here bobbing our heads. Like, why are we listening to J. Cole right now? So she was the perfect pick for this event because we wanted it to be a big party and we wanted it to be [a] lots-of-energy, going-crazy type of thing.

Problematic Black Hottie. 
Q: You'll be performing at Audacity Fest, too. How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard you?
A: It's music to quit your job and throw rocks at cops to. It's alternative Black music, so it has that hip-hop and funk kind of feel, but also it's very strong, very in your face. I'd say that I have the edge of Rico Nasty and the sex appeal of Megan Thee Stallion — like, wrap that all into one and that's what I'm doing.
Q: In your bio for the Audacity Fest Facebook page, you mentioned that some of your influences are sex workers and single moms. Can you tell me about that?
A: Yeah. I think that oftentimes women who are not just "Oh my gosh, I have a husband and my life is perfect and I'm a housewife," or "I'm a corporate gal," get tossed to the side. These are people who are generally looked down upon and it's like, no, these are amazing, smart, strong humans and those are the people that I want to make music for. I want to make music for people who could usually be considered on the outside or [are] usually looked down on — like, no, we're uplifting right now.
Q: Who are your other influences?
A: I really love Missy Elliott, André 3000, Bob the Drag Queen. Who else can I say? Pretty much any drag queen. People who started on the outside, who started being weird, and the world was like, "Oh, yeah — this weird stuff? We like this weird stuff."
Q: What are your goals for the future? What are you hoping to do?
A: My goal for the future is to become an icon. I really think I can be as big as Lil Nas X — and then grow bigger than that — to where I'm not just doing music and world tours and stuff. I have a degree in theater. I want to be in film, Broadway. I want to be at Fashion Week and I want to have clothing lines and I just want my name to be just all around super-star.
Q: What else are you looking forward to about Audacity Fest?
A: I'm just really excited to see people get free. When you walk in, I want you to forget your job stressing you out, your kids stressing you out, capitalism stressing you out, international disturbances stressing you out. I want people to be in there and everything that is outside of you, that is being a hindrance on your mind or a heavy weight on your shoulders, I want that to just disappear and be in the moment and we're dancing and we're shaking ass and we're yelling and just being free.
Audacity Fest will kick off at 8 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Regal Beagle, 817 E. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti. Tickets are available here or at the door.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photos courtesy of THOT SQUAD.
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