Baltimore rapper TT the Artist helps femmes celebrate themselves | Music Feature | Chicago Reader

Baltimore rapper TT the Artist helps femmes celebrate themselves 

She brings her high-energy set to the Black queer space of Renaissance One on Thursday.

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TT the Artist - COURTESY THE ARTIST
  • TT the Artist
  • Courtesy the artist

In 1970, a new local gay liberation organization, energized by the uprising at Stonewall, rented the annex of the Chicago Coliseum near 16th and Wabash for the first public queer dance in the city—two months before its first Pride parade. Almost 50 years later, that event has inspired Red Bull Presents: Renaissance One, a south-side dance party this Thursday organized in collaboration with local Black-femme-focused promoters Party Noire.

Party Noire describe one of their core goals as "creating safe spaces for us to celebrate our full selves," and they believe Renaissance One honors the tradition of "radical space-making" exemplified by that dance in 1970. Their party not only pays tribute to queer pioneers but gives a similar platform to current progressive artists. The lineup includes Chicago gay teenage rapper Kidd Kenn, Party Noire co-owner DJ Rae Chardonnay, and Tennessee rapper BbyMutha.


Renaissance One featuring BbyMutha, TT the Artist, Kidd Kenn, and Blu Bone, plus DJ sets by Rae Chardonnay, Hijo Pródigo, and Professor-Wrecks
Thu 6/27, 8 PM, the Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West, $15, 18+


In terms of background and style, the artists at Renaissance One cover a lot of ground. Just about the only commonality across the lineup is an impact that goes beyond the stage. Baltimore-based Tedra Wilson, better known as TT the Artist, operates in multiple mediums and has built a label, Club Queen Records, that reflects her feminist values.

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, TT graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006 and then blossomed as a creative force, spreading her artistic tendrils around the Baltimore club scene. She wears a whole wardrobe of hats: filmmaker, designer, producer, community-oriented artist, and more. In that wardrobe is a drawer labeled "musician," whose contents include rap, house, Baltimore club, and juke. "I'm a hip-hop artist," she says. "I just happen to rap over dance-music tracks."

The music videos that TT creates feature roleplaying, colorful outfits, lavish hairstyles, frantic camera movements, and of course dancing. TT's sound is as vibrant as her visuals—like any fusion that includes juke and Baltimore club is bound to be—and her lyrics and delivery crackle with energy. This is unmistakably music made for you to move to.

More than ten years into a career that's already taken her around the world, TT is expanding her focus into creating opportunities for other artists—and Club Queen Records is the mechanism she's chosen to do it. "There are some labels that may have women executives and artists, but there aren't any that truly center women in terms of their mission," she says. "I want to create a platform that brings the femme voice to the forefront."

The phrase "Club Queen" comes from late Baltimore club DJ K-Swift. "She was the one who first brought the club sound out of Baltimore to the world. She created the title of 'Club Queen,'" TT says. "I wanted to take ownership of our narrative after she passed. I wanted to uphold the honor that that title deserves."

Pride celebrations embody one of the things that TT wants Club Queen to be, and she hopes to reflect that in her performance at Renaissance One. "All around the world, we're being brought together by a celebration of our identities," she says. "I want to use my work to empower that spirit that makes people want to express themselves. I want people to be ready to celebrate."  v

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