Summer 2020 has brought renewed attention to the inequality that exists across wide swathes of society, as well as the urgent need to support and uplift Black lives. The music industry is certainly no exception–Enter Trans Trenderz. The nonprofit record label was founded in 2016 to shine a spotlight on trans artists. This summer saw the launch of their latest initiative, called The Ghostly Beats Project, seeking volunteers and donations to offer more opportunities to Black Trans artists than ever before.
As the label put it in a recent tweet: “Every revolution deserves a soundtrack and it’s our duty to make sure this one is heard.”
It started in June, alongside the international surge of action in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. At that time, Montreal-based rapper/producer and Trans Trenderz founder Blxck Cxsper put out an offer to make beats for other Black Trans musicians. They quickly heard back from 30 artists–a high level of engagement that Blxck Cxsper doesn’t find at all surprising.
“Music is a very natural way for communities who are silenced to express themselves, especially Black people. It’s a big part of our history and our liberation,” they say. “And the fact that that many artists reached out because they needed those free beats is also not surprising to me.”
That’s because overall, Black Trans people face drastically higher rates of poverty than other demographics. Survey analysis done in 2011 estimated 34% of Black Trans and gender nonconforming people in the U.S. had a household income of less than $10,000, which is more than eight times the rate of poverty in the general U.S. population. Blxck Cxsper notes that that’s likely a conservative estimate of the actual percentage, given that Black Trans people in such extreme circumstances have limited means to participate in surveys.
“When we know that, we can’t expect musicians to be able to afford the resources that are needed to start a music career.”
The pieces of The Ghostly Beats Project came together in earnest when Myla, a Black Trans woman from Dallas, TX, contacted Blxck Cxsper to offer some of her pandemic unemployment assistance money as a donation. After that, Trans Trenderz started signing up volunteers to bring together even more resources to support Black Trans artists who want to pursue music as a career. The Ghostly Beats Project now offers mixing and mastering, graphic design, video editing, and a still-growing list of other services.
“It’s very heartwarming to see that there are so many allies who are willing to donate their time and skills to uplift our voices,” says Blxck Cxsper. “In the end, a track that has been properly mixed or cover art that has been properly designed can directly impact how much you will get paid for a gig or how you will be able to grow your audience. It’s especially important for artists who are just getting started to see that their voices are valued and that so many folks are willing to help uplift them.”
That support has also allowed Trans Trenderz to open up elite industry spaces to new and developing talents. The Ghostly Beats project recently partnered with Joel Hamilton, a producer and engineer who works out of the 5,000-square-foot Studio G Brooklyn–a space that counts Mos Def, Ani DiFranco, and The Black Keys among its laundry list of high-profile clients.
“Being able to bring Black Trans people into facilities like Studio G is just a magical experience. Especially because we are in charge of the entire process, it feels like we are finally taking up a space we were always meant to occupy,” says Blxck Cxsper. “And there is something very powerful that happens when you give a platform to a voice that has been silenced for so long.”
Two Trans Trenderz artists have already recorded at Studio G: indie folk soul artist Apollo Flowerchild and electro-pop singer Heather Hills. With that strong start, and with the door still open to others, Blxck Cxsper has high hopes for the positive change they can bring about.
“In the end, I can guarantee you that the music that will come out of this collaboration will help heal the world–not just Trans people, the world. And we know it needs that right now.”
This week, the label announced the signings of rapper/singer Jupiter Gray, hip-hop artist Lady Londyn, and R&B/pop singer/songwriter Jæ. The Ghostly Beats Project is still seeking artists and allies to expand the movement–anyone interested in volunteering can fill out this Google form, and Black Trans artists interested in working with the label can contact them at Info@transtrenderz.com or via their Instagram.
Those interested in the project can also learn more by attending the digital Ghostly Beats Conference on August 14 and 15, featuring virtual presentations from industry professionals on turning music into a viable career. Tickets are free for Black Trans people and $25 for allies. The event will also feature unplugged showcases from Trans Trenderz artists and a virtual dance party.