Indie label, TRANS TRENDERZ, launches THE GHOSTLY BEATS PROJECT
in collaboration with STUDIO G
The label seeks to mobilize allies in the music industry to offer resources to Black Trans musicians
(New York, NY) Born out of a desire to break the glass ceiling for Black Trans artists, indie label, Trans Trenderz, seeks to assure that the artistic contributions of Transgender artists are never erased. Providing artists with resources, opportunities, and community, they aim to bring Black Trans music to the mainstream.
Trans Trenderz was launched in 2016 when artist Blxck Cxsper curated and produced a mixtape of the same name, featuring 14 Trans artists. The feeling at the release party was unlike anything they had experienced before. “You could feel how excited people were to finally see Trans folks on stage. It didn't feel like a show, more like a family reunion,” Blxck Cxsper explains. “There was no hierarchy between the artist and the audience, everybody was contributing to the love in that room in their own way.” Wanting to continue to provide that space for themselves and other like-minded artists, Trans Trenderz officially evolved into a record label, signing Transgender and gender non-conforming acts.
In June of 2020, when the Black Lives Matter movement regained traction, Blxck Cxsper offered to make beats for other Black Trans artists. Within days, 30 artists reached out to them to collaborate. Around the same time, Myla, a Black Trans woman from Dallas, TX, contacted Blxck Cxsper wanting to donate some of her PUA money to help Black Trans people. They decided to use the funds to cover release costs for Black Trans musicians, and The Ghostly Beats Project was born. As soon as it was announced, Black Trans artists and allies alike began to get in touch to become involved. Skilled professionals from mixing engineers to graphic designers wanted to donate their talents to the cause. Among them was notable producer/engineer Joel Hamilton from Studio G Brooklyn. Hamilton offered to partner with Trans Trenderz to bring Black Trans artists into the facilities to record singles, with the goal of bringing the songs onto mainstream platforms. He says, “Creating an environment where artists are able to thrive is the reason that Studio G Brooklyn exists. Partnering with Trans Trenderz feels like an organic extension of the founding principles that are at the core of how we do business. We are proud to be literally amplifying voices in the music scene (and society) that have been overlooked for far too long. With Trans Trenderz’s partnership and guidance, we hope to help create new opportunities for their artists.”
Blxck Cxsper met Steph Durwin in the summer of 2018 when Durwin started working with them on Trans Trenderz. Durwin had graduated with an audio degree from The New England Institute of Art in Boston and had subsequently worked as an audio engineer at Mad Oak Studios and Berklee College of Music. After a few years playing in folk-rock band, Box of Birds, who were nominated for a 2016 Boston Music Award for Best Folk Band, Durwin moved to New York City and started interning for Studio G Brooklyn.
“I began my solo career and released my first album, HomeGrown, under Trans Trenderz using recordings from before my transition, and mixing them with vocals with my new deeper voice post starting hormone replacement therapy,” says Durwin. "When I first began my transition, I didn't know many trans people, but the ones I did were white trans people. Among them and the other white trans folks I saw online, the struggles in that community centered around transition-related issues, like surgeries and hormones and name changes. I didn't realize how different the struggles were in the black trans community though until I started working with Trans Trenderz.”
During Durwin’s time with Trans Trenderz, he saw multiple artists experience homelessness. He says, “The question of gender-affirming surgeries were not even on the radar of many of them because their focus had to be on how they were going to eat, how they were going to survive. Additionally, I've witnessed explicit racism even while they were just trying to do their jobs. Despite all those struggles, they are able to make significant contributions to the artistic community. Super super talented, and remarkably skilled performers. Working with Trans Trenderz showed me the importance of not only uplifting, but prioritizing those voices, not because it is a duty. But because they deserve to be in those spaces."
The first two Trans Trenderz artists to record at Studio G will be indie-folk/soul artist, Apollo Flowerchild, who says of the opportunity, “To be very honest my goals for my music career have never been bigger than just making songs to survive so getting a chance to give my message to more folks who want to listen is nothing short of a blessing,” and electro-pop artist, Heather Hills. Says Hills, “Life taught me that everything that I am will hinder my progress in life. If I wanted to move forward successfully, I would have to mold myself into an ever-changing idea. This opportunity, to me, presents itself as an award for always refusing to conform. It represents the value in following your OWN path and showing the world that what makes you different, makes you powerful.”
This life approach, of course, is not lost on Blxck Cxsper whose own trajectory is a standard-bearer for self-empowerment and activism: “For me I’m French, grew up close to Paris, in Niger, and spent my high school years in Washington DC where I joined my first band. I didn’t speak English until I was 16 years old, but since I was a child my dream had always been to make music in the US.”
After high school, they moved to Montreal to attend the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University. In 2014, they came out as Trans while overlapping a band situation with a solo career, releasing three albums, the last one in French, which broke open a slew of opportunities for inclusion on mainstream Spotify playlists based in Canada. Subsequent activity saw significant press uptake, including top outlets like the CBC, Radio Canada, Vice and Buzzfeed, among others, taking focus on Transness.
In 2019, they adopted the moniker Blxck Cxsper: “I decided to officially change my name and pronouns to better reflect the fact that I identify as non-binary, and because I felt like having a white man’s name in front of my last name was doing a disservice to my ancestors who were slaves.” They performed 2 back-to-back shows on the main stage of Pride Canada in 2017, as well as at the Queer Liberation March in NYC in 2019. Also worth noting that Blxck Cxsper led the Black Lives Matter action at Pride Montreal in 2017 which topped the ‘best queer moments’ list that year in Afropunk.
Trans Trenderz plans to expand The Ghostly Beats Project beyond NYC, and are currently exploring studios in other cities, as well as seeking Black Trans talent worldwide. Both Apollo Flowerchild and Heather Hills will be releasing music in 2020.
“There isn’t one way to look or sound Trans, and we want our repertoire to showcase that,” says Blxck Cxsper. “People in our communities are groundbreakers and we are expecting genres to mash and merge and new sounds to be created.”