Sydney-based rapper JamarzOnMarz is bringing much needed gay visibility to hip-hop in Australia. Matthew Wade caught up with him to chat about Grindr, why representation matters, and his new single “Amnesia”.

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Your debut single “Amnesia” explores sexuality in a frank way. Were you nervous releasing it?

The most nerve-wracking part of releasing “Amnesia” was being open and saying that the song was inspired by a Grindr hook-up, reaffirming that I am gay. My fans are predominantly straight men who I’ve only just come out to, so I did worry that I’d lose a lot of support. At an industry level I also worried I would be cast away by peers and hip-hop media outlets – I’m still not sure about the latter.

Is the Grindr hook-up you wrote about a situation that will resonate with a lot of gay people?

I’ve been in countless situations where guys get way too possessive after a one night stand. Somehow, they feel like they’re entitled to my body. I used to give into that but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to love myself, hence “amnesia, I don’t need ya”.

I remember one time when this guy was so obsessive and so persistent with his messages that even months after our first and only hook-up, he still couldn’t get the picture. I know guys will relate to harassing messages on Grindr. It’s like when someone messages you a “?” 1.03467 seconds after they send their initial message. Too much entitlement.

Hip-hop has traditionally been a (straight) hyper-masculine arena. Why is it important to bring diverse sexualities into that space?

Hip-hop is such a powerful platform to tell stories. The ability to compact so much meaning in so few words is something no other genre can do. So inclusion in this genre is very important, because our stories and our struggles have gone unheard for too long. Outside of sharing our struggles, I also feel it’s important to operate in this space to show that our community exists and that we are not one identity, we are diverse. Representation matters, and it sucks that I grew up not having any LGBTI rappers to look up to.

Through your music, what message are you hoping to send to both the hip-hop community and the LGBTI community?

“Amnesia” was my way of telling the Australian hip-hop community that the best rapper in Australia is gay, so they better work on their bars because no-one on this continent is currently out-rapping me.

I want the international hip-hop community to start making way for our stories because we have been silenced for way too long. At the same time, I also want the LGBTI community to accept and support their members operating in hip-hop. I’ve met countless guys who dismiss me as an artist because they don’t like hip-hop.

Name an artist that has inspired you growing up, and tell us why.

I tend to not idolise artists anymore, because growing up I looked up to countless rappers who I thought had deep and meaningful messages, only to find out they were homophobic. That being said, Nicki Minaj has paved the way for me to spit aggressively and rap about men so god bless the Queen.

What’re your plans over the next 12 months?

So “Amnesia” is the debut single for my debut project. I’d prefer not to call it an album, but it basically is. I know my next single (which is ready to go) is going to transcend genres, transcend ages, and get everyone singing and dancing along.

Do you have a message for younger LGBTI people who listen to your music?

Everyone’s path to self-acceptance is different. I’ve experienced how little steps can help you be the person you want to be, and it’s those you least expect to support you who will. I’m still on my way to being loud and proud. Also: don’t Grind and drive!

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