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Photography by Charlie Engman

Raw to the core

Tony Farfalla learns C-Unit party etiquette in Bushwick: “rappin’ trappin’ princess shit”

Taken from the October issue of Dazed & Confused:

It’s 5am on a Saturday night in Bushwick, and an illegal Cunt Mafia party is raging, hosted by the fantastically flamboyant C-Unit scene mother Contessa Stuto. Smoke hangs heavy in the air and green lasers bounce off the walls as a multi-level art installation acts as a stage for a motley crew of young-ghetto-rave-hybrid-dancers voguing to a deafening beat. “It’s like the fucking Foot Clan warehouse in here,” a boy shouts next to me. His pupils are dilated, his hair stacked up into a yellow mohawk. The crowd is a sparkling, rough mix of art students and hood kids, spawned from small, hyper-wild queer/transgender parties. The DJs spin trap, hip hop and occasional house hits in a bass-heavy marriage of ghetto and techno. Blunts are rolled, designer drugs are purchased, and plenty of cheap alcohol is consumed.

In the middle of this grimy mess, Dai Burger, Stuto’s striking rapper girlfriend, hands me a small white business card, smiles and walks off. On the front it says, “Want a Bite?”

Eager to take her up on the offer and find out more about her music, a few months later we arrange to meet at Stuto’s apartment in Bushwick. Keeping cool in the middle of a New York heatwave is easier said than done in Dai Burger’s company.

It’s nearly 100 degrees outside and beads of sweat roll down the young rapper’s tattooed chest as she squeezes her breasts together for a close-up photo. Local rapper Junglepussy, a bleached-blond firecracker, is sprawled across the couch in her underwear, trying to chill out in the cramped apartment. With a few dollar bills cradled in her bra, she scrolls through her Instagram feed shouting about somebody acting mad shady. Dai Burger flips her long blue-tinted hair over her shoulder and adjusts her floral bikini for the camera. “I got this top at a thrift store,” she laughs. “It was in the kid’s section. But I don’t care, it looks good.” Unsurprisingly, the top struggles to contain Burger’s, ahem, baps. She doesn’t mind. 

Since the C-Unit party, things have blown up a bit. Stuto’s “ghetto raves” have outgrown their humble homes, and finding larger venues is becoming more difficult with the neighbourhood’s gentrification. Meanwhile, Dai Burger and Junglepussy, who perform at these events and elsewhere, have gained notoriety in bigger circles. “Everybody wants to be in Brooklyn,” Dai Burger says as she reapplies her fluorescent lipstick. “Now people are moving in like they were always a part of this Bushwick party scene.” The “scene” she describes is without genre, founded in rave parties, queer hip hop and ghetto fashion. “It’s a party for weirdos and freaks and fashionistas,” Stuto adds. 

It’s for anybody that’s not average.

Stuto ­– a performer, stylist, designer and party prophet ­– began curating the Cunt Mafia scene years ago when she moved to Bushwick from Long Island. “I brought together the queers and the ravers and the ghetto,” she explains. “It’s time for things to get mixed up, whether it’s music, sexuality or life.” These secret parties hosted such faces as A$AP Rocky and Azealia Banks in their early days, and boast an expansive roster of notable DJs. Her “Cunt Children”, as Contessa calls them, have multiplied and are quickly creating a new social landscape for urban youth culture in New York. The prevalence of genre-mixing, gender-bending parties in the dark corners of Brooklyn is not a new phenomenon. Most recently, the rise of Venus X’s GHE20 G0TH1K nights and rappers like Mykki Blanco and Le1f have piqued interest internationally, spreading the eccentric dark gay vibes of the New York underground into the mainstream. While Dai Burger and Junglepussy find support in this scene, and owe much of their support to the queer rap community and Stuto, they insist that they exist beyond a single demographic. “Some people still don’t see the vision,” Dai Burger says, chewing on a hamburger candy. “We gotta fight for it and put our foot down. We span genres, we got fans everywhere, but producers don’t get it. They are just a bunch of regular straight guys.”

Yet, with all the recent attention, even “regular straight guys” are coming around to the new sound. Calls for collaborations are coming in and new videos are in production. “People are starting to listen,” Dai Burger says, “Now I see my hood people at the same parties with my gay boys. They just want to be a part of it.” The diversity of this scene is mirrored in her work, which varies from straight pop songs to rough rap anthems. Tracks like “Murda, Murda!” show off her gritty street credentials, while “Wild Thing” paints a rather more bubbly character. This tongue-in-cheek approach to songwriting certainly complements Dai Burger’s character.

I show titties and shit,” she says, “but I’ll still be cute as a button.

Dai Burger hails from a neighbourhood near Jamaica, Queens, while Junglepussy comes from Brooklyn. The two girls didn’t find each other until they were hired to work at the ostentatious Manhattan clothing boutique Patricia Field. After discovering a mutual love for eccentric outfits and ass-clapping tunes, the duo began spending more time together and writing their own music. “At first Junglepussy wasn’t performing,” Dai Burger says, “But I knew she was frontin’. She just needed a push. We support each other like that. We don’t need anybody, cause we got each other.” Despite the warm online reception of Dai Burger’s raunchy debut mixtape, My Mixxytape (2010), which was hosted by Junglepussy, the rap divas found it difficult to reach local audiences. “All my hood people weren’t hearing me,” Dai Burger says. “There was no market for my crazy look or wild performance. This was before Nicki Minaj came on the scene and showed everyone how weird can be cool.”

It all changed when the girls brought their “rappin’ trappin’ princess shit” to new spots, focusing less on the New York rap game and more on themselves. By performing at drag shows, gay clubs and secret raves, they built up a following of devoted fans. Soon Dai Burger relocated to Bushwick, where she continued to release new music (including 2011’s Raw Burger tape) and produced videos that gave the world a proper peek into the ambiguous scene that was beginning to gather attention.

With the release of Junglepussy’s cock-stiffening video “Cream Team” and the increased number of selfies posted on her Vine account, interest in the two provocative sensations continued to grow. “We be turning the look,” Junglepussy explains as she pulls on a pair of grey Thai-boxing shorts. “We got the look and the shit to back it up.” Some critics have written them off, but they aren’t fazed. “We never got support in the beginning,” Dai Burger points out. “The rap world was quiet for us, so we was like, ‘Fuck ya’ll, we can do this on our own.’” And they did. With videos gaining notoriety online and spots opening up for Lil Wayne and Lil’ Kim, the bossy Brooklyn beauties are on their way on their own terms.

Outside the narrow apartment, they walk down the block towards an open fire hydrant spraying a cascading line of water across the street. They are joined by K Rizz, another young female performer, who recently released a track with them called “Godzilla 101”. As the girls line up in front of the water for a couple of photos, a wide-eyed Dominican family sitting in their lawnchairs watch the barely dressed rappers dance around getting wet. The mother pulls one of her children close. It’s impossible to avoid attention with this posse. “I hope you see how dedicated I am to this shit,” K Rizz laughs, “I just got my weave wet for that photo.”

After getting dried off back at the apartment, K Rizz plays the new track they recorded and Dai Burger and Junglepussy sort through a pile of clothes to pick out the next look. The girls stop for a moment to dance; bouncing around the kitchen, they shake their asses and coo along to the music. “This is my support,” K Rizz tells me, pointing at the two twerkaholics. “It’s hard to get support from other women, but we got each other.” There is a strong solidarity between the girls, based partially on the need to collaborate and promote, but also due to the absence of real support from their peers. “Everybody around us is shady,” Junglepussy states. Stuto nods her head in agreement and chimes in: “Haters know that we are the light. They go to our blogs and Twitters to get inspiration for their videos. They watch us for their moves.”

As the scene expands, the question of legitimacy is being forgotten. With a genre-less movement loosely based on having fun and getting wild and fuelled by high Instagram follower counts, it’s difficult to call anyone out on being inauthentic – the need for a back story is increasingly less necessary. But an artist’s legitimacy is always going to show through. “They are reading the magazine,” Stuto says while combing her hair, “but we are the fucking editorial.”

Whether Dai Burger and Junglepussy rise to stardom or remain cult internet sensations is inconsequential. They have crafted a scene of their own despite early dismissal, and will continue to create the music they want to share, no matter how the world may classify it. “We gonna keep turning the look,” Dai Burger states. “There is no one in our way, and even if there is, we just gonna scooch them over and move ourselves ahead.” She bats her large dark eyelashes, smiles. 
“Not like anyone could stop us.”“The Bushwick scene is a party for weirdos and freaks and fashionistas. It’s for anybody that’s not average”