Portland Musician Keeks Comes Out of Her Shell at Her “Coquillage” Listening Party

The visual and recording artist formerly known as Maarquii hosts a preview of her new album at the Winningstad Theatre on June 29.

Keeks, image courtesy of artist.

Keeks is coming out of her shell.

The multidisciplinary Portland artist—previously known as Maarquii, the queer rapper whose assertive, high-energy shit talk landed her on WW’s Best New Bands list in 2018—survived more than the pandemic to come out the other side as a more mature, multifaceted artist.

“I was exploring a lot of myself too, and who I really was,” Keeks says of moving from Maarquii. “That era really helped me develop myself as a person and as an artist. I was learning a lot about how to walk my walk in those eras too.”

Over the past two years recording her new album, Coquillage (the French word for seashell), Keeks overcame an abusive relationship and her dog’s death. She will host a listening party for Coquillage on Saturday, June 29, at the Winningstad Theatre, expecting the album to be ready for an August release date.

“It’s a story that I haven’t quite been able to tell my audience before, because even I could say I didn’t have the range and the life experience to tell such a story,” Keeks says. “I’m really excited because it’s been a minute since I’ve released music for the simple reason that I have been living life and wanting to speak from the perspective of a truth that I have actually lived.”

Coquillage is a deeper exploration of Keeks’ womanhood and feelings than Maarquii was capable of expressing through their established sound, a mix of highly confident rap set to beats informed by heavy metal and industrial noise. The softness Keeks speaks of isn’t evident on her first single, “Make You Sick,” which she released in January.

Instead, “Make You Sick” calls back to Maarquii’s prowess as a lyrical assassin, but with house beats and even screamo elements reminiscent of Azealia Banks’ single “Anna Wintour,” or ballroom personality Joanne Prada. Keeks says the music video for “Make You Sick,” which was directed by Padraic O’Meara and will premiere on Saturday, serves the softness with a simple concept showing her walking through a studio with visible camera and lighting equipment, wearing loosely flowing fabric.

“There is a story happening, but a story of ‘Oh, she’s in this in-between space,’ that I wanted to capture,” Keeks says.

Along with the “Make You Sick” music video and an opening short film by Cosmos Dark, i.e., Brown Calculus member Vaughn Kimmons, Keeks will play most of Coquillage, save three or four tracks. She wants to convey the full experience of a 33-year-old Black trans woman, dividing the album into emotional thirds of love and loss, reclamation and rage.

“I feel like our stories so often are condensed and turned into victimhood,” Keeks says. “While it’s important to acknowledge the things that oppress us, I think there’s also room, and I think it’s important to explore the things that bring us joy, our stories of heartbreak, our stories of community, our stories of the rage a lot of us feel. I think that we are so much more than just our struggle and our bravery and courage.”

GO: Coquillage Listening Party with Keeks and Cosmic Dark at Dolores Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 503-248-4335, portland5.com/winningstad-theatre. 7:30 pm Saturday, June 29. Free. All ages.

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