Maarquii Balances Take-No-Shit Swagger With Unguarded Vulnerability

The rapper acknowledges the importance of subverting traditional notions of sexuality and gender within hip-hop. But please, leave your modifiers out of it.

IMAGE: Abby Gordon.

5. Maarquii (45 pts.)

SOUNDS LIKE: Wild nights out and the heartbreak after.

NOTABLE VOTES: Promoter Coco Madrid, STYLSS founder Cory Haynes, WW contributor Cervante Pope.

Maarquii doesn't suffer fuckboys gladly, and neither does Marquise Dickerson.

"I was at a bar, I was really drunk on tequila and talking to a friend on the phone, and this couple came outside and started harassing me. And I just cussed them out," says the 26-year-old rapper, singer, dancer and former drag performer, recalling the origins of the Maarquii song "Dam God."

"I was like, 'Bitch, I'll turn up at your funeral and fucking stomp on your grave!'"

Still heated days later, Dickerson stormed into the studio with producers Derek Stilwell and Saint Michael Lorenzo, picked out the grimiest, most menacing beat they had and proceeded to go off once again—except this time, instead of threatening to merely sashay across the grave of the bitch in question, Dickerson promised to "pussy-pop in a headstand."

Given Dickerson's drag background, it would be easy to think of Maarquii as a character Dickerson plays. But as Dickerson makes clear, the only difference between the person flipping out at the bar and the one growling threats on record is a matter of volume.

"They're essentially the same," Dickerson says. "Maarquii is very raw and unfiltered in a way I can't always be. But they're essentially the same being, the same entity."

Dickerson started performing as Maarquii two years ago. At the time, Dickerson—who grew up identifying with female MCs like Lil Kim and Foxy Brown—was dancing as an adjunct member of former Best New Band winner Chanti Darling while filling notebooks with ideas for an eventual musical project of their own. Meeting Stilwell and Lorenzo, together known as JVNITOR, and hearing their dark, avant-garde but still danceable production, pushed Dickerson to finally turn those ideas into something real.

"I come from this underground scene of queer culture, and partying in basements and abandoned warehouses," Dickerson says, "and there was something so reminiscent of that scene, that gives me so much life, in the music they were playing for me."

That queer subculture, and the experiences within it, are reflected in Dickerson's lyrics as well—and not all of them involve airing out strangers in public. Across the two EPs Maarquii and JVNITOR have collaborated on so far, Dickerson balances take-no-shit swagger with unguarded vulnerability, detailing broken relationships along with euphoric nights out. It's a perspective still rare in the heteronormative world of hip-hop, and Dickerson acknowledges the importance of subverting traditional notions of sexuality and gender within rap. But please, leave your modifiers out of it.

"I love that queer rappers are starting to be taken seriously. I think that's really awesome and important. But I don't think it's fair to put us in this category that's separate from hip-hop," Dickerson says. "I'm not a 'queer hip-hop artist.' I'm a hip-hop artist."

NEXT SHOW: March 18 at Mississippi Studios for XRAY.FM's Birthday Bash.

Best New Band Intro | No. 1: Sávila | No 2: Black Belt Eagle Scout | No. 3: Frankie Simone | No. 4: Amenta AbiotoNo. 5: MaarquiiNo. 6: Brown CalculusNo 7: SunbatheNo 8: Blackwater HolylightNo. 9: AutonomicsNo. 10 (tie): Public Eye and WynneWho's Got Next? No. 11-20 | The Complete Ballots

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