Pride

Blxck Cxsper Aims For a 'Trans Takeover' of the Music Business with The Ghostly Beats Project

Blxck Cxsper
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Blxck Cxsper

In June, transgender recording artist Blxck Cxsper made a simple offer to their Instagram followers: free beats and monetization tips to any black trans artist who needed help. "Let’s uplift black trans artists because there is no revolution without music," they wrote in their post.

As the founder of the trans-focused indie record label Trans Trenderz, Cxsper knew the importance of getting some much needed help when starting out in the industry. "Sometimes giving a beat to somebody is the difference between them releasing the song for nothing, and them being able to make money with it," they tell Billboard. 

Following a massive influx of requests from artists, and a key partnership with Studio G in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Cxsper decided to make their offer a catalyst for change with The Ghostly Beats Project. Housed under the Trans Trenderz label, the new initiative calls on allies to provide their services to up-and-coming black trans artists to help boost them into a mainstream spotlight.

For artists looking to learn more about The Ghostly Beats Project and how to monetize their content, Trans Trenderz is hosting The Ghostly Beats Conference on Friday and Saturday (Aug. 14 & 15). The online conference will feature performances from the label's signees, presentations on turning your music into a lucrative career, and a virtual dance party, with all proceeds from the event going towards The Ghostly Beats Project.

Blxck Cxsper spoke to Billboard about creating a representative music label, what they hope to accomplish with The Ghostly Beats Project, and the importance of amplifying black trans voices.

Let's start with Trans Trenderz; the label was started in 2016 when you put out a compilation mixtape of the same name. After working on that project, what inspired you to continue that work in the form of a label?

Working with all of those artists just made me so happy, and the next day I was like, "Okay, so what now? How do I keep this project going for as long as possible?" When I did that mixtape, a lot of artists reached out to me being like, "I used to make and put out music, but after I came out, it was like, 'What's the point? No one's going to want to work with me, I don't have the resources, nobody wants to book me, so why would I invest time and money that I don't have into trying to make it happen?'"

For me, it was about giving people the opportunity to have their music mixed and mastered, to have their music out there on Spotify -- so they could have a song that they can use to promote themselves and get gigs. It was ridiculous the amount of artists that had that narrative.

You mention that you didn't know how to start your own label at the time -- what did you end up learning in your career as an artist that helped you create Trans Trenderz? 

The thing is, even not being physically in New York, I learned that there are so many more opportunities in that city, compared to any other place I've been. In Montreal [where Cxsper currently lives], a lot of people are still sleeping on transgender artists and not collaborating with us. But in New York, we have all of those resources, we have all of those people that want to work with us. The local scene is truly amazing, and the community is very supportive of local acts in NYC -- whereas in Montreal, they tend to ignore you until you've made it in the mainstream, and then they claim you.

I was born in France, and the rap game even in France... they just don't make it quite like American artists make it. Being in New York for me, it's like being in the right place at the right time. So it becomes about figuring out how to connect with the people in that space. And for that, all I did is I collaborated with white people! [Laughs.]

The Ghostly Beats Project started with your Instagram post offering to make free beats for black trans artists, while also making a call for allies to help fund black trans artists. What kind of response did you see to that, and how did that lead to this larger project?

I knew people were frustrated, and I knew that black people -- when we're in pain, we make music. That's a cultural thing, and so it was very important for me, because sometimes giving a beat to somebody is the difference between them releasing the song for nothing, and them being able to make money with it. So I was really like, "How do I help artists that I can't sign?"

Because ultimately, I'm a black trans migrant -- I can't apply for grants and stuff like that, so funding is very limited. I can't sign every amazing black trans artist. But what I can do is come up with a platform, and something that's going to help people get those free services. So that's how The Ghostly Beats Project turned into a forum where black trans artists can ask for services, allies can offer their services, and people can connect those dots.

Currently, you are working on releasing projects from Apollo Flowerchild, Heather Hills and yourself. What's the experience been like, working with those artists?

It's a fascinating process, because when I made the first Trans Trenderz mixtape, I realized one of my passions is producing -- like, I really love doing A&R, finding artists, coaching them in the studio, producing the actual music, helping them make sure that their sound is working. In the industry, I think there's always a focus on the artist themselves, and on celebrity culture and all of that, so I barely even knew what being a producer meant; I thought producers were just beat-makers! Now, I realize that it's so much more than that, and it's fascinating that all of these artists are so different. So every song I'm working on is a different process, a new sound, a different challenge.

For example, we work with every artist on a branding strategy -- we have them work on a branding presentation that they send through to everybody that works with them, so everyone can be on the same page. It's basically just been taking an artist who's been doing everything on their own and then providing them with everything that they need to turn their independent business into a startup that can hopefully go mainstream.

What lessons are you hoping more mainstream labels take away from this project?

That we have a lot of marginalized voices that are being stopped by the gatekeepers, because people look at them as a financial risk that they don't want to invest in. That's not how we should see trans artists, but that's what the industry does -- they see artists as business decisions. That's the same reason those bigger artists screaming "Black Trans Lives Matter" on their social media still haven't featured a black trans person on one of their songs; they see it as a financial risk. I think it's time for people to look past that aspect of us -- these voices need to get heard, and we are a financial risk worth taking.

Part of this project is focused on rallying allies to action and asking them to donate money, time and/or resources to these trans artists. What kind of response have you seen from allies? 

So we have Studio G in Brooklyn basically giving us free studio time, we have engineers helping out with recording, mixing and mastering, we have people to help shoot videos and photos... it's so many different kinds of help. It's great because we wouldn't be able to offer the kind of record deals we're making with our artists without that help. Unlike most record labels, we're not taking royalty cuts from the artists -- the artists all keep the rights to their songs -- so for us to be able to accomplish our goal, we need those services.

I just feel like you can't be an ally if you're not giving up something that you have, whether that's time, money or resources. It's kind of like this: If you have a whole cake that you're eating, but you also want marginalized people to have at least slice, then you don't get to keep the whole cake. You have to give up a slice. That's how allyship works; you can't give somebody something if you're not giving it up yourself, and all of these people are really doing that for us.

What are you hoping for the future of Trans Trenderz and The Ghostly Beats Project? 

We have one of our newest artists recording their first single with us — they're a non-binary femme artist named  [one of the label's newest signees, along with Lady Londyn and Jupiter Gray], and their music is amazing. We're currently working on expanding to a few other cities right now -- the goal is to get studios in Los Angeles and hopefully Boston. The dream is to make it so that we have a chapter in every big city in the U.S., and then I would of course love to have chapters in Canada and even Europe one day. I want this to be everywhere. I want a trans takeover!