In trying to list out everything that she’s been up to as of late, drag superstar Bob the Drag Queen finds herself at a loss.
Sitting out of drag in a small podcasting studio, the star quickly lists off her HBO series We’re Here, her podcast with Monét X Change Sibling Rivalry and her stand-up comedy career with ease — it’s only once she gets to her extensive touring history that she begins to falter.
“I’ve done ‘Werq the World,’ ‘Drag Queen Christmas,’ ‘Christmas Queens,’ the [Drag Race] season 8 tour, ‘In the Dark,'” she tells Billboard via Zoom, before suddenly going quiet. “I know there’s more. You name a Drag Race tour, I’ve probably done it. A girl had to make a dollar.”
It would be unreasonable for Bob to remember everything she’s been up to — in the almost seven years since being crowned the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 8, the dexterous performer has been hard at work creating her own drag empire. Spreading her talents out through comedy, reality television, podcasting, touring and internet virality, Bob has made herself one of the most sought-after drag queens in the world.
Today, though, Bob’s focus is on her music career. After taking a five-year hiatus from releasing original tracks, Bob is returning with their long-awaited debut EP Gay Barz (out Friday, Feb. 10). The 6-track project sees the queen taking on sounds from hip-hop and house and infusing them with what Bob calls her own “campy” sensibilities.
“There’s always an innate sense of humor in what I do,” she explains. “Even on a song like ‘Black‘ [Bob’s fiery ode to Black excellence], I’m still using my sense of humor to make my point — like with the line ‘If Rosa Parks could see you now/ She’d be beatin’ that ass.'”
It certainly shows throughout the project. On the late-EP ode-to-backsides “Booty,” Bob spits that you ought to “put that ass on trial/ Burn the booty at the stake”; the hard-hitting titular cypher contains some of the queen’s hardest bars, including “I don’t speak spanish/ But I will top-a-tío.”
But Bob is not the only one to spit fire on “Gay Barz” — the title track served as something of a freestyle session between Bob and three other queer rappers; Kamera Tyme, Mikey Angelo and Ocean Kelly. On “Black,” Bob and Kelly are joined by nonbinary singer-songwriter BASIT who adds a delicious vocal hook to the fiery anthem. “I call us the GGT; the girls, gays and theys,” Bob quips, grinning.
It’s no accident that most of the four featured artists were discovered by Bob through TikTok, a platform she adopted just before the start of COVID and where she has since expanded her reign with a massive following of 2.8 million. “It kind of occurred to me when I saw people being made famous on TikTok that we don’t have to take the celebrities you hand us. We get to hand you celebrities,” Bob says. “So it was really important to bring these amazing artists on this journey with me. Hopefully this will lead people to going and checking out their stuff individually, because they are all so talented and prolific.”
While the project is focused on providing the laughs and featuring deserving, up-and-coming LGBTQ talent, Gay Barz also doesn’t shy away from the politics of it all. Even the cover art for the album, showing a younger Bob being escorted away by police, comes from the star’s political activism, where she was arrested in 2011 for protesting for marriage equality near New York’s Bryant Park.
“They would do these things called ‘field mugshots,’ where they take a picture of you right there in the streets with a Polaroid. When I was getting out of jail, I had the audacity to swing by the front door and say, ‘Can I have my picture please?'” Bob recalls. “It’s been one of my favorite pictures of myself since that day.”
On “Black,” for example, when Bob isn’t asking if you’re “ready to gagatron,” the star is calling out the inequity faced by Black and queer folks on a regular basis, underlining the point further saying “multiply by 10 if you’re black and trans.” The video takes the concept even further, showing Bob taking over a police cruiser and taking (literal) shots at Klan members.
Bob doesn’t fault any artist who’d rather focus on escapism in a time of political turmoil — “Not everyone needs to be political,” she says. But for her, not speaking on what she thinks is ultimately not an option. “I have a big, loud mouth, I’m an opinionated bitch,” she says. “That’s why I was in the streets shouting that ‘New York demands marriage equality now,’ because I had a voice and I wanted to make sure people heard it.”
It’s a quality Bob shares with one of her pop idols, Madonna. Now, Bob can call the star not only an inspiration, but a collaborator; for her highly-anticipated, career-spanning world tour later this year, Madonna tapped Bob as a special guest for every performance.
Their relationship started when Bob was asked to host Madonna’s New York Pride show in 2022 — upon rehearsing and meeting with the “Material Girl,” Bob says the pair instantly hit it off, with Madonna taking a keen interest in her career. Eventually, she asked Bob to join her on her world tour, to which the queen excitedly agreed.
Bob remains tight-lipped about what to expect for the tour, stating only that the show will be “a journey through four decades of the top-selling woman in the history of music,” and adding that “I’m there to help facilitate that journey.” But the drag star also makes clear that her inclusion on the tour feels like a genuine acknowledgement of her talent. “She respects me in a way that doesn’t feel like a novelty,” Bob explains. “She doesn’t tell me, ‘You need to show up in full drag at 8:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning.’ She says, ‘Show up however it feels best for you.'”
The star even got Madonna’s input on parts of her new EP — Bob sent the video for “Black” to Madonna for any advice, and the “Like a Prayer” singer let her know that the clip was “phenomenal.” “Obviously, what matters most is how I feel about myself, but still, a stamp of approval from Madonna is just like … ‘what?!'” Bob says.
Still, on the eve of her EP’s release, Bob can’t help but feel the butterflies in her stomach at work. “I feel like I’m supposed to say, ‘Bitch, I’m ready for the EP to f–king take over the world!’ But in all honesty, I’m nervous,” she says. “I want the world to like my music.”
Whether or not they do, Bob also acknowledges that she’s done all that she can and more to put her everything into the new project. “I’m really happy with the work,” Bob says. “It says a lot about who I am, it says a lot about my journey. It feels like I’m doing this in a way that feels very true to me.”