Call them whatever you’d like — pop-rapper Chav is here to live their most authentic truth, especially if that means flying in the face of what society deems “acceptable.”
The futuristic artist, who co-founded the queer & progressive pop label Flat Pop Records earlier this year, takes that sentiment to heart with their latest single “Patient Zero,” a moody, glitching track that aims to take back the phrase once used to dehumanize queer people during the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s.
For those less familiar, the term “patient zero” was often used by some in heteronormative society during the crisis as a way of placing blame on the LGBTQ community for the virus’ rapid spead. As Chav sees it, those kinds of derogatory remarks should be weaponized by queer people as a means of achieving self-confidence. “All the things that society calls us, to make us feel less than, to deny our credibility, are truly the things that make us the great all powerful beings that I know we are,” they tell Billboard. “So you can call us what you like, but we will always fight for our place, because the global truth is that it belongs to ALL of us, even our captors.”
Chav spoke to Billboard about taking back offensive slurs, creating their new sound, and how touring with Dorian Electra has impacted their career.
What went into the making of this song? The music and the lyrics give it this very visceral, almost angry vibe — how did that manifest itself during the writing process?
At first my producer and co-writer Brett Castro and I were just playing with a beat. We began adding layers to it and it started getting really dark. At the time we were watching Euphoria and chatting and we thought, “wouldn’t it be dope if we made a song that wasn’t a halloween song but a song that exists through the lens of the halloween universe?” When I started thinking of what scares people the most I reasoned that, essentially, it’s queer and POC people.
Brett and I started thinking of the legacy of what it meant to be a queer person, and a queer person of color. Our conclusion was that the things our society frowns upon, the “deplorable” attributes, are also what’s associated with POC and queer communities having pride in their identity and taking up space. It’s the reality of being non-binary in a straight world or of being a black person and having to exist in a regime that’s never considered you even though your POV creates newness and culture.
The song is titled “Patient Zero,” which you said has to do with taking back the term once used to dehumanize queer people, especially during the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s. Why was it important for you to reclaim this phrase for the LGBTQ community?
The first lyrics we wrote were “You can call me patient zero, you can call me freaking weirdo.” The AIDS epidemic used to be something I was so fearful to learn and understand about our community, but as I’ve grown in my queerdom, I’ve started to recognize what it has done to our history and how it shapes us.
I’ve been following this Instagram account @theaidsmemorial for a while. As I read the stories on that page of the lives lost during the first movement of the epidemic, I want to remember those people with respect and joy. For many reasons, but what really struck me was their resilience. Until the end, they fought for our place. There was one quote on the page that said “If you’re reading this, I’m dead, and we will not be forgotten.” The subtext being, “this is what I’ve been, and this is what we could be.”
In the history of humanity we have been taught to discredit POC/queer/femme (people), but they are actually the most powerful. They are the creators of culture, change, language, and movement. All the things that society calls us, to make us feel less than, to deny our credibility, are truly the things that make us the great all powerful beings that I know we are. So you can call us what you like, but we will always fight for our place, because the global truth is that it belongs to ALL of us, even our captors.
You’ve been on tour with Dorian Electra and performing at some of Dorian and Moodkiller’s Charli XCX after parties this year — what has that experience meant for you, as an artist?
Dorian Electra is a boss. I met them three years ago when my partner and I were curating our first event and they were so professional and gracious. During this tour with them, dancing for their shows and performing my original material at the afterparties, they have handled every aspect with so much strength and empathy. They completely pulled the tour together by themselves — without a label or management. And they maintain a beautiful community of queer folks that are so thirsty to be seen. It’s been a great experience working with them and an honor to see how they’re growing within their craft.
Meeting all the people on the tour has been the best part for sure. At Charli’s shows she invites local artists to come up for one of the songs, and being able to meet those artists and performers and queens was incredible. They were there, in every city, big or small, and they were thriving. And Charli is incredible to the community — it’s really cool to see a major pop artist consider us in a meaningful way. I’m so excited to see what she and Dorian and so many others are cultivating continue to grow.
Listent to “Patient Zero” below.