Dallas-based queer musician Lady BSmoove heads to Austin for Pink Elephant, the inaugural festival of LGBTQ hip-hop artists
SCOTT HUFFMAN | Contributing Writer
Hip-hop — the music and the resulting movement — was created to give a voice to the unheard. Minority groups in general and African-Americans in particular were the first to embrace the genre. Yet somewhere in its development, a culture born of revolution began shutting out its own — specifically, its LGBT members. Fortunately, out Dallas native Lady BSmoove (aka Brandy Simington), 38, like many other hip-hop artists, is undaunted by exclusionary maneuvers.
“I can’t say that I’ve allowed it to hold me back,” says Lady B, as she is affectionately known. “I am a woman first, I came out black, and I happen to be gay. I put all of those things in there. I think in a lot of aspects that has helped me. All those things have helped me. I’m able to bring crowds together.”
Lady B considers herself primarily a spoken word artist — as she explains, spoken word is the act of “bringing alive the words you wrote in your poetry” — and secondarily a singer-songwriter. She is excited to have been asked to perform at the inaugural Pink Elephant Festival in Austin. The conference, one which showcases LGBT hip-hop artists from across the country, runs March 9 and 10 and leads up to the annual South by Southwest Music Festival. Lady B considers the invitation to perform nothing short of an accolade.
“I’m excited to represent my city first, and then I’m representing the gay community within Dallas,” Lady B says, describing her reaction when fellow hip-hop artist Japan, one of the event’s coordinators, requested her appearance. “He was like, ‘Lady B, you have to be a part of this!’ He loves my music that much that I had to be a part of it. I even got happy because I know it is a hip-hop festival. Hip-hop is derived from spoken word. For them to ask me to make sure that I speak spoken work in my performance, I was honored.”
Lady B knew from an early age that she wanted a musical career. Both her father and her grandmother were singers. With roots in gospel music, Lady B credits both God and love as inspirations for her work. But for the title track of her second self-released album, Live, Love … Dream, she specifically credits wall art bearing three Chinese symbols.
“I was actually walking through Garden Ridge, and I saw a picture with Chinese letters [characters]. It said: live, love, dream. I left it in my soul for a while. Then I got it tattooed on my left arm. I started to live by it. I applied this to my life, and I said,
‘That’s what I’m going to name the album.’ I wrote the album to those words to try to give people that insight.”
Lady B’s interests, however, aren’t confined simply to music. She is also known as a community advocate for HIV awareness and black youth. In fact, the hip-hopper’s participation in several local events including AIDS Walk South Dallas has earned her an unexpected yet welcomed political title.
“I don’t consider myself an activist, but for some reason everyone else does,” she says. “I’m passionate about HIV prevention and knowledge, so I show up to those things. I am a black woman, so I am passionate about what’s happening to black youth. People see me going to different things. I go to where the kids are, and I will perform and reach them. Somehow everyone has equated that into activism. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough.”
Her community involvement has not gone unnoticed. Dallas men’s group United Black Ellument has twice nominated Lady B for its Ally of the Year award. Moreover, she attributes much of her early success to the black gay men of Dallas.
“I give the black gay men a huge credit for Lady BSmoove being who she is,” she says. “Black gay men were the first people to say, ‘Come perform for me.’ I commend them for that. I cannot wait to get my Grammy so that I can thank the black gay community. I cannot say anything about the women. Any black gay woman who saw Lady B perform [saw it] because she was at a black gay men’s event. But I’m thankful for that. Those women who showed up became fans.”
With two albums behind her, Lady B now looks to the future. One goal is to produce a gospel album. Another, to which she earlier alluded, is to be the first spoken word artist nominated for a Grammy. She is also open to the idea of adapting her work for theater.
“Someone actually put the idea in my head,” Lady B says. “She is a director at the Irving Arts Center. She heard my album, and she came out to see me. She said, ‘When I listened to your album, the first thing I thought was that this could be a play.’ I was like, ‘Really? A play?’”
In the meantime, Lady B will keep her day job in computer support. “I’m a help desk service technician,” Lady B says. “I help people. I’m still a geek. I like breaking stuff in a computer to see if I can fix it. I love being able to teach people things. That’s what I do for a living until these royalty checks start coming in.”
Lady BSmoove performs at Austin’s Victory Grill March 10 at 9 p.m. For complete event information and scheduling, visit PinkElephantFestival.com. [Editor’s note: The dates of the festival have been corrected. They are March 9 and 10, not 10 and 11.]
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2016.