"Too queer for the straight world; too straight for the queer one," spits New York-based rapper F. Virtue on his 2016 single, "License and Registration." The underground artist--real name Will Kowall--wrestles openly with identity on his Factor Chandelier-produced track, unraveling diary-like rhymes above a nostalgic, low-key instrumental. "There's no definition; call it what you want, but we'll prove time and time again the names you give are wrong," he says, knocking holes in social categorizations.
In the Ross Louis Klein-directed video, an undercover police officer, played by Johnny Sagan, pulls over a group of individuals in a car, as they step out one-by-one in opposition of his authority. Embodying a diverse spread of race, sexuality and gender identity, the five confident characters flaunt incredible ambiguity, highlighting the power of nuance in personal presentation and a complete disregard for labels. The wide-eyed, newly woke officer flees the scene, returning to his car to put on some red lipstick of his own--a statement about expression and the power of visibilty to help foster self-acceptance.
Watch F. Virtue's "License and Registration," and learn more about the artist's new release, below.
OUT: What's the story behind this track?
F. Virtue: The central focus of the song started out with my lack of a place, or specific scene, in music. I've always been on a search for who I may speak to most, in hopes we find each other. But outside of music, the same sentiments echoed in my personal life, growing up closeted and in a suppressive city coming to terms with my own identity. But in the end, it's these abnormalities I'm so grateful for, because they're what makes me (us). And maybe others dealing with the same things out there can look with me and understand how great being different is, being themselves are, through the experience of this track.
Unpack the lyric, "Too queer for the straight world; too straight for the queer one."
When I was making music before I was out, I was in a very stereotypically classically homophobic hip-hop scene. Times have definitely changed in rap, but when I came out and started to write about queer themes, I thought, "How will those listeners relate to this?" But in the same breath, the vibe is more aligned with that brand of hip-hop to the point where it's really lyric-based headphone music, so it's hard for me to play gay venues or clubs. That line is kind of explaining how I feel caught in the middle of both worlds, but how all of that is just stupid because there really are no worlds I need to be caught between, and I can just do my thing for anyone who's down.
How about the lyric, "Mother Nature is gender-fluid; Father Time is trans"?
This line is definitely more open to interpretation, but to me it's about how we have these rigid perceptions of gender--what a boy is and likes. Mother Nature and Father Time were always called such, but they are so much bigger. And the hugeness of them embraces all sides of the spectrum--nature and time, they're too wise and ancient to be cis.
Describe the concept of your new video.
The director Ross and I figured it would be good to tell a story in this world of the Trump administration's outright oppression. We also knew we wanted it to open with close shots of people, whose genders you couldn't identify, knowing the viewer would try to. We wanted that to prove how ridiculous we are for trying or even thinking we need to. The policeman represents these labels and boxes that society tries to put us in, with the group of friends just trying to live freely, but being unable to do so because of "the man," But it turns out "the man" has issues of his own--sound familiar? These visuals complement the song because the battle I've had in "finding my place" was really inflicted by the outside world all along, and none of these borders should exist. We should all be able to live free and happily without issue.
I see some familiar face--tell me about casting.
I loved casting this video. Really all I wanted were homies from the local NYC scene who get it, are fabulous and pursue the art world in one way or another, so we could all share a fun little platform--a beautiful moment. It was really the best team. (Lesbian) rapper Chinks Doe, Kevin Amato's MOTHERMGMT's Philip Errco, Johnny Sagan of Snowy Wilderness, Sagan XL and the Snow Globe Incubator Fund, club kid/models/artists George Mott, Kale Houchens and Steve Wang, with looks by my dear friends Whatever 21 and MUSED (and some HBA). And the director is an old friend I went to Emerson with.