Big Dipper on Self Love, Bear Culture, and His New LP 'LATE BLOOMER'

 PHOTO by Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO by Rakeem Cunningham

This conversation originally appeared in WUSSY vol 4, available for order here and has been edited for length and clarity.

Thicc boys, sweaty pits, and LaCroix in bulk. They’re not just a list of things that you’d find in my wet dreams; they’re also featured in songs and videos by zaddy bear rapper, Big Dipper.

The Chicago born, L.A based musician is making a name for himself in the queer hip-hop scene with his exuberant style and catchy club-anthems. His music and technicolor brand have caught the attention and collaboration of big names like RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Willam, Peppermint, Shea Couleé, and Dragula’s real MVP, Meatball. And that’s only a taste sample of things to come for Big Dipper, as he’s showing no signs of slowing down with the upcoming August 24th release of his new album, LATE BLOOMER.

In just the last couple months, BD released the thiccening video for his new song "Lookin'", which features big bois of all ages and sizes shaking their fat asses at a car wash. He also teamed up with KC Ortiz on the release of "Let's Talk about PrEP" -- an update on the classic Salt-N-Pepa bop. The song puts sexual health, PrEP, and HIV to the forefront of the conversation. 

I spoke with Big about his bigger-than-life persona, where he sees himself in the bear scene, and his plans for the future.

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 PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

How did you come up with the name Big Dipper?

It was a joke with a friend of mine in Chicago back in 2011. Before I started making music, we were riffing on an idea for a song and I was like, “I’m going to make that song, but I need a rap name.” He suggested Big Dipper. It was pretty organic. I feel like the name really makes sense. There is a ton of innuendos and the Big Dipper constellation is part of Ursa Major, which is a big bear in the sky, so it all kind of lines up perfectly.

 

How would you say the Chicago queer scene shaped your creation of the Big Dipper persona?

That's such an awesome question because I have this huge place in my heart for the queers in Chicago and the scene helped me blossom. Honestly, I really became myself in Chicago and I miss it constantly. I found a group of people with whom I'm still connected to, who still dance for me at my shows whenever possible, who I still email and text about ideas and concepts for songs and videos.

I was able to experiment with performance ideas and be fearless with my friends to make new work. To dance and try out looks and be carefree and play. The scene was really playful. It was a joyful world of dance parties, pop up performances, and crop tops.
 

What would be your dream collaboration?

The #Queen....Nicki Minaj. That's kind of an obvious answer, even tho it's true....Doing something with Childish Gambino would be incredible too.
 

 PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham


What inspires you musically?

Pop music, ear worms, songs that tell a story. Anything that makes we want to dance...even just a little...that gets my brain going to think about writing lyrics.

 

Let’s talk about your music video, LaCroix Boi. What was your inspiration for the video?

We started working on the LaCroix Boi video in early 2017 after Mike Malarkey and I wrote the song. The director, Ryan Ovadia, and I wanted (the video) to be really impressive visually. The whole focus was to make these visually appealing set-ups that were both playful and slapstick-y, but also sleek and designed. LaCroix Boi is a hybrid of my Big Dipper persona and musical sound, so we wanted the video to reflect that. The whole thing is super queer, but not overtly so it plays to a mainstream crowd and subverts the typical soccer mom LaCroix consumer. The color palette reflects the can design and the cast play with a wide selection of flavors of LaCroix. I wanted every frame of the video to look like an editorial photoshoot: highly stylized, art directed, and super sleek, but I also wanted to bring the playfulness and joy into the video that I do with any Big Dipper project.

 

Okay, so I have to ask. What happened to all the LaCroix cans you used in the music video?

Well 95% of the cans in the video were already empty when we shot the video. I spent many weeks leading up to the shoot chugging cans of LaCroix and to be honest a few cases even went straight down the drain because we were running out of time. We needed them to build set pieces. Can you imagine how heavy that jacket or throne or anything would have been had the cans been full?

 PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

 PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

I love the references to bear culture in your music and visuals, especially with your song Chunkita. Can you tell us the role the bear community has played in developing your artistic voice?

I love the bear (scene) because it was the first space where I felt accepted and sexualized. At the same time, I align with queer sensibilities: artistic, flamboyant, not masc for masc, so there is an internal struggle. I like to play into the sexual fantasy of some hulking masculine guy that acts like a football coach, but if we can't actually be ourselves and talk about art and queer identity, I have a hard time connecting.

 PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

I find myself constantly straddling this feeling as though I belong and that I don't. To be honest, I get that feedback about my music a lot. People have said to me, "You'd be hot if you weren't as flamboyant." or "I watch your music videos with the sound off because I don't like your voice." I have a hard time fitting into one place. Am I a bear or a cub or just a person? Am I a queer rapper or just a rapper? Am I a performer or a dj? A director or a producer? I think I'm all of the above and I think that's okay.

 

You recently dropped a track on SoundCloud called Gorgina, featuring Peppermint from Rupaul’s Drag Race. What’s the story you’re trying to tell in this song?

I wanted to make a club song that you could dance to at a party but also listen to at home in your room before you go out. It’s like equal parts strutting through the room knowing all eyes are on you, as it is amping yourself up in the mirror, telling yourself you’re gorgeous, and all eyes will be on you. It’s a self confidence boost at 130 bpm.

 

What was it like collaborating with Peppermint?

I’ve known Peppermint for a few years now. I met her through our mutual friend Cazwell in NYC. I’ve always loved her energy and she’s such a rad performer. I did a feature verse on her song Dolla in my Titty Part 2, when she released her project Black Pepper last year. It was on a trip to LA that I asked her to come into the studio and record with me. We didn’t have anything specific in mind, but put a mic in front of her and play around with ideas and vocal takes. She has such an awesome vocal quality I knew I wanted to collaborate with her. Her voice will appear a few times on LATE BLOOMER (my new album) as well.

 

 PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

PHOTO: Rakeem Cunningham

Favorite queer films?

Trick, To Wong Foo, Tangerine, and this Australian film The Sum of Us with a young Russel Crowe.
 

Can you give us any details about LATE BLOOMER or other projects you’re working on?

Totally! 2018 is full of new and exciting projects!

My new album is titled LATE BLOOMER and will be coming out in 2018! It’s a full length album project and I’m super excited to share it with the world. It’s fun and campy, dancey and raunchy, real, and heartfelt. I have a totally wild video for the lead single off the album, LOOKIN. The song is super poppy and fun, and the video is an artifully shot, body positive car wash full of thicc dudes and tons of soap suds. Plus I have more videos for songs on the album, including another single with RuPaul Drag Race Season 9 alum Shea Couleé.

My podcast unBEARable with Big Dipper and Meatball will release it’s second season on Revry. We have tons of awesome guests from the LGBTQ community and beyond. Mostly entertainers who don’t necessarily fit in and who have had to make their own path to success. Plus we talk about bears and tell lots of sex stories.

I also plan to be on the road a bunch this summer performing at Pride events and clubs. I love doing gigs because I can meet and talk to people and I just love performing. My plan in releasing the new album and the videos is to push my content further so I can go out on the road more and play live shows. Getting up on stage is honestly the best. It’s my favorite part of all of this. That and when people bring me donuts to the show.
 

 

A lot of young queers struggle with self love and confidence -- what is your advice for them?

This might be the wrongest kind of advice there is, but I remember it changed my whole world when I realized this --  'Everyone is sexy to someone' (I should embroider that on a pillow and sell them on my website lol). 

Everyone is someone else's fantasy. It may not help you make better or healthy decisions about who you chase after, or the expectations and standards you set for yourself, but it sure as shit flipped my perspective on loving myself and my body. I know I'm sexy as hell to at least one person out in the world, and that helps me put one foot in front of the other.... spiritually. 

 

 

Late Bloomer will be released on August 24th. 
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