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'Kiki' Music Producer MikeQ Talks Preserving The Ballroom [Interview]

'Kiki' Music Producer MikeQ Talks Preserving The Ballroom [Interview]

'Kiki' Music Producer MikeQ Talks Preserving The Ballroom [Interview]

Photo of ‘Kiki’ Movie courtesy of Sundance Selects.

To preserve the culture is to forfeit profit. This is the truth more often than it is not. Preserving culture becomes risky work in a culture dominated by white supremacist capitalism where often to keep the culture alive, you must commodify it. It must be sold and retold for a large audience and it must be done quickly and repeatedly. The ballroom and vogue culture stand in a very interesting limbo at the moment where it still has deep, attached roots in the underground, but has been tip-toeing in and out of mainstream consciousness for decades now. Paris is Burning and Madonna’s smash-hit “Vogue” are obvious highlights of when above-the-ground and the underground both were sharing ballroom culture, often under the practice of exploitation and appropriation when done from the side of the mainstream.

Kiki is a film that attempts to preserve the ballroom culture. It chronicles the lives of queer black people living in New York City and the culture that they inherited and continue to help evolve. Moments in the film are heartbreaking, other moments are empowering and others are sheer entertainment.

The music is the heartbeat of the ballroom culture and the film. This is why once I saw Kiki, I knew I wanted to talk to MikeQ, who is a legendary gay black producer/DJ and also the person that scored the documentary. “I never wanted to be a DJ. I wasn’t big on it. I fell into ballroom and that was able to bring this creativity out of me for the past 13 years,” he told Okayplayer when I spoke with him over the phone.

When we talk about preserving culture as the mainstream begins to find re-interest in black queer cultural productions, we must talk about MikeQ. For our generation, MikeQ single-handedly used his career to bridge cultural gaps between ballroom culture and hip-hop culture, even gaining attention from superstars like Missy Elliott. “First of all, I love her. Actually, my first time meeting her was in 2007. I was DJ-ing at this ball in [New] Jersey, very small. Queen Latifah had brought Missy Elliot and Salt-n-Pepa in and I passed her a CD.”

MikeQ’s aura is calmer than you’d expect based off of his music. The beats drop and brag, leave room for a bit of silence, before shanking you in the gut. You dance. He continues, “A couple of years later, she tweeted me back like she knew who I was and we talked in her DMs, and I sent her some music. Unfortunately, she didn’t use that stuff. As a thank you she recorded herself chanting [on the tracks I sent].” This was an amazing personal moment for MikeQ, but it was also a kind of symbol of what he has done now for his decade-long career. He has been making it all make sense as it concerns ballroom culture and other youth-driven cultures in America.


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