“Oh my god, should we put video on?” Dizzy Fae asks keenly in the first minute of our Zoom interview. I was informed it was to be an audio-only call, but Fae is one to bend the rules. Happy to oblige, I am greeted with the 22-year-old’s warm grin, clearly buzzed at the prospect of discussing her new music. This instant magnetism is perhaps why she’s receiving attention for her experimental twist on classic diva pop.
Throughout our conversation, she easily jokes about how as an artist she can talk as nasty as she wants in meetings (“It’s so funny because these people are so corporate, and I’m there like ‘sex, penis, ass, pussy’ and no-one blinks!”), and immediately after, speak about the mindful life lessons she’s learnt so far. Dizzy Fae is in her place of manifestation. She stretches across her quilted couch in a room comfier than a padded cell, splattered with bright greens and pinks from the plants in the background to her fluffy bucket hat and acid-wash sweatshirt.
At the moment she is living alone, which is understandable as someone who values as much personal space as she can get. “I’d say that I’m an independent person, but I don’t pride myself too much on it,” she comments, before pivoting to a larger adage. “I believe that life is a collaboration, and I couldn’t do it alone. You can’t do this life shit alone.”
Fae grew up in a melting pot of a home in Minneapolis, living with her two sisters and a stepfamily of two sisters and a brother. There was little room to spread her wings, resorting to sitting in the bathroom as a space for writing songs. Her positive glow today comes from dealing with a necessity to be heard. “Everything I was passionate about, I had to scream that I was passionate about for them to understand it,” she tells me.
Part of her upbringing took place in a homeless shelter for a year and a half, though she stresses, “it wasn’t that bad of an experience for me personally. I was still a kid, I was seven, so I would find fun in anything”. Though, as she got older, she paid more attention to the ways her mum hustled to worm the family out of bad situations. This rubbed off on Fae in a big way. “It really humbled me. Things absolutely could have been way worse, and that’s how I feel about my life in general,” she admits. “Pressure makes a diamond.”
At SPCPA high school in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Fae trained in opera and jazz music, learning to fall in love with the expression of the former and experimentation of the latter. “Even when you’re mad at someone [in opera], you’re literally singing a beautiful ass note,” she laughs. “The expression of operas and operettas is so fun, and jazz has been really dear to me, too. I think with training in classical and jazz, it’s brought me the foundation I need to make the experimental music I’m making today.”
Her love for these genres has not dissipated, as she tells about how her friends always hear her intermittently sing “Tu Lo Sai”, an old Italian staple in classical music. Equally, opera and jazz make up a bulk of a Spotify playlist she keeps called Movie Songs, which she plays in the bath as the soundtrack to the imagined movie of her life. Tidbits like these fly out regularly in our conversation.
Her music today couldn’t be stylistically further from her beginnings, but does undoubtedly reflect her personality. Across two mixtapes and a scattering of singles, Dizzy Fae has been reiterating her vision of a modern uptick of the dance-pop and R&B queens from the 2000s. One with a closer ear to the in-the-know nightclubs and salacious lyrics seen in the hip-hop of today, like a cooler, less overt version of what Peaches was doing in 2000.
At no point does her upcoming EP Antenna ever stop bouncing once it struts in, armed with vibrant glitch-pop beats that match Fae’s energy as she moves her body 360 degrees, bending and snapping. Her vocals are similarly flexible, mostly performing through a computerised and bit-crushed effect, but with a propensity to stretch into an FKA twigs-like falsetto or a Ying Yang Twins-style whisper rap. Capping things off with an A$AP Ferg-level rap boneshaker, Fae offers a left-turn to leave listeners with open expectation for her future.
In a few short years, she has received backing from a dragon’s den of artists who themselves have risen to the top, having opened recent tours for Lizzo, The Internet and Toro y Moi. For 2021, she’s on the cusp of a new spree of releases – presenting what she describes as “pussy throb energy”. Fae is poised to pull out all the stops with the new collection of songs she has waiting in the wings: “After this Covid shit, it’s giving me uplifts and Roaring Twenties vibes. We’re dancing, we’re moving our body, we’re getting nasty,” she declares, as though she’s writing a manifesto for her stenographer.
Fae is part of a wave of women making sexually liberated rap and R&B which is grabbing the world’s eyes and ears at the moment. As a longtime fan of the style, she is glad to be a part of that legacy, and speaks with amazement at how her words have become a part of her fans’ lives. “I love that my lyrics stay in people’s head and are a part of their ocean of thoughts. It’s allowed me to be more open in the studio, I could go in with a producer I don’t even know and be like ‘yo, I’m gonna moan, can you add another track?’ I can say shit like that no-one’s gonna be awkward about it! Some people giggle at it, and then I’m like ‘I’m literally about to fucking moan, cue me in!’”
From her vantage point, artists such as Meg Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj to Lil Kim and Trina impact her more and more every day, resonating with an implicit desire for greater sexual positivity through rather explicit songs. “I think that sex is an important thing to talk about, that doesn’t need to be scary,” she says, gripping a mug of tea with both hands. “It’s just another thing that connects us all.”
Fae is incredibly interested in the ins and outs of relationships and sexuality, as well as politics – she is currently reading All About Love by bell hooks, The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown and Homeless Lives Matter by Leo Gnawa.
Queerhood is an important aspect of Dizzy Fae’s world, as she has been part of the LBGTQIA+ community since she can remember but is reluctant to limit herself to a single type or even number of partners. “My sexuality doesn’t need to have any shape or form. I think that’s something a lot of the community go through, and those things are a part of the journey that I’m still on,” she says after joking about her strong feelings towards Sleeping Beauty (“she literally wakes up from a kiss from a man!”).
As well as music, Dizzy Fae is also an accomplished actor, starring in one of the lead roles of Khalid’s 2019 film Free Spirit. Acting as a companion piece to his album of the same title, the film centres on a group of young people living in desert America who steal a van to reach “the city”.
The positive chemistry between the cast spurred rituals amongst them to pass the time. “Every day on set, we’d freestyle. It would be me, Jahking [Guillory] and Judah [Lang], and we would freestyle before, during and after the set,” she smiles, playing back the memories in her head in real-time. “It was so fun, I love freestyling and they’re really good at it – Judah can really freestyle like a dictionary. I made some really good relationships out of that, and they feel like lifetime friendships.”
That same free-flowing atmosphere carried over into the script, or lack thereof. “We improved most of it, we had the blueprint, our prompt, these words that I memorised, but that was it. I honestly think improv is really important for people to indulge in if they want to act. You really have to be this character, so it was a really eye-opening experience that has helped my confidence.”
Dizzy Fae is ready to jump into the high-flying, Roaring Twenties fantasy she laid out for herself. Teasing towards the summer EP, she most recently released a music video that merges Hannah Montana-style theatrics with Alice In Wonderland storytelling for “Body Move”. In addition, her self-curated festival Dizzyland, which landed in 2019 and boasted a lineup that included Sudan Archives, Tei Shi and Junglepussy, is returning for 2021. She reveals this with an exclamation that applies just as easily to what her solo work is promising: “We’re going to Dizzyworld, bitch!”