hommeboy is the atlanta artist making house music with a message
Find your duality with this OtherWorldly video exclusive.
Photography Marcello Quarantatto
When Hommeboy, née Kawan Moore, was eight years old, he wrote his first song. The first person he showed it to was his father, a rapper from Atlanta with a pen game Hommeboy grew up admiring. “I came to my dad with two verses, a chorus, and a bridge. I had it written out, like a whole formula,” he says over a FaceTime call from the deck of his mother’s house in Gwinnett County, his aqua blue hair peeking out from underneath a dark blue hoodie. As a child, Hommeboy would watch his dad, also named Kawan but who went by D.I.L.L.I.G.A.F. (Do I Look Like I Give A Fuck?), lock himself in the garage of their house and write every day. “When I was younger he used to tell me it stood for Do I Look Like I Got A Future?” Hommeboy says of the acronym-cum-moniker, indicating the level of pride his father instilled in him throughout this childhood. “My dad was telling me I was a God before Kanye was.”
Today, the family still keeps boxes of his dad’s notebooks and VHS tapes of father-son trips to the studio stored as mementos, and they continue to inspire the younger Kawan as he embarks on his own path as a musician. Hommeboy’s music is the natural result of someone who grew up listening to “conscious hip-hop” like KRS-One and Madonna — music he credits his dad for introducing him to. He first explored rapping over sounds that challenged him, like Daft Punk and Crystal Castles instrumentals, in the 7th grade when he found himself bored with hip-hop beats and curious about the music he heard other students listening to at his new, more diverse middle school. By 18, he says, house music found him and provided a freedom he wasn’t fully allowed by hip-hop.
“As a queer artist, I definitely feel that house culture is in my blood,” he explains. “I was attracted to the vibrations, the consciousness and the spiritual confidence of house records. It has this power that is both masculine and feminine, and I connected with it immediately.” A culmination of his experiments over the years, the 24-year-old’s promising debut, 2017’s FUNKWITME EP, is an infectious blend of house and techno paired with what he calls “positive rap messages” that has garnered attention from the likes of Azealia Banks and Dev Hynes.
The idea that something can be simultaneously masculine and feminine is exemplary of Hommeboy’s dualistic worldview. The concept of duality must easily resonate Hommeboy, who is a Pisces (the sign’s symbol typically shows two fish swimming in opposite directions, connected by a cord). He looks to men who embody duality as some of his biggest artistic inspirations, citing David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Bootsy Collins, and fellow Atlanta native Andre 3000 as paving a way for his art to thrive. “It’s not all about the black and white,” he says. “You can be whatever you want to be at any given moment. I feel like I’m an artist for the people who believe that.”
Unfortunately, not everyone believes in the grey areas, especially throughout the greater Atlanta area that Hommeboy knows well. “Being raised in the South with a name like Kawan, even in a city like Atlanta, you can kind of taste the Jim Crow era in the air,” he tells me solemnly. He describes peering eyes that stared at his blonde hair, bleached eyebrows, platform shoes, or the other ways he expresses himself when “words just can’t do it.”
Holding hands with his partner on the train and being in love for the first time were tainted experiences because “being a queer Black man in the South has been alienating in some ways,” he says. It’s why Hommeboy wrote his latest song, "OtherWorldly," an imaginative house-inflected bop with more melodic vocals than his earlier releases, and whose video premieres today on i-D. “Stepping outside in Gwinnett, I feel like I have to put on a hat with my blue hair so my neighbors don’t get freaked out or something,” he says. “It’s just stuff like that that makes me feel otherworldly, and it’s like, ‘Okay, I gotta sing about this shit because this is wild.’”
Despite its challenges, Atlanta has proven a worthwhile stomping ground for Hommeboy’s unflinching creativity. “I love being in Atlanta because it’s a city where you can build and grow your foundation, even though there's so much resistance sometimes to just be yourself,” he explains. “It’s small enough where you can be a big fish in a little pond and really make a name for yourself here.” Two years into a marketing program at Georgia State University, Kawan dropped out, picked up an internship with a local metalworking company, learned how to weld and did some guerilla-style street installations. Inspired at the time by the 60s and 70s Fluxus movement, he and a friend would also scour the city for abandoned billboards to experiment with. “My form of marketing was painting a whole abandoned billboard pink, you know? They don’t teach you those things in school,” he says. “It’s the way a lot of people in our generation feel; school doesn’t really give you to the tools that you need, especially if you’re a creative.” The founder of the popular Atlanta arts centre 787 Windsor (the home of Afropunk and Red Bull Culture Clash) recognized Kawan’s visionary potential early on, deeming him creative director of the space for almost two years. “It came full circle when I performed there a week and a half ago,” he says about his set at this year’s Afropunk. “For me, to know the origins of it and for everyone else not to was really cool and definitely meaningful.”
Today, Hommeboy’s Atlanta includes the monthly event he throws called Friends 100, where local artists, designers, musicians, and creatives meet to make friends and celebrate their diversity and duality. He also lives in a loft once inhabited by George Clinton: “When I’m writing I feel like I feel the energy of George Clinton there. It even brings out some eccentric lyrics, just knowing what was there before.” He’s even met one of his hometown idols, Andre 3000: “I felt like I was looking at an older version of myself.” And now, with a new album coming in early 2019 called The Era of Good Feelings, Hommeboy is ready to take a step further into his other world.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.