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20-year-old Dizzy Fae is the free-thinking, free-flowing artist R&B needs

Bobby Rogers

Bobby Rogers

Dizzy Fae is awash in golden light, trailing a single finger up the leg of her jumpsuit and across her torso, along her jawline, drawing a part through her two-toned braids. 

“She taught me everything I know,” she sings, as a barely-there synth sparkles in the background. The camera pulls close to frame her face, then recedes, revealing a second set of hands belonging to another woman. The two are entwined in a tricky dance: cradling each other’s heads, tracing one another’s features, nuzzling into the other’s neck. But by the time Dizzy sings, “All I ever wanted to do was feel wanted” and the scene cuts out, the other woman has slipped from her embrace. 

The music video for “Her/Indica” may not be overtly sexual, but it’s definitely sensual. So Dizzy didn’t think it was a big deal, or that it’d come as a huge surprise, when she matter-of-factly told i-D last year: “The music video is about my first experience falling for a woman.” 

Some people, though, were a little surprised. 

“Literally my mom thought that song was about her,” Dizzy laughs. “And my friend’s mom. I was like damn, moms are different.”

The video wasn’t a tap-the-champagneflute coming-out announcement, more a gentle elbow to a friend’s ribs to get their attention at the bar. It feels distinctly Dizzy—growing up with a big family in St. Paul, she says she still struggles to talk about or center a conversation around herself.

Bobby Rogers

Bobby Rogers

Let us do the talking, then. A lifelong Minnesotan, Dizzy was just 18, with two or three songs out, when Lizzo tapped her to provide support on her 2016 headlining tour. Her first five shows were as follows: opening for the Internet, then for Kehlani, then Poliça, then Empress Of, then Marian Hill and D.R.A.M. She spent last fall touring with Toro y Moi and has shared stages with Jorja Smith.

“Her/Indica” was the point where people went, oh, Dizzy Fae is a queer artist. The next month, she was in Gay Times (“Dizzy Fae on being a liberated queer woman of colour in the music industry”), and before 2018 was out, she caught Teen Vogue’s eye (“The 20-year-old artist makes the music she wants to make, and people can’t get enough of it”). Earlier this year, Gay Times called her one of the 25 up-and-coming LGBTQ artists you need to listen to in 2019, and Billboard profiled her just last month for Billboard Pride, their monthly series highlighting LGBTQ artists.

But really, they’re all catching up to what folks in the Twin Cities have known for years. “It seems like everything is destined for her,” says longtime manager Jake Heinitz. “Whenever I put a challenge in front of her, she takes it. She’s anxious, but if she wasn’t I’d be like: ‘This girl is a sociopath.’”

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Much of this acclaim arrived on the heels of Free Form, her 2018 debut mixtape. “I had no intention with Free Form, I just made music,” Dizzy says. “I’m just trying to figure myself out, and if I don’t naturally have an idea of how I want a full body of work to be, I’m not going to work towards that.”

Don’t take “figuring it out” to mean “confused”—these are songs of selfassuredness, of a woman doing and saying exactly what she wants. “I flow with passion, and I think that’s what Free Form was,” she says. “I was passionate when I went into the studio and passionate about what I was doing.” On the buzzy, fun-as-fuck “Booty 3000,” Fae proclaims, “I am the pharaoh,” but also, “You want a pricey bitch? My mall is thrift shops.” She’ll tell you explicitly what it is she’s about: “Oh, you’re into dwelling? Well I’m into manifestation—I please me,” she lilts on “Baby Pillz,” while on “Inner Witches” she sweetly asserts, “I’m not into hanging without a purpose/I’m not into you touching my shit without permission.”

 

Giving herself the ability to do anything, to take things as they come and hone them later, is what makes Dizzy’s work feel intensely personal. Her lyrics feel less like a journal than a Google doc you’re watching her edit in real time. “Her” and “Indica” aren’t sequenced together on Free Form, but they share a thematic energy, so Fae threaded them together to create a visual story of self-discovery and intimacy and vulnerability.

It’s a flexibility that feels inherently queer. You can have both. You can try anything. It’s not chaos—there’s a sense of confidence shaped through experimentation. How can you be so certain about how you feel, or what you want to say, if you haven’t explored everything? What might you learn about yourself and your process, and what might you be able to create, with no limitations?

Dizzy’s one of an increasing number of R&B and hip-hop artists attempting to answer those questions, and in doing so, making the case that the queerer music is, the cooler it gets. There’s Janelle Monae, probably the easiest comparison for Dizzy’s genre-melding mixtapes (just compare their android-like dance moves). Is it a coincidence that Monae’s internet-exploding 2019 Grammys performance—pink vagina pants and all—was both the best and queerest of the night? (It’s not.) You’ll see it too in the easy swagger of rapper and lil titty/fat belly advocate Princess Nokia, whose “Tomboy” is a rallying cry for the sexually and sartorially fluid.

“I’m queer and happy—I think everyone in the world is queer, but that’s just me. It just feels good to live that way, too,” Dizzy says. “There’s no restrictions. I can like whoever I want to like, and love whoever I want to love.” And she can write whatever she wants to write: “I’m just such a free-flowing person when it comes to my art that it gets hard to talk about it. It really is whatever happens in the moment. Maybe when I’m older I’ll know more of how I work. I’m so open, I’m just trying everything right now, dabbling here, dabbling that.”

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Dizzy will continue dabbling on her forthcoming mixtape, NO GMO (out June 26). As with Free Form, it doesn’t pretend to be a cohesive work. But it is a step toward... well, something, even if she isn’t sure exactly what. “This new project, it feels—I just feel like I’m tapping more into myself.”

NO GMO is certainly more uptempo than its predecessor. Singles “Lifestyle” and “Altar” feel made for dancing, as does the choppy “Company.” There’s more space in these songs, more questioning—both for Dizzy the artist and Dizzy the human. “What am I really trying to say now? That’s the big question I’ve been asking myself lately. What am I trying to say?” She didn’t feel it was cohesive enough to be an EP or an album; she feels weird even calling it a mixtape. “If it was up to me, I’d just call it a project.” She’s still learning from Free Form, about herself and the kind of music she wants to make.

Hair by Dizzy Fae. Styling by Dizzy Fae & Bobby Rogers. Clothing from Guthrie Costume Rentals. Makeup by Brynna Heiser. Assisting by Desaré Cox, Bee Brooks, and Kwey.

Hair by Dizzy Fae. Styling by Dizzy Fae & Bobby Rogers. Clothing from Guthrie Costume Rentals. Makeup by Brynna Heiser. Assisting by Desaré Cox, Bee Brooks, and Kwey.

“I feel like I’m more anxious about dropping this one than the last one, because the first one was like, there’s completely no expectations,” she continues. “First project, you have nothing to lose... I think as humans we’re most afraid of change, and that’s, like, everything.”

 

But Dizzy’s life isn’t one of total flux. She comes from a solid community of support; many of her collaborators have been there from the beginning.

Producers Alec Ness and Psymun have been working with her since pretty much day one, and so has Jake Heinitz of Greenroom. Poliça’s Ryan Olson and Channy Leaneagh were early supporters—it was Leaneagh who caught one of Dizzy’s first shows, then called their booking agent to say: “Sign her now, while you still can.” (These days, Dizzy babysits Leaneagh’s kids.) She shouts out recent collaborator Velvet Negroni as a source of inspiration, along with Dua Saleh, who brings their own gender non-conforming fludity to their haunting, complex tracks.

“I’m a rider,” she says. “I’m just trying to work on my communication. If we have a problem, let’s talk about it. I just ride for everyone I fuck with. We’re gonna build. I’m not a small-talk person.”

If that directness doesn’t sound especially Minnesotan, Dizzy still feels a connection to her home. Think about it this way: “This is a place to get comfortable, right? Be comfortable, have a family, settle down. This is a place where we’re building a family? Okay, I’m building a family.”

Though she’s been traveling more than she ever has, headlining shows throughout the U.S. and Europe, there’s a pull to the Twin Cities that keeps her coming back.

“We’re all so different from each other, we’re so different. And that’s really exciting,” Dizzy says. “The music scene here is so pure. Everyone’s really tapped into themselves, and that’s another reason I really fuck with Minnesota. Prince said it, the cold keeps the bad people away, but I think Minnesota just keeps the bad people away. There’s something special here, and not everyone will understand it.”