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This Kinky Queer Rapper Became a Star Overnight. Clueless Republicans Helped

If being a great rapper were only about swagger, Chris Conde would be all set: he carries himself with a supreme confidence, typically in nothing more than a leather harness. But the Brooklyn MC’s flow is also mesmerizing, and his bars are scandalously entertaining — check recent tracks “Notorious F.A.G.” and “C.O.M.B.” (The latter acronym stands for “cum on my beard,” which has to be one of the horniest imperatives uttered in hip-hop.) With the word “queer” tattooed across his stomach in giant capital letters, Conde makes no mystery of who he is and what he’s all about. Which is why he’s currently blowing up.

“The first time I took my clothes off on stage, I was performing at a sports bar,” Conde tells Rolling Stone. Opening for a “spooky drag” show, he had to compete with a football game still playing on TV. Nobody was paying attention to his set, so he stripped. “And people paid attention,” he says. Conde continued to bare it all in shows as he “started seeing how people responded to it.” The hyped crowds were yet another sign that the rapper should continue to follow his instincts. He grew up on “hardcore and metal” and played in those kinds of bands, he says; it was only “for funsies” that he and a friend started uploading rap tracks to MySpace in the late aughts, when the platform was a hotbed of up-and-coming musicians. The feedback, however, was amazingly positive, and Conde decided to develop this side of his musical persona.

“I do rap about gay sex and queer sex, but I also rap about overcoming drug addiction and mental health,” says Conde, 37, who got sober in 2014 following periods of substance abuse and living unhoused, then picked up his pursuit of rap once again. “The full show kind of brings you through all these moments and the queer experience — queer joy, queer sex, queer hurt.” Being a part of the leather community and wearing the gear on stage, he says, has “allowed me to love my body and accept my body in ways that I hadn’t been able to before.”

Of course, Conde also knows he has a provocative act, and he relishes the role of subverting heteronormative culture (not to mention the hyper-masculine clichés of rap). That’s what put him on the radar of conservatives who, in their unwitting outrage, helped catapult him to viral fame.

“OH. MY. GAWD !!! WTF is This ?!” tweeted Juanita Broaddrick, a staunch Trump booster and conservative influencer, to more than one million followers on Saturday. She had shared a video of Conde performing in his harness at a Pride festival in the small Austrian town of Bad Ischl in mid-June. The clip has since racked up 21 million views on her page. Other conservatives appeared eager to incite ridicule of Conde with similar comments, and garnered homophobic, body-shaming replies. Trump-supporting former NFL player Antonio Brown trolled by claiming that the video showed recently retired Philadelphia Eagles player Jason Kelce “performing in Philly yesterday.”

@chrisconde666

There really aren’t enough words to accurately communicate how grateful I am to have finished another tour in Europe. I’m so grateful to Crise our tour manager, booking agent and driver who made this all possible. Thank you for being our cheerleader, guide and most of all – friend. I’m also so privileged to go on these adventures with the beautiful @Myles Bullen who constantly educates me with his kindness, art and zest for life. My world has truly changed since he’s entered it and I’m so lucky to have him as a friend. Thank you to the promoters, venues and friends who put let us play their spaces, housed us, fed us showed us cool shit in their cities. Thank you to all the beautiful people who came to our shows, told us how our music connected with them, supported us through buying our merch and loved on us through this entire trip. Finally, thank you to @ceschi ramos and @Fake Four Inc for believing in us and connecting us to a greater community in Europe and the world Ending at Fusion Fest really couldn’t have been a more beautiful celebration to culminate the journey. The lights, the people, the music and the community was all really breathtaking. I never thought I could rave and cry at the same time. I’m exhausted and happy #queer

♬ original sound – Chris Conde

Yet the hate was drowned out by new fans who marveled at Conde’s obvious talents and striking presence. Replying to Brown’s tweet, Kelce wrote, “Shit, I wish I could spit bars like that!” Yvie Oddly, winner of season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, quoted Broaddrick’s post to express interest in a “musical collab” with Conde. Countless people asked for Conde’s name or the title of the song he was performing. One, having discovered his identity, took to his Instagram page to comment: “See this is why I can never delete my Twitter acc[ount]. I keep finding new icons to follow whenever the conservatives get triggered.”

Conde had only just returned from his European tour with rapper Myles Bullen, a labelmate at the indie house Fake Four, when he was bombarded with messages about the Austria performance doing crazy numbers on social media. In fact, he was still jet-lagged and had woken up from a nap to hear from friends that rapper Azealia Banks had posted a screenshot of him on her Instagram stories to compliment his work and ask who he was. “I was like, ‘That’s bizarre, I was just listening to Azealia Banks this morning,” Conde says. To his surprise, they were soon DMing one another. He was no less astonished to learn that he was trending on “far-right Twitter,” where the snippet of the Austria set had been played millions of times, compared to the roughly 150,000 views he’d been happy to get for the video on his own TikTok account.

Conde found the conservative attacks predictable and weak. “It was more just like that same rhetoric of like, the liberals want to dismantle American values, that shit,” he says. The outpouring of love and support, he adds, made it easy to laugh about the vitriol, even as some close to him reached out to make sure he was okay. “They’re just angry, but they don’t know why, right? Which is hilarious,” he says. “I’m eating up that these people are so bothered by my existence. I’ve been subverting heteronormative ideologies since I came out, especially with my music.”

Meanwhile, vastly expanding his audience overnight has been an exhilarating rush. “Being able to have a platform now and to have so many people see what I can do is absolutely insane,” Conde says, and he’s looking forward to releasing the song that took off, “Good Boys Say Yes Sir,” a collaboration with the queer disco act Hard Ton. There’s more of his solo music coming out this year, and he’s in talks with Yvie Oddly about that proposed collab. He’ll also be playing a free Fourth of July show at Austin bar The Little Darlin’ and is already booked to open for a big performer at a Labor Day Weekend show at the Ice Palace on Fire Island.

The sweetest part of the sudden acclaim, however, is that Conde hadn’t actually planned to play the Austrian festival in the first place — it was a totally spontaneous show. Though worried they might tire themselves out on a day off before their Vienna concert, he and Bullen decided to take the last-minute invite. “We’re like, fuck it. Let’s play this random Pride in this random-ass village in the middle of nowhere in Austria,” Conde recalls. Some light rain didn’t keep the concert-goers away, and Austrian singer and drag queen Concita Wurst, a Eurovision winner, made an appearance at the festival. Finally, Conde took the stage. “And I rock the shit out of it,” he says. “The sound was amazing. It was really cool. And they loved it!”

“I just understood in that moment — we need to be here,” Conde says. “There are queer people everywhere.” Now, it seems, that spirit of connection and generosity has paid off in another way. Despite a handful of prudes trying their best to spoil the fun.

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