For Toronto-based “Roney X”, growing up as a queer BIPOC individual came with its own set of challenges. Known for his powerful sound and uniquely creative take to his artistry, Roney X has learned to embrace his own definition of masculinity and is using his platform to encourage others to think outside the box and push the boundaries of what is means to be a ‘man’. Roney X takes a seat in the barber chair this month to tell us what Pride means to him, how he has worked to overcome the challenges he’s faced, and the incredible optimism he has moving forward..
As an artist, you go by Roney X. Is there a significance to choosing this name? How have your Grenadian roots influenced your music?
I’ve always loved the unique spelling of my name and have always wanted to incorporate/keep “Roney” as my artist’s name. The “X” came about as an afterthought; it reflects the hard exterior that comes out in my raps. “Roney X” ties in with my zodiac sign; which is cancer. I’m an emotional and passionate person, but still I’m not afraid to be strong. I love the juxtaposition of both soft and hard elements when it comes to music and I wanted to reflect that with my artist name.
Being Grenadian/Caribbean, the culture is known for high energy, up-tempo, and melodic music. Genres like soca, dancehall, and reggae played such a huge role in my upbringing. They were the first styles of music and were the first sounds I ever heard growing up, before moving to Canada. These sounds and styles will always be a huge part of my identity and I try to add those elements vocally and sonically in my music!
What was your experience growing up as a queer member of the BIPOC community? How have those experiences shaped who you are today? How has it influenced your artistry?
My experience growing up as a queer BIPOC person was somewhat challenging. There were so many things that I had to hide about myself to be taken seriously. There were so many barriers and obstacles I had to face before I could be seen or get into spaces that were easier for non-BIPOC people. Now I can say that those challenges have made me a stronger person and I’m no longer afraid to be myself. I think some of those challenging experiences helped mould my brand and artistry. I’m a better human because of it.
Growing up, there were limited queer BIPOC representations in mainstream media and I always knew that I wanted to change the lack of representation whether it was through dance, acting, or music. The community itself has influenced my artistry tremendously. In Toronto, parties like yes yes y’all, big primpin, etc that catered to BIPOC individuals helped me to hone in on the music that I wanted to make. Seeing everyone enjoying themselves in safe spaces allowed me to express my artistry in the most authentic way possible.
How do you check in with and maintain your mental health? What impact has COVID had on your mental health?
For many of us COVID definitely put a halt to many plans we may have had. A lot of jobs were lost, and many experienced a general loss of motivation. Fear of the unknown can be so nerve-wrecking. I chose to take this time as a recharge and by doing so, it allowed me to really focus on what it is I wanted to put out there into the universe. I was able to turn my anxiousness into excitement. Which I know can be hard for a lot of people.
Everyone is different, and tactics that work for one person may not work for someone else. For myself, I try to meditate, recite positive mantras and affirmations. I’m also an advocate for speaking to someone if things do become overwhelming, whether that someone is a therapist, friend or loved one. I also love listening to music. I’m inspired by shows like Legendary, Pose, and all of the housewives franchises. I try to just keep myself in good spirits at all times.
Knowing what you know now as a happy, out queer person, what would you say to your younger self?
“You have nothing to lose! Do not hide your most authentic self, try not to live in fear of judgment and criticism. Lastly, reach out for support sooner. It’s amazing what effective communication can do for your ultimate happiness”.
What are your thoughts on the current state and future of BIPOC queer representation in mainstream media, considering the recent increase of representation in media with the likes of Lil Nas X, Kehlani, and other artists?
It’s great that there has been some positive progress and more people are able to be celebrated. I commend those artists that you’ve mentioned for their courage and taking risks by pushing the boundaries but I still feel like we’ve got a long way to go. I think particularly for queer male identifying BIPOC, it is so much harder to be taken seriously without being considered a gimmick or too flashy. We want the same opportunities as our white counterparts. It seems that right now we have to do something extreme to get the attention we so desperately deserve. Baby steps, though.
A lot of the creative you produce is gender bending, using both stereotypically masculine and feminine elements. Why is it important for you to show that representation?
I loved that you mentioned that. I’m an artist that is all for inclusivity! No matter race, gender, sexuality etc. I make music for everyone and have always pushed for everyone to feel included while singing my songs. So it’s very important to combine both my masculine and feminine energies into my artistry. It’s all about thinking and being outside of the box, and pushing the boundaries of social constructs/norms.
What does masculinity mean to you?
There’s such a fine line when it comes to defining masculinity, especially in 2021. For so long as a society we’ve attributed masculinity with being “manly”, muscular, and not showing any signs of weakness. However, I’ve always felt that true masculinity is having confidence, elegance and grace. Vulnerability plays a huge role in my “masculinity”. Although, I do identify as a cisgender male, masculinity to me means that I can push socio-cultural ideologies and gender norms. As I’ve gotten older and have grown up in the queer community, I tend to look at things from a psychological standpoint. There is not one defining characteristic that expresses or defines my masculinity. And I plan on continuing to push the boundaries and abolishing the social constructs of toxic masculinity.
Are there any role models that you look up to and/or influenced you asa person?
I am constantly inspired by mainstream artists like Sam Smith, Troye Sivan, The Weeknd, Beyoncé, Drake, Nicki Minaj, Diplo, Major Laser, Pabllo Vittar, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Doja Cat, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx. The list goes on.
In terms of role models and artistry, I must say that Sam Smith has been a huge personal influence. It’s always so refreshing when they come out with new music and visuals, their unique style and incorporating movement/dance is something that I myself really want to keep adding to my own work, expanding my personal creativity. Spiritually, I’ve always watched and connected to Iyanla: Fix My Life by Iyanla Vanzant. She has been such a pioneering leader, life coach, teacher, author, and overall such an inspirational black woman in the African American community. The tools she provides while assisting predominantly black families and individuals dealing with generational traumas has been healing for me, but particularly:
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride to me is all about living in your truth, unapologetically. Remembering those that have paved the way for us to be seen and heard. And inspiring the generations to come after us.