By James Dillon III
So much of queer existence seems to be a balancing act. Balancing various parts of yourself to share (or not share) with the world and those around you. Balancing who you are with who you were taught or otherwise forced yourself to be. Balancing complicated personal connections with friends, lovers, and, of course, yourself.
So “Balance” is the perfect opening for Let Me Get This Off My Chest, the third album by Nashville’s Daisha McBride (aka “The Rap Girl”.) The intimacy of the piano at the top belies the sensitive singer-songwriter quality Daisha McBride can don and shed at her will. Then the tune grabs hold of you and delivers a beat that wouldn’t be out of place on one of Beyoncé’s more rap-heavy tracks. The result is a stage-setting minute and fifty seconds that primes you to consider the very notion of balance.
Musically, McBride’s third album listens like a love letter to the evolution of her genre, with nods to stylings of artists who came before her: intros both instrumental and sentimental à la Alicia Keys, sweeping storytelling like Mary J Blige, rhymes and beats that could give Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion runs for their money.
The album employs sound effects and backup vocalizations that hearken back to music-listening experiences of eras bygone: abrupt electronic exclamatory name-drops that were a hallmark of downloads ripped from the internet from sites like Limewire, ringing phones and breaking glass like those that peppered turn of the millennium hits from Destiny’s Child and TLC, and interludes featuring a cool radio DJ whose duty was to set the mood.
Let Me Get This Off My Chest is also a love letter to the liminal nature of queer relationships, one which explores both the liberating freedoms and the confounding feelings that come with the territory of ambiguous intimacy.
The sentiments McBride feels for her partner(s) are all over the romantic and sexual map:
“You got ties. So do I. We can keep it casual.”
“We ain’t in love, we just be kickin’ it.”
“Notice me making you shake from me hitting all of the spots that she didn’t.”
“You free to go do what you want.”
“But baby can we still be friends?”
“Truthfully, all I can think about is you and me.”
Navigating these relationships is the album’s strongest thematic through line. The lyrical complexity of McBride’s music lends itself well to exploring the ways in which queer relationships have the unique capability to switch from romantic to platonic and back again, from lustful sexual conquests to powerful and supportive friendships.
Let Me Get This Off My Chest shows McBride striking a cleverly-crafted balance of her own. She creates a space that allows listeners to simply let the empowering bangers wash over them. But she also imbues the album with much deeper layers that, should you care to peel them back, prompt you to reevaluate concepts of loyalty, lust, and love. Much like a queer relationship too difficult and too special to label: the experience is all about what you choose to make of it.
James Dillon III is an artist living in Portland, Maine. A self-styled Renaissance Queer, they use photography, writing, and performance art to explore, celebrate, and challenge the world around them.