After eight years of singles, EPs, festivals, international appearances and touring as well as notable commitments to community projects, pioneering musical artist QBoy finally releases his first album, Moxie, and it is a pop-based, special-guest-laden, stylistic mega-mix.
QBoy’s story starts in hip-hop, a genre not known for its loving embrace of gay identities. As a hot, young, talented, gay man this did not fit comfortably with him. Thus ‘homo hop’ was born. QBoy, real name Marcos Brito, is the UK’s foremost champion of the genre.
He blends personal stories with humour, ferocity, tenderness and distinct purpose to break boundaries and to educate, and Moxie brims with trademark autobiographical content. However, the credit due to his motives and passionate delivery does not entirely extend to the execution of the whole project.
A maudlin electric organ, repeating itself, welcomes the listener in. On Set It Up/Pull It Off QBoy slips into the background and the first vocal collaborator, Case By Case, adds extra emotional charge to the remembrance of broken relationships. It’s a dark, fairly conventional number that creates a solid first impression.
Weirdly what follows is quite a juxtaposition. American punk-electro-rap outfit Scream Club try to start a party. Apart from the warp of house bass in The Scream there’s not much in it to inspire anyone to get up and dance. The rap is disappointingly simple and the lame addition of “screaming audience” and “computer voice” sound effects feel about a decade too late.
Much more likely to succeed is one of the best tracks on the album, the electropop, disco-infused Coming Out 2 Play. The bells, tempo and pace are infectious in spirit, due in no small part to the sampling of Ring My Bell by Anita Ward. “She” from God-Des doesn’t really have room to stretch her voice or become a significant vocal for QBoy; consequently the track’s potential exuberance is brought down a notch or two.
Apart from the parties there is politics, and they’re really central to ‘homo hop’. Karma covers rape, theft, poverty and homophobia with a massive anti-violence message. London artist Icykle dominates, spitting imagery out in rage and disgust. The fantastic popping keyboard and other-worldly backing vocals add to a powerful message that is not heard often enough.
U&U touches on some of the more aggressive aspects of QBoy’s personality and notes the struggle for equality in the music industry. Battle Cut intelligently crushes the myth of homosexuals as lipstick-wearing, deferring and powerless. Its use of Middle-Eastern melody and style with the many guest artists is a nod to the diversity of the queer community. Meanwhile Keep Keepin’ On’ works to explain why it is difficult for gay artists to succeed and strike a balance between activism and art.
But there are lapses. Dance tune Shape, dirty electro Ghetto and Bounce Rave form part of the small collection that cover well-trodden paths. Despite infectious synth hooks, they feel a little puerile in the lyrics department. Witness this from Ghetto: “Won’t you come with me boy? You can play with my toy. I’ve got tricks, I’ve got it, I’m gonna fill you up with joy.” Of course there is room to be frivolous, frisky and fun, but standards shouldn’t fall just because it is less overtly political.
The very positive, sunny, old-skool jam Yellow Flower is funky and soulful, with production values and lyrics taking on a higher quality, more developed. Humorous song Love It features Brito’s obsession with 1980s TV, samples hilarious quotes on homosexuality and paints a pretty picture of a young boy getting high. Then there is Maria, explaining his problems with addiction in a hindsight-humour light.
Getting totally topical Change Is Here, written around the time of Barack Obama’s election as President of the United States, and recalls Christina Aguilera‘s Beautiful. He nearly gets away with it.
Last but not far from least is the title track, Moxie. It is essentially a biography with a deep street vibe spelling out the meaning of Moxie in every verse and chorus. It lays down a mission for fellow artists to stay true to themselves and improve the world day by day.
This self-produced release is less an undiscovered gem than a diamond in the rough. The inconsistency of quality is offputting. Weaknesses appear in flashes of rap-lite rhymes and a couple vacuous ideas that are below QBoy’s worth. His strengths lie in his ability to adapt to style, be political, be sexy and mature as an adult. Maybe now he’s finally got his debut out there he can develop his undoubted talents further.