Rappers of the Inland Empire: HYM and Kalypxo

On a Wednesday in August, I woke up early and sat down at my computer just as the sun was creeping in through my window. With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I wanted to see what was happening in the world. Like many people, I start the day with Facebook — an unwelcome but un-avoidable addiction. As I was casually scrolling through my feed, a video appeared and automatically began to play the opener for the song “Who Dat,” which consisted of letters against a black background appearing one at a time to form the words “Somewhere in Hollywood.” Intrigued, my eyes glanced up to the description and landed on: “We take FEMALE and GAY rapper to the next level!” Following this, I learned that the song was a collaboration between HYM and Kalypxo, two rappers I had admittedly never heard of. I was naturally very curious so I continued watching the video and was impressed by the high-quality production and incredible confidence that resonated from what I soon discovered to be two young ambitious humyns intent on changing the music industry.

“It is time for the industry to have openly gay people and more women in the spotlight. I feel like it’s time to understand that ‘gay rappers’ and ‘female rappers’ are just rappers. It will take people like us to change this.” – HYM

While “Who Dat” was (sadly) not available on iTunes at the time, HYM commented beneath the video that he would personally email the file to anyone who wanted it. Now at this point, the video was on its way to virality and I had my doubts that he could keep up with the hundreds of requests, but I added my email to the mix anyway. Sure enough, within 24 hours I received an email from him containing the song of interest along with four others I had not heard yet: “Losing You (Remix),” “Kiss It Better (Remix),” “He Want It” and “Flawless.”

When we explore what it means to be a “boss” in this issue, I realized that HYM and Kalypxo were the epitome of bosses. They commanded the screen and demanded respect without having to ask for it. HYM was bold, shamelessly queer, and Kalypxo reveled in her strength — both so full of self-assurance that I couldn’t stop watching. After watching the video many more times than I will confess, I felt compelled to respond to HYM’s email and request an interview with both him and Kalypxo. They happily accepted and we all got on the phone that week. Their voices were bright and honest as they unveiled intimate truths about themselves, their pasts, and where they seek creative inspiration.

HYM was born and raised by a single mother in Inland Empire, a lower income region in Southern California that is known for the growing art and music scenes. “I’ve always had a musical background,” he said. “My uncle was a pianist and my grandma was a choir director and preacher’s wife. I started out dancing since I was little, but didn’t come out as a dancer until I was around 13. I started dancing in high school and performing in various shows.” When I asked HYM when he started to experiment with rap he admitted, “I’ve always wanted to rap but was afraid that people would tell me to just stick to dancing. I started to rap with Kalypxo because we met and bonded over this mutual hidden secret. We first started collaborating about three years ago.”

Kalypxo | Photo by Yenny Garcia
Kalypxo | Photo by Yenny Garcia

Similar to HYM’s origins, Kalypxo was born in San Diego. She was raised by a single mother in the navy and as such, they moved around a lot but eventually landed in the Inland Empire area. “I’ve always been creative,” Kalypxo says, “I started with art and then writing. I went from writing stories and poetry and then shifted eventually to songs. In high school, me and one of my friends decided to start a musical group together and we were going to do screamo type of stuff…but I decided I didn’t want to sing. I was considering rapping around the time that I met HYM. We met through a mutual friend and both confided in each other that we wanted to rap.” As a result, the duo did an exercise where they each wrote a verse for the song “Flawless” and came together to show each other. Their respective work fit perfectly and it was then that they knew they had a special bond and decided to pursue a collaborative relationship.

HYM | Photo by Yenny Garcia
HYM | Photo by Yenny Garcia

Kalypxo’s name was inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey, and specifically the story of the nymph Calypso who lived on the island of Ogygia. She fell in love with the Greek hero Odysseus and held him captive until Zeus eventually ordered his release much to Calypso’s dismay. For Kalypxo, this represents the simultaneous feelings of pain and pleasure, two elements she considers important in her work. HYM was originally going to call himself Journey because he likes to tell a story and take the listener on a visual journey with his music. However, he decided on HYM because HIM was an androgynous villain on the Powerpuff Girls, one of his favorite animated television series from the ’90s and early 2000s. He decided to replace the “I” with “Y” to give a masculine word a feminine feel. It is also an acronym for He Yearns for More. “I am the music, and I am gay, but I am still a man,” he says.

Photo by Yenny Garcia
Photo by Yenny Garcia

Since both HYM and Kalypxo have evolved significantly in their artistic practice, I was curious how they felt they had grown and changed over time. When I inquired, they both grew quiet for a moment and then Kalypxo spoke first, saying, “When I first started out in high school, I was going through a lot of personal issues…I started cutting…so a lot of my songs revolved around depression and pain. I’ve done so much growing as a person. I’ve gone from cutting daily to being confident and sure of myself and my art. I think you can see this if you compare what I used to write about to what I write about now, which is very much about confidence.” HYM chimed in, “My journey has been similar. I struggled a lot with being myself, I was always insecure. I didn’t want to be gay and there were so many times that I had to hide it and be someone else. I did not have a father and I would write about that a lot. I want to be a voice for the gay community because rappers do not tackle subjects that we go through. Being gay in a Christian home I had to hide myself. And I open up about relationships as well in my music. I have been through some interesting situations.”

Photo by Yenny Garcia
Photo by Yenny Garcia

For queers and cis women, the hip hop industry is often a challenge to navigate. I asked HYM how he personally felt about the state of the industry. “I could go on for days,” he confides, “It is time for the industry to have openly gay people and more women in the spotlight. I feel like it’s time to understand that ‘gay rappers’ and ‘female rappers’ are just rappers. It will take people like us to change this. We have amazing stories to tell and the way we execute that will connect to audiences even more. Music has gone downhill. Everyone sounds the same. You don’t even have to say complete sentences and words anymore. I want to bring back lyrics and lyricists and people who take time to tell a story with their music. The 80/90s feel is what we need now in 2016. We want to bring back that old school. When Kalypxo and I do videos together we sit and dissect every- thing. We want to evolve and recreate.”

“I agree with HYM,” Kalypxo says. “I feel like music is at a point where people don’t say complete words. I remember back in the day when I was in influenced by Lil Kim’, Left Eye, and MC Lyte. I remember them being so confident and I feel that women are pushed to the background now. You hear female rapper or gay rapper but you never hear just rapper. Most of my friends are gay and we recently performed at Pride. I wanted to show that a female and gay rapper can command the stage and command the space. It is such a male dominated industry and the times we’re living in. In the ’60s and ’70s the drugs that were the big thing were cocaine and speed, now we have weed and everything is meant to slow you down and everything becomes sloppy. I remember when there was no difference between being a rapper and a lyricist. I want to bring that back. Music has the power to change the world. And I think people have forgotten.”

In terms of inspiration, they had difficulty choosing contemporary artists to look up to. “Well there are people in the industry today that I can truly say I admire and respect, but honestly they are few and far between,” Kalypxo admits. “The artists that I look up to are the ones who have transformed the industry through their own unique styles like Aaliyah and Prince, or the artists of the nineties. I think I’m looking for something specific in the music that I listen to these days — truth, depth, and creativity, along with an identifiable style and sound. but I’m looking for a new sound, something that hasn’t come to the forefront yet…something that I feel like I’m in the process of creating, so I’ve been more preoccupied with my own shit honestly.” I can almost see HYM nodding through the phone. “Same for me. I don’t really look up to anyone now and I don’t listen to male artists either. But my top four inspirations are what I call my ‘Mount Rushmore’: Missy Elliot (where I get my creativity), Busta Rhymes (my speed and humor), Toni Braxton (my pain and emotion), and Janet Jackson (my performative sexual side). I use sound and rhyme to go along with my poetry. It adds a little pepper.”

What is next for HYM and Kalypxo? Kalypxo answers, “HYM has a lot of records out now. I work a little bit differently and I’m working on a full-length project right now. I’m going to try to incorporate a lot of my art and do original music with that.” HYM responds, “Yeah, I have a lot of music already out and I’m building my fan base now. My goal is to work on a couple more remixes. I’m working on a full-length project as well and music videos collaborations with other LA artists. I’m always trying to perform more.”

I feel that HYM and Kalypxo have very bright futures ahead and I’m really excited to see how they grow, together and separately. Change is coming.

. . .

Posture’s third print issue — The Boss Issue — is now available for purchaseThis 168-page magazine features exclusive interviews with artists, theorists, activists, and nightlife icons. The conversations dive deep into ideas of leadership, success, and organizing in queer/trans/non-binary and WOC communities. This issue also represents a new design direction for Posture, one that reflects the mission and purpose of the publication.

Order your copy today through our online shop: shop.posturemag.com.

 

Winter Mendelson
Winter Mendelson Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Winter is a genderqueer humyn (who uses they/them pronouns) intent on changing the world for the better. Founded in 2013, Posture is one of the only arts & fashion magazines in the world that is specifically and inclusively focused on identity.

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