Changing the Game to “Faggot Chic”

How queer rapper ROB.B positions himself into the rap industry

By Jordan Daniels Opinions Editor

Photo courtesy of ROB.B

Releasing his first EP, 11/11, earlier this month, rapper ROB.B is becoming a catalyst of change to the hypocrisy in the Hip-Hop/Rap game.

Growing up heavily influenced by hip-hop and west coast rap, I’ve always had trouble fully connecting to lyrics that include words like “faggot,” in them. The odd intersection of being gay and loving a genre of music that had a habit of seeing my community as sub-human used to put me in a position where I couldn’t decide what I valued more; music or identity?

Then along came ROB.B, the stage persona of Robby Zumaya, who defines his sound as “faggot chic.” As a queer person of color, the reclamation of this hip-hop vernacular depowers the offense in the word and begins to empower ROB.B to associate it with other words like “Boss.”

“This a lane that needs to be conquered, especially in a terrain that is so unwelcoming.” says ROB.B, who critiques his field as being hypocritical despite it being created as cry for recognition.. “You can’t turn away one community when you’re screaming for equality from someone else.”

Even with his thoughts on this necessary change, ROB.B credits his influence to join the the rap game to the east coast sound of the ‘90’s. Rappers like Notorious B.I.G. and Nas inspired him to begin his path, but it was artists Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown who really pushed him to bust out rhymes and flows, the former which he identifies as his “superwoman.”

You hear some of these influences in “Block to Block,” which is imbued with 90’s vibes laid on a Controlla-esque beat and even gives nods to songs like Biggie’s “Big Poppa” and Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It.”

However, it wasn’t just music that were driving forces to him creating his own space in the industry.

He gives a lot of credit to his late parents, especially his mother, who always supported him as he began his work. He notes that he takes his work seriously because he pushes himself to get where they would want them to be in his career.

“I’m the legacy that they have right now,” said ROB.B. “If I can make a name for myself, I’m making a name for them.”

In “Closer to My Dreams,” the last track on his EP, he has a recording of a voicemail from his mother telling him how much she loves him. ROB.B claims that whenever he is need of inspiration, he listens to the track.

His EP, 11/11 is an 8-track album that is truly a mix of different styles and sounds. As his first EP, which is also self-produced, it is his space for experimentation, but there is a sense of mastery behind it. He’s a full-on independent artist and exerts creative control over his work, which is evident through his music and his refusal to be placed in a box.

“I’m unapologetically me,” says ROB.B. “I find comfort in other artists and if someone can find that in me, then I am paying it forward.”

Deviating a bit from ROB.B, Zumaya also identifies an activist, but refrains from the “save the world,” narrative that the word warrants.

“If I see something that I don’t think is right, then I will be a very vocal person,” says Zumaya. “I’m willing to listen, learn and also help people come to a mutual conclusion. We’re all so limited to our perspectives… from the narrative that your life has created for you.”

Earlier this year, Zumaya was featured in the #RestInPride campaign, which honored the lives lost during the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, in June.

Now, his activism relates a lot more to his music. He notes that he writes for his community, crafting his words and experiences to tell a story that he hopes his audience will find enjoyable as well as relatable.

“I want my impact to be, ‘Dude this fag is doing it and he’s not a joke,’” says ROB.B. “I want people to see the insight in what I’m writing and see the potential.”

Still on the high from the 11/11 release, ROB.B’s potential is clear, as well as his path to being a name in the game.