Ness Nite Is Redefining What It Means To Be A ‘Dream Girl’ — In Hip-Hop And Beyond

06.14.18 6 months ago

POW Recordings

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In middle school, I had a recurring nightmare about showing up to school without a bra. In retrospect, this is hilarious, because I have no breasts to speak of and surely no one would have noticed. Yet for roughly 15 years, I felt compelled to wear an underwire push-up bra every time I left the house. They left red marks on my ribs and itched when I sweat. At 30, I realized these bras served no purpose. I have nothing to hold in place. I decided time is up. 22-year-old Ness Nite, whose Twitter bio boasts, “I make braless music,” understands this well.

Born Vanessa Reilford, the artist’s mantra is “braless, flawless, lawless.” (She sings it on the first song she put on Soundcloud, “Yes,” which caught the attention of her current producer Mike Frey.) To me, the mantra immediately evokes bra-burning of the 1970s women’s liberation movement. While harking back to second-wave feminism, Ness Nite’s music also shows how far we’ve come.

I ask Ness on the phone whether her debut album title Dream Girl is an ode to living in her head, or a nod to the record’s dreamy soundscape. She says the album title represents neither, rather it’s about having the freedom to represent what women before her dreamed of being. As she told Stereogum, “Dream Girl is not ‘I’m the girl of your dreams.’ It’s the concept of having the ability, space, and opportunity to achieve our dreams.” While many seem preoccupied with how we’re probably in the “end times,” it’s refreshing that Ness acknowledges the positive: The patriarchy is being toppled.

While Ness tells me she’s identified less with the term “girl” since putting out the album in March, the overall sentiment remains true. Now, she considers herself more genderfluid, an option unavailable to women before her. Ness is also queer, a fact she doesn’t feel the need to shout, but which she instead casually integrates into her music. Not having to bear the unreasonable burden of announcing one’s sexuality, on top of already being marginalized for being queer, strikes me as yet another aspect of being a modern “dream girl.”

Just recently, Ness tweeted: “somewhere between not wanting to pigeonhole myself as a lesbian artist bcuz (.. gender.. and ..fluidity..labels..) but also being super disappointed at the lack of visible (femme & femme in particular) representation in media that isn’t made for the male gaze,” to which I replied: “mooooooooood.”

“To be a 22-year-old in 2018,” Ness tells me on the phone, “is very different from being a 22-year-old in 1988.”

“It’s even different from being a 22-year-old in 2008,” I say, “when I was 22.”

In my early 20’s, there was no Syd’s “Body,” no Internet’s “Girl,” no Janelle Monae’s “Pynk.” Being a queer music fan in a world where every song I loved depicted hetero-romance made me feel very alone, which is what Ness tells me her music is designed to combat. She expands that when integrates female pronouns into her songs, her goal is for it to be “normal […] like, this is life for people.”

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