In his day-to-day life, trans hip-hop artist Katasrophe, Rocco Kayiatos, is a lighthearted person, with a smile and a quick joke for strangers. But the pioneer in queer hip hop has a darker side to his lyrics that reflect a stronger sense of self reflection and societal discontent.
The San Francisco native and hip-hop pioneer will be the grand marshal and headlining act for Pocatello Pride, Aug. 18-20. His music, raw and brooding, is often seen as groundbreaking for the trans and gender-queer community.
“I think I came into the world with a bit more existential baggage than most. I try to let it out by making music,” Katasrophe said. “Whether you’re gay, trans, a person of color or straight, the world can be confusing and my music is just trying to make sense of all that.”
On his debut album, Let’s Fuck, Then Talk About My Problems, which was released in 2004, Katasrophe raps about his struggles with gender identity and transitioning. His album, which is mysterious, introspective and complex, highlights his deep voice and manic beats.
“I think my early work focused a lot on transitioning because that was a constant presence at that time,” Katasrophe said. “It’s been 10 years since I medically transitioned, and it is becoming less of a dominating topic in my music and lately I’ve been singing more about heartache, romance and getting sober.”
Katasrophe was named Producer of the Year by Outmusic and was described as one of the most accomplished rappers in the documentary about queer hip hop titled, Pick up the Mic. He released a second album in 2005 and his latest in 2009. His music has been featured in the Showtime series The L Word as well as in several short films. The music video for his ‘The Life’ was on the Logo Top Ten Click List for 12 consecutive weeks. He is a regular in Pride Festivals and has performed around the country and in Europe.
“I couldn’t be more excited to come to Pocatello,” Katastrophe said. “I am so honored to be the grand marshal and my mom is even flying in to see me. I can’t wait.”
While his audience is not uniquely a queer crowd, his work and concerts often have a large queer presence.
“I was one of the first in the wave of first out hip-hop artists. As far as I know, I was one of the first trans guy to put a CD out and tour,” he said. “I think we’re moving toward a post-queer music world, and even a post-gender world. Kids in 20 years just won’t care.”
The line is being blurred between hip hop and dance music is drawing an increasingly strong queer influence on the rap world, and the future of exclusively queer artists is dubious at best, Katastrophe said.
“The music industry is based on nothing,” he said. “Does everyone love Katy Perry, or is someone paid so we all love Katy Perry?”
Regardless of where hip hop will be in the future, there’s no doubt that Katastrophe will be present with his soulful lyrics and impossible to forget beats.
For more information about Pocatello Pride and how to get tickets to see him, go to PocatelloPride.com.