SHYBOI on Discwoman and KUNQ

Discwoman affiliate Yulan Grant aka SHYBOI is part of a new wave of stateside artists helping breathe new political energy into dance music

Feature by Michael Lawson | 20 Aug 2018

If you take even a passing interest in electronic music and club culture, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon Discwoman, the New York City-based collective intent on disrupting dance music’s hegemonic masculinity. Since its formation in 2014, the crew has worked tirelessly to address a lack of representation for women, POC and LGBTQ+ artists, and the ripple effect has been felt on a global scale.

Starting out as a series of inclusive parties determined to reignite dance music’s socially-conscious roots, Discwoman soon morphed to incorporate DW Artists, a booking agency dedicated to helping its founding members achieve their goals. Yulan Grant, better known as SHYBOI, is one of the latest additions to the Discwoman ranks. The Jamaican-born DJ and performance artist has carved a reputation around her high-intensity sets that change style and tempo freely.

“As a child growing up in Jamaica I was obviously heavily exposed to reggae, dancehall, ska, mento, gospel music, etc, and then we got cable in ‘98 and that changed everything,” she explains, attempting to trace her early musical influences and gateway into electronic music. “It was my first exposure to popular music that was determined by the Global North, and images of music videos from The Prodigy and Shy FX to Marilyn Manson and Missy Elliott were burned into my eyes.”

Before joining Discwoman, Grant became part of #KUNQ, the unapologetic queer arts collective with a disregard for restrictive genre boundaries. The group’s ethos presented Grant with the perfect opportunity to combine Caribbean flavours such as dancehall and soca with tougher, colder club tracks – and everything in between.

“I was so intrigued by their creative output because it had a deep commitment to ethnographical research and a true respect and understanding on how cultures can influence music, without co-opting, bastardising and then subsequently profiting from it in a harmful way,” she enthuses. “It was a model I was deeply interested in, so we spent more and more time together and before I knew it, like mixing sugar into water, I joined the collective.”

This burning desire to shine a spotlight on perceived injustices underpins all of Grant’s musical projects, and the threats and challenges faced by marginalised groups is a cause she feels particularly passionate about. Although clearly highly knowledgeable of such topics, she assures us she is “unable to unpack thousands of years of state-sanctioned violence and trauma into one interview.”

As she continues to turn more and more heads in Europe and beyond, the remainder of 2018 could well be Grant’s most prolific period to date. Her Berghain debut precedes appearances at the Southbank Centre, the much-celebrated Sustain-Release weekender in Upstate New York, and Krakow’s wildly experimental Unsound festival.

In amongst the madness, she also plays her first ever Scottish gig on 31 August, performing at La Cheetah for Missing Persons Club. It’s a club night with a history of booking Discwoman affiliates, having booked two of the collective’s founding members – Umfang and Volvox – to play in the city on three occasions since January of last year. Yet when talk turns to future projects, Grant makes it clear that she is keeping her cards close to her chest.

“I prefer surprises,” she insists. “It feels more like a gift that way.”

SHYBOI: Missing Persons Club, La Cheetah, 31 Aug