As a trio of emcees, comedic hip-hop group Hand Job Academy seems to enjoy indulging in controversy. Their name sets the tone for their up-front style: In their funny-yet-disturbing music videos, the three Brooklyn-based rappers nastily tackle periods in their track “Shark Week,” Tumblr porn in “Pop (Tumblr Bitches),” and celebrity culture and scandal in a song called “Lena Denham.”
Now, one-third of Hand Job Academy is debuting her own solo EP. Meg Skaff, AKA Uncle Meg, is premiering her five-track EP Dangerfield on September 15. For a taste of what the EP sounds like, check out the single, “Uncle Freestyle,” a song which Nylon aptly described as “a rapid-fire anthem for not giving a fuck.” Something that sounds like a synth-modified oboe works up a chromatic scale during the chorus as Skaff asserts, “I do what I wanna do / I do this shit regardless.”
Skaff identifies as genderqueer and the stagename Uncle Meg sums up her supportive attitude toward friends. “I’m everybody’s Uncle Meg!” she says. “If somebody got a new pet, I’m Uncle Meg. If my friends birth out a baby, I’m Uncle Meg to the baby.” On Dangerfield, Uncle Meg veers away from Hand Job Academy’s carefree and quirky style, rapping instead about the pain wrought from an intensely emotionally year (the details of which she gracefully evades). “It’s very vulnerable for me,” she says. “You can catch a hint of that, I think. There’s definitely stuff on there that I had never explored before in terms of writing and mood.”
Growing up, Skaff listened to Outkast and Biggie Smalls, excepting a brief emo phase in ninth grade. Now, she proudly cites Lana Del Rey and Amy Winehouse as influences and “poetic geniuses.” But she says much of her inspiration comes from being gay and feeling different. All kinds of people make hip-hop, but the scene hasn’t often been welcoming of queer performers. Although artists like Frank Ocean and T-Pain are beginning to change the discussion on queerness in hip-hop, male rappers like Tyler, The Creator and Eminem blatantly use homophobic slurs in their lyrics and public appearances. Skaff, who’s originally from West Virginia, knew she was gay before she even started kindergarten. She discusses her sexuality nonchalantly, laughing that she looks exactly same now—with short hair and a flannel shirt—as she did at age seven. She came out to her parents when she was 17 years old, when (she notes with a hint of that same braggadocio that hip-hop is known) she was already on her second girlfriend.
Although Uncle Meg claims that she never aspired to a career in the music business, it seems like the rhythm of rap comes naturally to her. Her normal inflection emphasizes the backbeat, the second and fourth syllables of her words, and she’s able to spit out lyrics with enviable speed, as the the track “Angel Dust” makes clear.
When ideas please her, she agrees in musical triplets, “yeh, yeh, yeh’s” that cut out the West Virginian drawl. But when she’s pissed at the patriarchy, she spits staccato rhymes like in “Me The Demon.”
Between her natural cadences and commitment to rapping authentic and personal stories, Skaff says she’s evaded confrontation about her gender or sexuality.
“I haven’t experienced any friction from being a white, gay female in hip-hop. And actually, a lot of my fans are African American men,” she says. “I grew up around Lil Wayne and skateboarding… My dream is to keep going on the path that I’m going. I don’t really care about being rich and famous—well,” she hesitates, “being rich, that’d be tight!”
Coming up, Hand Job Academy is working on the group’s ongoing web series, “Do What You Want Always.” Skaff, who also works as a freelance filmmaker, hopes to grow the company she and her business partner April Maxey recently founded. But mostly, Skaff just wants to stay the course right now.
“Basically, I just want people to listen to my music and relate to it. I want other LGBT people, especially teenagers or kids that feel scared, to see me and be [inspired]. That’s kinda all I want.”