Queer kids around the world are turned away from their religious families every day. But Chicago rapper KC Ortiz finds a sense of inspiration in the iconography of Christianity in America.
There are obvious examples in her eight-track mixtape, CHURCH TAPES. The underground hip-hop artist just released the video for the single, “Shut Up,” an infectious track that blends various elements to create a rare sub-genre: queer Christian rap. Spliced into Ortiz’s lyrical flow are samples of a passionate church sermon.
The glory of God is revealed in glimpses.
— KC Ortiz (@KayceeOrtiz) January 18, 2018
It was inspired by Ortiz’s upbringing, living with a Christian grandmother. They’d listen to cassette tapes of church services, which she’d buy for five dollars. Edited into the track, they complement Ortiz’s vocals as she raps about feelings of self-doubt, which also play a theme in the sermon.
“Shut up, voices in my head,” Ortiz raps in the hook.
“The meaning of the song is silencing those negative voices that are always stifling us,” Ortiz told Paper. “Just think of the great things we could achieve in life if we told those negative voices in our head to just ‘Shut Up!’ Always telling us we aren’t good enough, that we can’t do it. We gotta tune those voices out and replace them with positive ones.”
The video visually complements the religious undertones of the track. In a billowy white gown, she dances around a graffiti-decorated dilapidated church. It’s also framed with home video clips of church goers feeling the holy spirit.
“These dark and gritty southern beats paralleled with KC’s roots in the black church birthed these incredibly strong memories that I had growing up and attending Sunday service,” says director Vincent Martell. “There’s an energy in the black church that we tried to encompass in the visuals that feel eerily nostalgic. Through history, the Baptist church has carried a sense of safety and community for black people. But as a child coming to terms with my sexuality, the church was sometimes seen as a symbol of fear, as the teachings of the church typically countered my very existence.”
Watch KC Ortiz preach in “Shut Up” below.