Black, queer spaces raised serpentwithfeet a second time

· Updated on February 20, 2024

*Photo Credit: Denzel Golatt

As the age-old adage holds, queer people often experience a second adolescence – the first being the biological changes that accompany our awkward teenage years, and the second when we discover ourselves, as we get to live freely beyond the confines of cisheteronormative structures. On his third album, GRIP, serpentwithfeet captures the nuances of his experience as a Black, queer individual navigating sex, love, and community.

GRIP aligns with serpent’s brand of kinetic R&B. The album serves as an ode to the nightclubs that have offered serpent space as homes away from homes; lovers, both past and present tense; and the community that lifted him up, as he was coming into his own.

“The community raised me a second time,” says serpent, as we chat over a Zoom call. “It felt like finding people that spoke the same language as me, and I loved being able to flow with them, and just unleash the body.”

While serpent, 35, hails from Baltimore, some of his fondest memories within his queer journey take place in spaces in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. He loves a good night out at the club, but equally enjoys a kickback in the house with a few close friends. 

Photo Credit: Denzel Golatt

He recorded much of GRIP in Los Angeles, where serpent found solace in the city’s scenery. His surroundings inspired him to hone in on his craft for hours, even days on end, throughout the GRIP sessions.

“I enjoy long sessions when you can really lock in, but also when you can take breaks,” says serpent. “Let’s say you have a 13-hour day, when you can take a nice, substantial lunch, crack some jokes, and talk about the work – Or watch something on YouTube or TV, and then get back to work. It’s nice to have time to carve away on a project, but then also be able to get some breath in the middle. With this album specifically, we were able to lock in, but then take breaks, or go for a walk if I needed to just look at the palm trees, and then get back in the studio.”

Each song on GRIP feels like a chapter from a novel centered around queer adulthood, telling the stories we often experience, but don’t often read in books, or see onscreen. 

A notable song on the album called “Deep End” tells the story of what was initially intended to be a one-night stand flourishing into a long-term romance. Right out the gate, serpent opens the song, singing, “It’s the 6th night of our one-night stand / Should we dismiss the feels or make a plan?”

serpent admits that while the album is not entirely autobiographical, each song draws from real-life experience – from himself, or what he observed by the people around him.

Photo Credit: Denzel Golatt

“I was thinking about when we meet someone, and think it’s just gonna be something fleeting and you realize that you have this connection.” says serpent. “That first night, you’re up all night talking, then you’re up early talking and texting throughout the day. And then that day turns to six days, then to 10 days, then 12 days. And I think there’s something beautiful when you’re surprised. I really do love the poetry of a stranger becoming someone that you care about. I will never not be fascinated by that.”

There’s a sense of camaraderie to GRIP that serpent instills between the music and the listener. serpent captures other queer romantic phenomena throughout the album, like opting for a monogamous relationship with one person and choosing to leave the dating pool; coming to know someone all too well, by way of their body and mind; and honoring the spaces that foster these feelings.

But while these spaces have served as Black, queer havens for serpent, he admits they haven’t always felt like a utopia for him. On the track “Black Air Force,” he touches on the feeling of being broke at the club, and having to tap into one’s confidence in order to maintain a bold, vibrant energy. “$20 in your pocket / hoping nobody clocks it / You might be broke, but your spirit ain’t,” he sings on the song’s opening verse.

“I think a lot of times [in Black, queer spaces] you can find your person,” says serpent. “That person could be a new friend or that person could be a new romantic interest. I think there’s something beautiful that happens when maybe you can’t feel your beat, or you can’t see your magic, but somebody else can. And that’s something that I’ve definitely seen happen. There’s somebody who can still see your magic, regardless of what you feel like.”

Photo Credit: Denzel Golatt

In the serpentwithfeet universe, the subtext of his music is love. And as he’s grown, he’s come to find love in different forms. Within romance, within his community, and within his own body. Through pulsating drums, hypnotic guitar riffs, and intoxicating vocals, Serpent sounds like what being queer in your late 20s and into your early 30s feels like.

Navigating Black and queer spaces as a young adult was essential to serpent’s second upbringing within the community. Exchanging stories, leaning on the friends who become family, and channeling a multitude of emotions on the dancefloor. 

“These spaces gave me new tools – new physical tools and new emotional tools – and taught me to carry the beat,” says serpent. “Carrying that beat in whatever way you show – whether that’s in a full look or half a look, carry the beat with you, regardless. But that’s what I have learned in my time, if I’m being honest. Carry the damn beat.”

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