First Look

Video Premiere: Gender-Fluid Rapper Qbala Explores Life's Pain in "So Alone"

Qbala explores the dark side in "So Alone."
Qbala explores the dark side in "So Alone." YouTube
"I’m Sagittarius: half-human and half-horse – centaur, what we were told was mythology. The learned healer. I form a bridge between human beings and beasts. Call me Qbala, the Archer."

From the opening lines of Qbala's new track, "So Alone," the MC establishes themselves as a fluid being, unbound by binary gender and what can be contained in merely human form. Pushing through a crowd of shadowy figures, the artist visually wrestles with the idea of being held back, while simultaneously choosing to hide.

"The song and the idea for the video slide closely together. This is essentially a story about me breaking the mold, breaking out of what I have always thought society has wanted me to be," says the Fort Collins rhymer. "Now, as I'm older, I'm seeing that there are people out there who don't give a shit about who you are — but I feel like when you're younger and more impressionable, it's harder to see things in that light."

"So Alone" is an autobiographical trek through Qbala's journey to full self-expression, something the artist works through both lyrically and visually. There's a running game of chess at play in the music video, too, putting Qbala up against an anonymous figure. The game ends abruptly when the artist jumps up and wipes the board clean.

"Clearing the board is pure frustration, me butting my head against the wall and trying to figure out something that I already knew," the artist says. "At the end, there's a chess move that happens called a draw; it's almost like I've stopped fighting it. I've just made peace and realized that I don't need to go as far as being Kalhie Qbala, 'transgender rapper,' or Kahlie Qbala, 'female rapper.' I'm fine with being gender-fluid and understanding that I'm just energy,  just like everyone else."

The video for "So Alone" was a collaboration with Fort Collins friends Kind Dub, a group of artists who function as both a video- and sound-production entity and a musical outfit. Kind Dub recorded and produced last year's Battle Cries EP with Qbala, and also created the cover art. The musician says that working with the artistic cohort came easily, as friendship was the first step in the process.
click to enlarge Qbala takes on the darkness —  embodied in an anonymous opponent — at the chess board. - YOUTUBE
Qbala takes on the darkness — embodied in an anonymous opponent — at the chess board.
"Cory [Clarke] and Cody [Marsden] came into my job one day and sparked a conversation; I would see Cory at my shows. Next thing I know, we're working on shows together and trying to collaborate on tracks," says Qbala. After coming up with the video's concept, the artist took the idea to the Kind Dub dudes, and together they created a storyboard and scouted locations. It was shot in one day in Fort Collins; the musician says that perfect Colorado weather came through, offering sunshine for the day shots and a gentle blizzard for the night filming.

"They are like my little brothers; we really keep each other on our toes and keep pushing each others' projects. They've been great partners in all of this," says Qbala of the Kind Dub crew. The two artistic entities will join forces on stage this Friday at Lost Lake Lounge for Kind Dub's own album-release show.

The video for "So Alone" presents a brooding tone, and the song carries a gravity in its lyrical content, but it's Qbala's connection with the tight-knit Fort Collins music scene that shines through. The artist says that having had plenty of practice with live shows and previous video work helped them feel comfortable in front of the camera. Having friends behind the lens while the musician bares their soul in personal, vulnerable prose only reinforces why Qbala chooses to fearlessly be themselves in their music.  

"No matter all of these differences that we've made up about one another, to the core we're all the same. I realized through all of this transformation, I really didn't fall far from where I was supposed to be anyway."

Qbala will play at Lost Lake Lounge, Friday, January 27, at 7 p.m. as part of the Get Awesome Party and Kind Dub album-release show. Tickets are $5 to $10. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Lost Lake Lounge website.
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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies