Melissa Harris-Perry: Hi, everybody. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry, and this is The Takeaway. We've got another installment of our ongoing series, Black.Queer.Rising. It's where we get a chance to bring you the stories of Black queer folk who are pushing boundaries and blazing trails. I spoke with Moore Kismet, also known as Omar Davis. They're a 17-year-old non-binary DJ changing the sound of the EDM, that's Electronic Dance Music industry.
At two years in a row, Moore was featured in Billboard's 21 Under 21. At the age of 16, they became one of the youngest artists to ever play Lollapalooza and Electric Daisy Carnival. We sat down and talked about their burgeoning career.
Moore Kismet: When I first discovered electronic music, I was in my seventh-grade computer science problem solving class.
Melissa Harris-Perry: That sounds crazy.
Moore Kismet: It sounds so boujee, but that's where--[laughs]. Our teacher said that if we're done with our work, then we have free time on the computers. For me, free time on the computers at the time meant going and writing scripts, because at the time I also wanted to be a screenwriter, and as I was doing that, another way that helps me concentrate better, while I was writing and getting ideas down, was listening to music.
Now, I had grown up around R&B and hip-hop all my life because, well, you grew up in a Black family, that's bound to happen anyway, but I randomly stumbled across YouTube one day, and I found the song Iris by Audien.
I don't know what happened, but just something in me just like a switch flipped off, and it was so uplifting and so beautiful, the melodies, the drums, the steady pace, the upbeatness, and it just really gave me like a glimmer of hope. Nothing I've ever listened to before ever made me do that. Obviously, if you listened to, like Outkast or Marsha Ambrosius in the car, like you're bound to bump your head to some Floetry, but I had never heard anything like that in my life. My bare minimum introduction to electronic music before that was the occasional Calvin Harris song, or one Skrillex song from an old EP from 2010 or 2011.
When I heard that song, I was just taken aback and I was blown away. That is what ultimately, when I was seven, eight years old, I was like, "Huh, I should try making music. Let me see if I could try making something like this." I bounced back between completely like different softwares with completely different functionalities, and I just started learning more about what it was exactly that I wanted to start writing.
As I learned more about that, I got caught on with some more artists in different fields. It went from like Audien and Above & Beyond and Seven Lions, to Fulton and Rickyxsan, and all the people that I listened to today, and my taste and my style has morphed so much over the past few years, that it's really given me an opportunity to fully understand what I personally wanted to write, but the beginnings of it all was this like random trance track that I found on YouTube when I was little that just really kickstarted everything for me and my passion for writing electronic music.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I love that, although, I have to say this, like part of my heart both jumped up and broke when you namechecked both Outkast and Floetry, because at 17, presumably, this is like old music for you.
Moore Kismet: This point in my life, yes, but when I was growing up, that's all my mom played, like Chrisette Michele, Outkast, Ledisi, Kelis, like a lot of Black artists. That's what I grew up on. That's what my mom played in the car, and then ultimately, it just morphed into listening to the radio, and then on car trips with family, we listen to stuff like that, and we just have a ball because it connects us to parts of our childhood and parts of our lives, where we grew up on that, where that was something that we listened to as frequently as the music that we listened to in present day.
It's so beautiful to see more people writing about queer love, and especially people like me, who are writing this from a perspective of knowing that our love and our feelings and our emotions have been suppressed for so long by a vast majority of people who just think that it's disgusting and putrid when it's not, and I love writing songs about love, and I know it's so weird considering I'm now newly single. [laughs] I think it's such a beautiful thing to write about love, and it doesn't even have to be about like romantic love. It could be about platonic love. You could write like a whole book about how much you love your best friends and how you would die for your best friends.
I literally have the song like that on my album that's like towards the beginning of it, that it's just an instrumental that encapsulates the joy and the energy and the vibes that I get from being around my friends on a daily basis. It's such a beautiful thing to establish that as you create a new culture, because it wasn't widely accepted at the time, and it was always marketed as something completely and utterly different than what it was actually being written about, even though, since the dawn of time, we know that queer love songs exist. We know that queer artists exist, and are writing songs from their own experiences as queer people and as Black people and as people of color, other people within marginalized communities.
It's so important to understand that these stories have a much broader impact on music, and the course of where it's going, like say, 5, 10, 15 years from now, because me writing songs like Vendetta For Cupid, and Flourish, and Autonomy, are going to have a longer lasting impact on other artists who want to write the exact same kind of songs, but to a more accessible audience than the vast majority of like straight love songs.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Are folks ever surprised by the depth of your experience and analysis as a teen, and, if so, how do you respond?
Moore Kismet: A lot of people do like say I'm very wise for my age, and while I've never wholeheartedly believe that, I know that I was raised in an environment to be conscientious of other opinions, and to take it to consideration that some people will not have the same viewpoint as me, or that will not have the same knowledge and ability to process things like I can. I've understood that, and part of understanding that is doing my level best to when they ask for it to help guide people through things, and to help them understand things that they might not be able to understand at that time.
I think for me, if people to say like, "Wow, you're really wise for your age." I just say thank you and move on, because I really don't think it's for me to harp on something like that when I'm just a kid, like I might have a deeper understanding of the way the world works but that's just because of how I was raised. That hasn't really changed much by the way that I grew up is to always speak up for what's right and to always make sure that in speaking about what I feel is right, that I speak with eloquence, and that I speak with passion and that I speak with calm.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Back to music for a sec, you are going to be air where with air buddy all year long. You are in all the great lineups. Besides yourself and the tracks that are clearly being slept on that you see as some of your favorites, who are you most excited about and why?
Moore Kismet: Whom I most excited to see at some of these festivals; Nostalgia, Tsunami, Whipped Cream, Leotrix, Kilamanzego. There are so many incredible people that I know and that I love listening to, that I can't put like specific names and like those are the only ones that I can really think of, but I know they're like so many more.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Moore this conversation that we're having is part of our ongoing series, Black.Queer.Rising. When I say to you, Black queer rising, what does it mean to you?
Moore Kismet: It means that our stories and our experiences are finally reaching the forefront of attention to the point where if people think we're annoying, people think we're annoying, and that's their prerogative. Our stories have been embedded into the foundations of music since the dawn of time. We've made that known plenty of times, but no one wants to believe us. Nobody wants to hear, nobody wants to listen, nobody wants to fully understand why we create the things we create, why we share the things we share in our music and in our art. It's because of the fact that this is us. If you could come from your own experiences and tie that in, why can't we?
When you say Black queer rising, to me it means people like me, people like Kilamanzego, who is a Black queer artist, who are really just paving the way for more people like the two of us to really have a deeper understanding of where our music comes from, of where we want to go with our stories, of what we want to tell with our stories, and then continuing onward with that path and inspiring more people to do the same. That's what that means to me.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Moore Kismet, DJ, music producer, and may I say a little bit of Black queer genius up in here. Thank you so much for joining us on The Takeaway.
Moore Kismet: Thank you so much for having me, Melissa. It's been an honor.
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