Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
Acoustic Stage, Aug. 10
Eighties girls were infatuated with putting Rainbow Brite’s hair in pigtails, brushing My Little Ponies’ locks and hoping one day their chest would beat out Barbie’s. Not D’Lo.
The spoken-word artist messed around with Matchbox cars and G.I. Joe and tossed around balls with the boys. And in elementary school, the guys passed the not-typically-chick title of football team captain onto the anti-Care Bear tomboy.
“When I was little, I thought I was a little dude,” she says, “and so it wasn’t like I thought I was doing anything wrong – ’cause I tried very hard to be another way, and that really didn’t work.”
Not even when D’Lo’s mother left her in the homo-cleansing hands of White Eagle, a woman who tried to free her from her same-sex sentiments and convince her strength would swell if she’d let go of those feelings.
D’Lo, 29, recalls White Eagle’s explanation: “It was my karma to be born in a woman’s body but to have these masculine tendencies. But it was in this life, so that I wouldn’t be born again, that I would have to deny that side of myself and fight to be more woman – and more female-identified.”
D’Lo didn’t buy it. She continued following her spiritual calling. But at the very least, White Eagle served as a muse – along with a eulogy from a Valley Girl whose friend died in the Asian Tsunami and a freewheeling reincarnation of Ghandi – for her “ramble-ation” performances.
The head-shaved D’Lo, who resembles a man and doesn’t care which pronoun she’s referred to by, looks butch, which has prompted the boy-or-girl question from her nieces and nephews. But when she opens her mouth, a sweet and slightly high-pitched voice pours out. It leaves many people she meets – even in Los Angeles, where D’Lo lives – baffled.
“People already have an assumption of people who look like me. The minute I open my mouth, their whole worldview just crumbles,” she says, adding it doesn’t bother her as long as she’s not getting her ass kicked.
D’Lo’s exterior looks fierce, like she could put the smack down on knife-fingered Freddy Krueger. But she won’t even watch him turn a plethora of horny teens into blood soup.
“I was scared of Scooby-Doo,'” she laughs, noting she still sleeps with the light on so that she’s less alarmed if she wakes from a nightmare. She blames it on stress – the go-go-go of the day that catches up with her, that lingers in her body, even when she finally saunters into the safety of her place. “I think that affects dreams,” she says. “It’s a little bit more of a comfort to wake up and not be completely in the dark.”
The wordsmith won’t, however, leave listeners in the dark with her socio-political views on war, race, class, gender and sexuality, all of which completely come across through the hip-hop flavor of her empowering dialogue. She draws on the political hip-hop she grew up grooving to, the philosophical street-life saturated in ’80s group Public Enemy, and D’Lo-fave Queen Latifah’s tunes.
D’Lo’s introduction to the piano at age 4 led her to pursue music, but during high school – where she competed as Millie Vanilli in a talent show skit – she directed her creative energy to a mix of characters.
“The best way to learn about one another is to story tell,” she explains, recalling tales she’s told her mother that have altered her prejudices. “I think that stuff is the antidote to racism, to sexism, homophobia, transphobia. I think all that stuff can be squashed with a story.”