How One Small Record Label Became a Lifeline for Black Trans Artists

"It's beyond the artistry... now it's like we're a family."

It all began, as many things do, on social media. In June 2020, Blxck Cxsper, founder of Trans Trenderz, a trans-focused indie record label, took to Facebook and Instagram to offer free instrumentals to Black transgender hip-hop artists. The Montréal-based recording artist and Black trans migrant has always sought to empower other Black trans people, but the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement compelled them to give back more directly.

“I was like, ’If you need to beat, hit me up. You’re a Black trans artist, you need to beat, hit me up. I’ll give it to you for free,'” they tell NewNowNext. “’Get a free license that way you can put it on Spotify and you can make money with it. I don’t need nothing in return.'”

Cxsper expected a few responses, maybe some reposts. Instead, they received inquiries from about 30 Black trans artists without access to beats.

JLL Photography
Blxck Cxsper.

Those initial posts soon evolved into The Ghostly Beats Project, a Trans Trenderz initiative designed to set Black trans recording artists up for success. “It kind of became bigger when Studio G Brooklyn reached out to us,” Cxsper recalls. “They were like, ’We’ll offer our facilities to record your artists.’ And when they said that, I was like, ’Okay, but I don’t want to send artists there who don’t have a team behind them.’ … So I was like, let me just sign [these Black trans artists] onto the label.”

The Ghostly Beats Project provides marginalized musicians with free instrumentals, studio sessions, mixing and mastering services from acclaimed sound engineers, graphic design services, and access to The Ghostly Beats Project artists’ forum. For any newbie recording artist, an initiative like this—and the creative community that comes in tandem—is helpful. But for Black trans musicians, it’s a total game-changer, an entry point into an industry infamous for its gatekeepers.

Trans Trenderz began in 2016 with Cxsper’s eponymous hip-hop mixtape featuring 14 trans or nonbinary artists. (Yes, the name is reclamation of “transtrenders,” a derogatory term used by some transphobes to invalidate transgender people.) Today, it’s a team of seven with Cxsper steering the ship. Artists on their roster include Apollo Flowerchild, an indie folk singer; Heather Hills, a house/electronic artist; and Lady Londyn, a self-professed “hip-hop goddess.”

Courtesy of Trans Trenderz
Lady Londyn.

Signing with Trans Trenderz via The Ghostly Beats Project was “a dream come true,” Londyn tells NewNowNext. Prior to working with Cxsper, the Los Angeles-based solo artist made and promoted her music completely on her own. Now, she has a team of other trans people providing financial, technical, and emotional support every step of the way.

“We recognize that we’re women in this industry. So of course, walking into the studio, there are certain places where we’re going to be in the same thick of it as most women trying to break into the industry,” Londyn says. “It’s just even worse because we are trans.”

The support Londyn receives from Trans Trenderz is also quite literal: The team has a rule that no matter what, nobody physically goes anywhere alone. “So this experience is not only helping me better my music, but it’s also adding light to my life where it wasn’t really there before,” she adds.

Courtesy of Trans Trenderz

At first, The Ghostly Beats Project was funded out-of-pocket by Cxsper and their friend Myla, a Black trans woman living in Dallas, Texas; now, it’s also crowd-funded via GoFundMe. The first four singles to come out of the initiative—including songs from Flowerchild, Hills, and Cxsper themself—have already been recorded. The team is aiming for a September release for the first song.

Moving forward, Cxsper hopes to expand The Ghostly Beats Project outside of New York City by partnering with recording studios in other cities around the world. “It’s beyond the artistry,” they explain. “It goes way beyond that, because now it’s like we’re a family.”

Londyn echoes that sentiment. She’s currently gearing up for an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for a recording session at Studio G Brooklyn. She’ll be joined by other artists from the Trans Trenderz family too. “With the moves that we’re making, it’s starting a trend for [the world] to see trans people as human beings,” she says. “That’s what the real trend is. In being our authentic and expressing ourselves that way, people then learn how to respect us. They learn how to see us and value what we bring to society.”

What’s most amazing to Londyn, though, is how the Trans Trenderz team—all trans people of color who “don’t have much”—are making their own dreams come true.

“It shows that for higher ups, there’s no excuse,” she adds. “If we’re a team of seven, and we can make all this happen… the community is our secret.”

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.