貍貓 (Aristophanes) spits and spins. Her delivery is slippery and sharp. In an instant, she switches from a whisper to a growl, creating sounds unlike anything I have ever heard. Her words seem to seep from her with ease and effortlessness, but they bite. Even if, like I, you cannot understand her slew of Mandarin, the punch of emotion is unmistakable.

Though exquisite in her execution, Aristophanes is relatively new to the hip-hop scene. Hailing from Taipei, she began dabbling casually in the scene there only a few years ago. Growing up, she was exposed to very little pop culture, making her aggressive jump into music all the more impressive and surprising. Unlike her male, Taiwanese counterparts, Aristophanes does not use her music as a stage for her swagger or to get a leg up towards a lush lifestyle — she is no braggart and has no desire to break into the American music scene.

Despite her lack of intention, Aristophanes slipped into the American stream when featured on “SCREAM,” an arresting single from Grimes’s 2015 Art Angels. Her voice paradoxically drips with sex and malice, rapping: “You lie there / Struggling with the body fluid that is getting cold / Sticky, transparent, elastic flowers in my palm.” She is not one to mince words, talking about sex and the body with a gothic tilt. Her most recent track, “人為機器 (Humans Become Machines),” was produced by Grimes and is reminiscent of the pair’s previous collaboration — dicy and surreal.

Her music makes my skin tingle; I feel hyperalert and slightly frightened, yet so much more alive. But it’s not only her sound; it’s her. Aristophanes herself is a force that demands to be felt. Nothing about her intersects nicely with American hip-hop convention — not her gender, her nationality nor her contorted lyrical phrasings. In the hegemonic realm of hip-hop, Aristophanes is a wake-up call; a blast of freezing, refreshing air.

 

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