B. Slade Talks ‘Stunt Bitch’ Album, Sexuality & Leaving Gospel

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By: / February 18, 2013

As B. Slade glides through the corridors of the Doubletree Hotel in New York, all eyes are locked on him. His in-your-face persona yields the kind of attention that triggers either curiosity or confusion. Glaring at his uniform—a forest green-military winter jacket, sunglasses and a red and blonde Mohawk—it’s hard not to ask yourself, “Who the hell is he?” If you ask the independent singer-songwriter, he’d probably smile and tell you he’s a scientist. “Music is just as scientific as it is creative,” he tells VIBE, sitting in his hotel room.

B. Slade’s eclectic style and wit captures only a fraction of his essence. Discerning exactly who or what he is musically, however, is like simplifying a difficult math equation. His fashion and lyrics often blur lines of gender and orientation norms, while musically blending genres from hip-hop and R&B to pop and ’80s rock. Much like provocateurs Prince and Lady Gaga, B. Slade knows exactly who he is as an artist—he’s just waiting for everyone else to catch up.

“I don’t have to compromise my sexuality, spirituality, or my artistic presentation. They are all a part of the contradictions that makes us all,” says Slade. “I just publicly wear them.”

For some, B. Slade needs no introduction. In his heyday, he was a rising two-time Grammy nominated gospel artist who went by the name Tonéx. During those days he was just as out-of-the-box, donning flamboyant get-ups and provocative hairstyles. But upon coming out as a gay man, he left a sour taste in the mouths of the gospel community and was subsequently ridiculed. As a way to rid himself of the public contempt, he changed his moniker to B. Slade and left gospel music for good.

While his music catalog as both Tonéx and B. Slade is extensive, Stunt Bitch is his most audacious project. The musician says the album’s provocative title is an intentional play on words. “A ‘stunt bitch’ is anyone who pulls off what no one could possibly pull off or what folk say could never be done,” he says. “That’s what people told me.”

The album fuses contemporary R&B, hip-hop, rock and funk. His voice—markedly influenced by his gospel roots—soars up and down scales unheard of from neither his contemporaries nor music’s most cherished trail blazers (he’d give present-day Mariah a run for her money). But it’s his lyrics that carve Slade’s own lane as a bona fide innovator in music. Much like Frank Ocean, who bravely integrated homoerotic love narratives on Channel Orange, B. Slade does so without apology.

His song, “Girlfriend,” a smooth mid-tempo track on the album, showcases the ambiguity that is B. Slade. “What if I was your girlfriend?” he unusually croons in falsetto, so soft you almost forget it’s a male behind the voice. The visual for the track showcases Slade’s often-androgynous fashion. Though he is openly gay, Slade makes it clear that he’s no activist, but rather an artist of expression…who happens to be gay.

“A lot of the lines in terms of music and the way we dress—androgynous or metrosexual—speak to what’s going on with the new generation and the cosmos of 2013,” he says. “When I look at Kanye with the kilt and pushing the envelope, Frank Ocean, and even Wiz Khalifa’s [O.N.I.F.C.] album cover, it’s a great breakthrough for everyone,” not just for gay culture.

B. Slade, who recently did a show at the Apollo Music Café and will be opening up for Lalah Hathaway in March, is among a rising movement of independent artists choosing to push against the monopoly that is mainstream music. Rather than playing the cards dealt by industry favoritism, Slade is a business all on his own. He’s the creative mind behind his own machine and runs a film and TV licensing company that has already earned him six music placements on BET’s Second Generation Wayans and this year’s NAACP Image Awards on NBC. Back in his Tonéx days, he was the voice behind the theme song of One on One, starring Kyla Pratt and Flex Alexander.

Though he understands everyone may not get him at first, B. Slade says he hopes his music can be a soundtrack to people’s lives, no matter their gender or orientation.

“Some are offended by it. Some only want me to continue to sing spiritual songs while others say, ‘I like you as raw as you are,’” he says. “I try not to negate either of those opinions.” —Gerren Keith Gaynor (@MrGerrenalist)

Follow B. Slade on Twitter (@BSlade) and Instagram (BSladeTV). Stunt Bitch is available on iTunes now.