VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today we’re featuring Free Form Mixtape, the first full-length release from Minneapolis’ Dizzy Fae. You can buy her album right here, and read below for an interview with Dizzy herself.
There’s something about the elongated painting on the back wall of Boiler Room Coffee on this gray Tuesday in Minneapolis; it’s eerily inviting, in a cultish “join us” fashion. Neither me nor Dizzy Fae, 20, can quite piece it together: the center figure looks something like Jesus Christ, another black figure kinda looks like Kendrick Lamar and everyone’s smiling in unison. Intrigued, we take turns prescribing roles and intentions to the faces: how they got there, what they believe in, why they’re in this order. Either way, they’re here: immortalized in frame, open to being whatever daytime fodder we need them to be.
Dizzy Fae’s far less intrigued by the oversharing overload we’ve defaulted to: she just is. An IRL woman carefully divergent from the URL highway to hell, Dizzy’s shedding light as quickly as she can shed lines of connectivity. She’s checked herself on poring over the Instagram algorithm burying numbers by the hour. She’s never been on Tinder and she doesn’t use dating apps. She’s gotten worse at texting back, but will FaceTime you for hours if need be. She’s recently acquired her own apartment, basking in the freedom of living in her own thoughts on her own time. When she must face the world, she cares: about color, about aesthetic, about presentation. Her self-stylist intuitions have graced an infinite scroll near you, with vibrant hairstyles and outfits leading to her featuring in Vogue. Today’s fit reaffirms the unmatched youthful drip: curly hair, a corduroy jacket covering a red t-shirt, a necklace with the word “love” on it, a small black bag dangling from her left shoulder, plaid pants and black platforms.
Dizzy’s adamant about music being the only thing she’s ever wanted to do; a single hour in her presence is confirmation. Picture her thoughts being interrupted by Sade’s “Smooth Operator” on the coffeehouse speaker, causing us both to rock and sway at the table before continuing. Better yet, picture her fawning over meeting Tierra Whack at an industry showcase in L.A., and how Whack — “literally a walking legend” — gifted a pre-show chicken wing to her. (They’re both August Leos!) Dizzy’s first single “Color Me Bad” surfaced three years ago, on the brink of her senior year at the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Arts where she trained in opera, jazz and classical music. The record’s semi-viral upswing placed her firmly on the Twin Cities radar, later catching a Zane Lowe World First premiere on Beats 1. High School Dizzy would be awestruck by today’s Dizzy: the woman who has toured with Jorja Smith, Lizzo, Empress Of and is currently prepping to tour with Toro y Moi. The woman who sold out 7th St. Entry and the Whole Music Club in the same year, headlined at Folklore in London and at Next Century during New York Fashion Week, all before reaching the legal age to buy a shot.
“She’d probably be like, ‘Damn, bitch, you doin’ it!’”
All these years of dreaming and manifestation resulted in the month it took to make her Free Form Mixtape: a breakout introduction thriving in its spontaneity, rooted in vulnerability and pining for the listener to return the honesty they receive. It’s Dizzy Fae making honesty easy when the prospect’s frightening enough; there’s a fair share of lighthearted gestures to treat her right while not wasting her time, and there’s a confessional undercurrent that scales the edges of love with maturity and integrity beyond the two decades to her name. It’s the product of a month of sessions full of first-takes, freestyles and a pulley-like system between her and decorated Minnesota producers Psymun and su na (aka Alec Ness) who’d pull their digital wizardry as she worked through ideas and freed herself in ways she had yet to experience. Free Form Mixtape is the child of this brain trust, a deep inquiry into spiritual matters that’s placed Dizzy on the cusp of stardom. She’s taken the meetings and made the rounds, thanks to the guidance of long-time manager/confidant Jake Heinitz of Greenroom, but nothing’s felt right just yet. Dizzy’s grateful to focus on the music without the pressure of the rest of the game, her trust extending to her team and close family that keeps her grounded and focused.
“A lotta people say they got something when they don’t,” Dizzy says. “I mean, it’s easy to say that, but you don’t really realize it until you’re in the position where niggas don’t got it… and don’t got you. Especially coming up as a new artist, people are like ‘Ooh, this is fresh, this is new. Let’s see if we can grab that, maybe fuck around and shape it.’ And, like… I’m not a shapeshifting bitch. Period!”
As it stands, Dizzy Fae remains in full control of Dizzy’s universe, from the music to the photos to the visuals. She’s an open book and a real one, known for bluntness and sparing no time and no truth on any subject, the type of self-confidence that comes from laying the overthinking to rest. She’s biracial, the daughter of a white single mother and a Black father who wasn’t in the picture. She identifies as queer, but opts not to strategize around any aspect of her womanhood, her romantic interests or the fluidity of either. While emphasizing the importance of finding community among marginalized individuals, Dizzy refuses to allow any fixations on the intersections of her identity to overtake the conversation about her music. She is who she is and she said what she said.
“It seems like [queerness] is such a trend right now, and it’s like… I been gay since daycare!” Dizzy assures me. “Like, I was that bitch at naptime! This is nothing new, I didn’t come out to anyone, it is… who I am. People emphasize it so much and it’s like… I truly think that love is love, it doesn’t need to be emphasized. Unless it’s a problem against it — then it’s like, bitch, I’ma tell you I’m gay and I’ma let you know how gay I am! — but until then, for me, it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s just lovin’.”
She indirectly motions to her “love” chain as she finishes her thought, and laughs when I point it out. The notion of love makes for scintillating storytelling on Free Form Mixtape: She struggles, rejoices and narrates her uncertainties like notes to herself, often stepping into others to do so. On the earlier hit “Johnny Bravo,” she drifts into the vantage point of a boy searching for his balance to be honest to himself as he sorts through the pitfalls of his reality to love and be loved in return. The remnants of her first steps into falling in love are documented here via mixtape opener “Her,” the record “Canyon,” and later favorite “Temporary:” when played in order, it runs like a three-step program on loving, losing and moving on. Dizzy’s comfortable with the falling, but never slips; therein lies the key to the swagger she carries now, the kind that reminds you no lover can consume her no matter how deep she wades in another.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten heartbroken,” Dizzy says. “I just won’t allow myself. And I know that’s a thing — I probably have — but, I didn’t allow myself and I think that’s the way I grew up. So, I don’t write songs about getting heartbroken; and if I do, like the song “Temporary,” it’s like, ‘I’m not gonna drown.’ I’ll always write a song like, ‘You almost got me bitch. You thought you got me and these are all the ways you thought you got me and I thought you got me.’ But I’ll always bring that back up, like, ‘Bitch, I’m not ’bout to drown.’”
Dizzy Fae speaks of home with warmth and gratefulness for the support since her efforts as a teenager. On Psymun and su na, two white men, she feels blessed by them empowering her to say whatever the fuck she wants in her music, holding nothing back. She remains rooted in home, showin’ love and love shown; the type of love that earns two back-to-back sold-out hometown shows packed with loving strangers, singing her records and dancing in the darkness.
“That’s the type of shit that makes me keep going,” Dizzy says. “Since I don’t know a lotta people in the audience, it’s like… I’m really making you feel some type of way. You paid money to come see me, you came from all these different places, it’s powerful. And in Minneapolis, it’s like: If they rock with you, they rock with you. I do it for my people, and Minneapolis and Minnesota is my people.”
Dizzy’s navigation of the industry reminds her how sensory today’s listener is — “people listen really hard with their eyes” — and how social media can be the catalyst for one’s growth and the very medium inhibiting a genuine connection with the art. One doesn’t even have to sell music to bear the weight of late capitalism forcing its hand across many a working life, the cult of personality permeating humanity to make everyone a brand and every move a brand move. When one sells oneself, a potential supporter can fall in love with the projection of a person more than what they’re selling and doing. The legends Dizzy admires — Andre 3000, Prince, Sade — never dealt with their imagery overshadowing their abilities; now she vows to fight the neoliberal current as hard as she can.
“That’s definitely a thing that social media has changed in the music industry and music in general,” Dizzy says. “I’m not tryna be an ‘artist’; although I am about visual appearance as well — I like my style, I’m also a Leo, so I’m like ‘Come look at me!’ — but at the end of the day, I’d really rather have you connect with my music and then connect with my appearance in the outskirts of things. That’s why I don’t explain my music too much, because everyone’s gonna have their own interpretation. And I prefer that, that’s how people really connect.”
While she can’t prime for how she’s read in the public sphere, or the ways folks attempt to pigeonhole her music in gendered comparisons as a young queer brown woman, Dizzy remains transparent and firm in her limits. Only her family and friends call her by her real name. She yearns to be a light for other folks who share her identities, but focuses more on manifesting that dream rather than overexplaining herself to fit too neatly into any niche. On her biracial background, Dizzy recalls the ups-and-downs of her white mother struggling to relate while not knowing the intimate intricacies of a Black experience in the U.S. context. When growing up biracial without a Black parent in the home, there’s a lag time in the acquisition of what many Black folks consider default rites of passage: cultural signifiers, roasting/the dozens, the literal and metaphysical space of the cookout, the spectrum of Black haircare and the importance of Black Love to name merely a few.
Dizzy shares an early memory of mother taking her to choir in an all-Black church, full of Black folks catching the Holy Ghost and speaking her tongues, placing her discomfort aside for Dizzy to indulge her singing talents. She never isolated or disowned Dizzy for being queer, another thing Dizzy’s eternally thankful for. On the contrary, she grew up saying “nigga” colloquially, something Dizzy didn’t know how to explain or correct until a few years ago. Through the confusion, Dizzy’s always felt deeply connected to her Black ancestors even when she couldn’t articulate the depth quite yet, but she’s still catching up, citing the proverbial Earl Sweatshirt bar on “Chum”: “Too Black for the white kids, and too white for the Blacks.”
“I’m not looking for sympathy when I talk about it, but it’s definitely something that takes a big toll on you; it’s your identity,” Dizzy says, “And if people don’t like to hear it, they could fuck off, because at the end of the day, that’s who I am, that’s something I need to talk about, and there are so many other biracial people in this world. I just think if you’re gonna have a kid and you’re one race, and you’re gonna have it with another race, you need to realize that and be educated on that other race you’re gonna have a baby with, and you need to introduce them with those things.”
The first producer Dizzy ever worked with — a white woman — told her she’d never work with any artist who said “nigga” at all. In contrast, Psymun and su na made way for Dizzy Fae to talk her shit and claim her space. These days, she’s letting her synesthetic euphoria guide her through the color wheel to keep people moving, every video imparting an emotional glow over her dancing, sprawling, falling. “Her/Indica” dashes from a yellowish-orange into a teal-aqua, a quiet joy leaping to an intense longing. “Don’t Hate for Me” is coated in pink and blue, a playful air padding the understated forewarnings against meddling with her energies while bringing nothing to the table. Dizzy insists that colors keep people moving, that one’s true self is most visible in a flowery open field with no technology in sight. It’s an image most fitting for the way she pierces the soul. In time, Dizzy Fae intends to become the color: the one of freedom.
“Colors make ya feel good,” Dizzy says, smiling. “Why you think gay people so happy? We feel comfortable with the whole rainbow, colorful as fuck!”
Above photo by Muriel Knudson
Michael Penn II (aka CRASHprez) is a rapper and a former VMP staff writer. He's known for his Twitter fingers.