So far, censorship has defined Zheani’s 2019. Earlier this year, the Brisbane-based rapper and songwriter released The Line, a raw and uncompromising EP of no-holds-barred noise rap and electronic abrasion; it was swiftly removed from streaming services after the subjects of one of its most talked-about songs took issue with it. When attempting to promote The Line on Instagram, Zheani found that her account had been barred from posting or commenting, effectively rendering her silent on her biggest platform.
It makes sense, then, that Zheani’s new EP Satanic Prostitute, premiering below, is based around censorship. It’s a 4-track EP and visualiser that channels the rapper’s feminine rage into art that’s challenging, powerful, and conveys Zheani’s truth on her own terms. Satanic Prostitute’s public visualiser will be heavily censored, while an uncensored version is available on her Patreon. “It’s not censored due to shame on my behalf,” Zheani tells The FADER via email. “[It’s censored] because of our prudish and frigid societal norms that are informed by the tech monopolies of Silicon Valley.”
Satanic Prostitute was made over four days, and you can hear that sense of urgency in the music; Zheani races over the beats, put together by King Yosef, barely stopping to breathe. Across the four tracks, she pushes herself to experiment with new sounds — opener "Carry On" finds Zheani experimenting with cold-blooded pop, while Cameronazi collab "Stabbed Her to Death" coasts on blunt-force electronics. Read our interview with Zheani below.
UPDATE, 9:47PM EST, May 23rd: Zheani's Satanic Prostitute video has been removed from YouTube; the Spotify stream is still live, as well as a Vimeo stream.
The title Satanic Prostitute was thrown at you as a slur. Why use it as a record title?
Using your enemy's weight against them is a fundamental tactic in Judo. I laugh at being labeled a Satanist, it’s a charming throwback to 90s 'Satanic Panic'. I am not ashamed of being labeled as a prostitute. Some of the best people I know are sex workers and I am proud to stand in solidarity with these people and am happy to play my part in destroying the stigma.
The last few months, for you, have involved a lot of dealing with trolls and online abuse. How do you cope with it? Have you taken any steps to stop the abuse?
As Tyler, the Creator said,
“Hahahahahahahaha How The Fuck Is Cyber Bullying Real Hahahaha n**** Just Walk Away From The Screen Like N**** Close Your Eyes Haha”
Jokes aside, it has been some of the most difficult months of my life. I do my very best to avoid reading comments as one negative comment unfortunately out weighs 10 positives in a human's brain. Especially when it comes to the opinions of others. It’s how we're hardwired. But I am trying my hardest to learn to not give a fuck. And was expecting much worse for speaking the truth.
My partner reads through the garbage on the internet for me and if there is anything important, I am notified. They are also kind enough to help me compile lists of the individuals that have illegally distributed my intimate images without my consent.
There have been Australian journalists who have illegally distributed these images in order to discredit me. You ask me how I deal with online abuse? I deal by believing in karma.
Your music traverses a lot of ground, musically — it’s often rap but crosses over into territory that looks like metal or pop sometimes. How do you see yourself as an artist?
I don’t see myself as belonging to any genre, but rather as an artist, in the broad sense. I am not trained musically and only started learning to rap a couple of years ago. I find when I am pushing boundaries and exploring new space that is when I create things I am happy with. I am still learning to be a musician. The most important part of this for me is self expression. My musical catalogue is a self reflective documentation of my life experiences so far.
On the record you paint yourself as a few different figures — Brutus, Mother of Harlots, the devil’s bride — what draws you to these often macabre or historical figures?
I identify with the Whore of Babylon, the Mother of Harlots; I identify with witches, the persecuted people; I identify with the tragic fate of one who dances naked with the devil.
I draw strength from these archetypes. Truth speakers have in many ages been persecuted as Satanists, wrong thinkers, the problematic and damned. Even close friends fear me, it’s heart breaking. People can’t understand how someone like me could make the decision I have made. Most peoples minds are killed by fear but think what that means? How many people are hurt and don’t have the courage to speak out about it? I speak for these people and they are able to get their justice vicariously through my rage and indignation.
This EP comes really soon after The Line. Why did you want to release music so soon?
I wanted to have new music available on streaming platforms as The Line has been censored and my story has been forcefully hidden and suppressed. I want to make it clear the more you try to shut me up, the louder I will scream. This is about standing my ground.