Beyond the binary

Adeem the Artist flips southern stereotypes upside down

“I am … still actively working to dismantle my implicit biases, still working to uproot my misogyny and my racism,” says Adeem the Artist. Photo by Shawn Poynter.

Peppered with autobiography and unapologetic discourse, White Trash Revelry by Adeem the Artist is a treatise that confronts a broken heart and a dirty-window view of a polarizing South.

Their previous effort, Cast Iron Pansexual, found the native North Carolinian exploring the discovery of their nonbinary identity — the comfort of finally knowing, the fear of rejection and the uncertainty of being branded “other” in often-tribalist Appalachia. If that sounds niche, it is; but it’s also compelling to any outsider, full of sharp wit and storytelling.

Adeem’s seventh and latest studio album wields the same craft, perhaps with even greater savvy, widening the aperture for Adeem to address the marginalized as well as the 21st century Southerner sick of romanticized stars ‘n’ bars waving and selective denial.

Following a successful crowdsourcing campaign dubbed “Redneck Fundraising” and armed with a batch of tunes addressing poverty, addiction and the muck of American culture wars, Adeem — whose birth name is Kyle Bingham — enlisted fellow singer-songwriter and Tyler Childers’ tour manager Kyle Crownover to produce.

At Crownover’s suggestion, Adeem reached out to a deep roster of talent to join the effort. That included guitarist Joy Clark, banjo player Jake Blount, drummer Giovanni Carnuccio, bassist Craig Burletic and guitarist Jason Hanna

“I flew everybody in,” Adeem says. “I got an Airbnb in Knoxville, everybody met on the first day, and in three days we banged the record out. I’d play a song, we’d talk about the song, and then we’d run it as a band, and then we’d track it.”

Much of White Trash Revelry addresses the misconceptions and stereotypes of the South, especially in relation to racism and Adeem’s personal journey of understanding. In the song “Heritage of Arrogance,” Adeem declares “I’ve been learnin’ our true history and I hate it.”

“I think the impetus when you first get privy to these layers of injustice is to validate yourself as one of the ‘good whites,’ you know what I mean? Like, ‘I’m a feminist and I’m an anti-racist,’ and all that,” Adeem says. “And I think that’s good. … it’s shame for having believed wrong things and learning about it. But … I want to be really clear that the way I talk about misogyny and racism is not as one of the ‘good’ higher-minded feminist anti-racists. I am approaching it as somebody who is still actively working to dismantle my implicit biases, still working to uproot my misogyny and my racism.” 

As a queer artist witnessing a conservative push to undo years of progress through civil rights-crushing legislation delivered under the banner of “Christian values,” Adeem sees such attacks as the politics of self-interest. 

“The narrative being forced by Republicans [is] that Christians and queer people are at war with each other — which is largely false,” Adeem says. “Actually, the war that’s happening is Republicans against seats they can’t win unless they come up with some ridiculous red herring to throw into the conversation. There are so many queer-affirming churches now. There are so many people in the queer community who are Christians.” But when it comes to their religion and values, Adeem keeps their own counsel.

“I don’t believe there’s nothing, so I guess I’m pretty definitively not an atheist,” they say. “Culturally, I consider myself Christian. I mean, I was promised to God before I was born; I grew up memorizing the scriptures. Those were the metaphors that I projected myself onto and the mythos through which I explored my own development and self growth for decades of my life, so I think I’m probably somewhat of a non-believing mystic. I think that’s probably the pocket I’m most closely falling into right now.”

ON THE BILL: Ben Sollee with Adeem the Artist. 7 p.m. Thursday, June 1, eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder. Tickets here.

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