Queer rap icon and New York City club queen Dai Burger spins self-empowerment tales over dense grooves and banging underground dance anthems. When the breastplate-tattooed and Queens-based rapper—now eight years into her professional recording career—refers to herself as a legend, an icon, and the Queen of the New York underground, she means it.
First known as a background dancer for Lil Mama, Dai’s artistic development over the past eight years has been impressive. Her rhymes, style, and energy have all sustained the evolution of queer rap culture from unseen outlier to belle of the ball on her sophomore album, Bite the Burger, released December 6.
“It’s time to eat,” Dai tells me. “You can’t mention the New York queer rap category without mentioning me. I know what it took to get to this point. I’m a curator of the culture.”
Dai Burger is right, and from a technical standpoint, Bite the Burger is a lyrically heavy yet party-ready celebration dotted by ballroom sass. There‘s “Salty,” a clap-happy booty-popping smack-talker; Vitamin P,” an off-kilter sexual empowerment anthem, featuring French production tandem Baja Frequencia; and “I Be Knowin,” a swirling, trap-heavy Black empowerment groove, featuring Dai’s longtime associate Billy B. Add to that stunning visuals—see “Flame Emoji” with Cakes da Killa—and Bite the Burger backs up Burger‘s boisterous claims.
“I always like to have fun and pride myself on being lighthearted, but hard-hitting with the punchlines and wordplay,” Dai explains of her flow. “My content is also uplifting, upbeat, or makes you want to dance. If I make my bars funny or catchy, I’m still going to talk my shit.”
And talk shit she does. That’s the Dai Burger appeal distilled: She never holds back. Ever.
Our conversation on the burgeoning space for queer representation in hip-hop, representing the legacy of Queens, and touring worldwide, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: There’s a real moment happening for queer culture in the American and global mainstream. Am I on-base with that assessment?
Dai Burger: Oh, it’s happening. The “queer” hip-hop category hasn’t always existed, though. It was always there but never had a visible title. We just looked at ourselves as the weird kids of New York City who make music while not having a home within hip-hop. We had to create our own lane. Now, people are more open and aware of [progressive ideas regarding] gender identity and sexuality. People’s eyes and ears are open—and we already speak for a lot of people—so now it’s time for us to step up and be recognized, applauded, and put up on pedestals.
How do you feel about not just having that visibility, but also having greater and more diverse support for the culture, too?
Before, we were all just calling our movement underground, meaning hidden and tucked away. Now, I wouldn’t say that we’re mainstream, yet, but the queer space in hip-hop is being normalized. Being someone who once took great pride in calling herself “The Underground Queen of New York,” it’s great not to have to be underground about it anymore. At this moment, it’s great to be one of the originators of this movement.
On your new album, Bite the Burger, I noticed you elevated the quality of your songwriting.
There are things I want to say now that I wasn’t saying before. The content has evolved. There are producers I’m working with currently that I wasn’t working with when I started. The biggest evolution is that I feel my material can best be described now as trendy, but not cliche. I’ve also started a workshop, Where My Girls, where I share with young women how to formulate and build songs. I teach them how to write catchier hooks [and] how to fill up their verses with content that matches your hooks. I have a formula for what makes a solid song.
What, or who inspires your flow, song by song?
I always like to have fun and pride myself on being lighthearted, but hard-hitting with the punchlines and wordplay. My content is also uplifting, upbeat, or makes you want to dance. If I make my bars funny or catchy, I’m still going to talk my shit.
Speaking of bars, you’re from Queens. What does hailing from Queens means to you as a rapper?
There’s an [authenticity] about [being from Queens] that I embody. Like, for real, I’m in Queensbridge right now doing this interview. Like, Queensbridge, the home of Nas. Nicki Minaj is from here, LL Cool J is from here, Run-DMC. There’s no faking any of this. If you’re from Queens and making it, trust me, you can rap your ass off. You can say whatever you want about me, but rest assured that my music slaps.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what has allowed you to stand out and achieve success: your global appeal.
I was just in Berlin and was headlining at a queer event, the DICE Festival. It was amazing. I just kinda did my normal, fun stage show. But the reaction was huge, a long ovation and requests for an encore afterward. It told me the movement I have behind me is so much bigger than me now. Most of my respect comes from the fact I have already traveled all over the world. I’ve been to Australia, Germany, a couple of times, the US, and Canada. People admire and respect that. I’m just a girl from Queens who turned my talents into a worldwide movement that entertains people.