Vengeance in Curlers: NoLa Rapper Boyfriend Has Come to Seduce Us

She's playing three shows at Eristavi Winery this weekend.

Boyfriend (Michael Alford)

Boyfriend effuses confidence, self-love and — above all — a give-no-fucks attitude that’s about as big as the curlers in her hair. The self-described “Carol Burnette of hip-hop” and “rap game Bette Midler” offers a rap cabaret that is both visually stunning and sharply critical. She performs at Eristavi Winery in the Mission as part of the series Airbnb Concerts on April 6,  7 and 8.

The New Orleans artist is certainly the result of her roots. Her music is abrasively catchy, reflecting NoLa’s bounce hip-hop — Boyfriend has shared multiple bills with bounce queen Big Freedia — while her stage show is an over-the-top combination of sex and seduction. A Boyfriend performance promises an intimate, living room-style variety show of music, burlesque, comedy, and social commentary.

“This isn’t a burlesque revue, nor is it a Broadway show. I’m inspired by theatrical elements often found in Broadway musicals: storytelling through songs, with props and costumes and choreography,” Boyfriend tells SF Weekly. “The goal of my show and music is to have the audience not only nod their heads, but also scratch it a little bit. I’d say the people who my show resonates with the most are people who actively engage with the media they consume, because at the end of the day, that’s all I’m doing when I’m writing my songs.”

Petite and pale with signature huge curlers in her hair, Boyfriend resembles someone out of John Waters’ Pink Flamingos playing inside Pee Wee’s Playhouse. She looks like a devilish housewife in lingerie with thick glasses and a cone bra to rival Madonna in her heyday. Boyfriend eggs on her performers who do everything from aerial silks to burlesque and even armpit shavingas she raps about sex, love, and insecurity.

On “Jealousy,” Boyfriend tries to convince a woman to leave her male partner, crooning confidently straight into the camera “Girl, he don’t know you / Girl, he don’t own you / Girl, I can blow you / Blow your mind / Let me show you how a lady treat a lady. / … Pray to God my pussy gonna save you.”

“Much of my messaging comes from a place of frustration and trying to improve one’s circumstance. My earliest songs were inspired by the stereotypical oppressed, domestic, traditional housewife point of view and trying to critique it from within,” Boyfriend says. “As the show evolves, the themes opened up from the naive, domestic housewife, to more of a taking ownership and even vengeance narrative.”

In “Attention,” off 2016’s Love Your Boyfriend, Pt. 3, Boyfriend’s anxiety is on full display. “We live together but it’s like we’re on an island,” she raps, wondering somewhat ironically. “If you like me at all / If you want to touch me touch me / Take me raw. / … Look at me, I need some fuckin’ attention.”

Boyfriend will perform a few unreleased songs, don new duds, and share the stage with members of local troupe Fou Fou Ha at her San Francisco shows.  But for all of her incisive, inclusive performance and snarky subversion of the rap game, she received some criticism for partnering with Airbnb for a series of performances in cities experiencing housing crises. Boyfriend addressed fans who encouraged her to cancel those shows on Facebook.

I am against gentrification, displacement, and the creation of an unfair & unjust housing market,” she wrote. “While I understand that Airbnb, and home sharing as a whole, has the potential to contribute to these issues in New Orleans, I also believe that the city is ultimately responsible for protecting its neighborhoods, and that regulations & City Hall debates are how and where this battle should be fought,” she wrote. “It doesn’t feel accurate in my experience to cast the company at-large as the enemy.”

An Intimate Evening With Boyfriend, Friday-Sunday, April 6-8, at Eristavi Winery, 1300 Potrero Ave. $25; tickets.

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