ESSENTIAL TRACK: “C.A.B.O.”
FOR FANS OF: Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz
“C.A.B.O. is like when the wishes come true after you’ve blown candles out on a birthday cake,” Marquise Dickerson, aka Maarquii, says of their new 12-song album. The metaphor is appropriate because C.A.B.O. spotlights the 27-year-old Portland hip-hop artist who has truly come of age—spiritually, politically and imperfectly perfect.
Like their previous two projects with the production duo JVNITOR, this debut full-length started with a realization about the artist’s life, which catalyzed the writing. Following the release of their second EP, Lullaby in Gemini, Dickerson took an introspective sojourn to Los Angeles and returned to the Portland scene with clear goals and a new sense of self. They found they needed to set boundaries with “people who are not taking risks and challenging themselves” and people exhibiting “behaviors and mentalities that don’t align with mine,” Dickerson says. One way to set boundaries is through creative expression, and thus the title song “C.A.B.O.,” or “Cut a Bitch Off,” was born.
“‘C.A.B.O.’ has raw and visceral energy that shreds the idea of perfection,” Dickerson explains. “It’s me showing my versatility and my style and staying true to my experimental side.” The album displays Dickerson’s wide range of influences, from a childhood filled with their mother’s R&B collection; to a beloved aunt and uncle who played Tupac, Mystikal, Juvenile and Snoop Dogg; to punk rock high school friends who introduced Dickerson to bands like Green Day and My Chemical Romance and darkwave techno music.
Throughout the record, the beats and instrumentals mix the ethereal, sexy and spooky, while Dickerson’s lyrics range from no holds barred to vulnerable. Take “Taalk Shiit,” which dresses down people who inspired the album as a whole: “Tripping-ass hoes / you ’pressed over Instagram woes / cocaine all up in your nose... I don’t owe you bitches nothing / not a smile, I just pay you with the dust then... Icy, you call me a bitch, I might be / I got shit to do and I do not take it lightly.” A few tracks later, though, “Yung Steinway” reveals Dickerson’s open-hearted longing for family back in Arkansas where Dickerson spent their early life: “Wish that I could kiss my granny on the face / gumbo in the pot, have a taste / learn how to play Spades / LayLay stirring up the Kool-Aid.” Dickerson’s vocals range in these songs from bristly rapper to silky crooner.
Dickerson credits Derek Stilwell and Saint Michael Lorenzo, who make up JVNITOR, for producing tracks that are “so smart, blending what’s current while being really supportive of me playing around... they don’t question it.” C.A.B.O. pushes hip-hop into new realms where non-binary, black, femme sexuality and identity take up space with no apologies, but also with a sense of not taking it all too seriously. As Dickerson says, “I am so angry but I can be silly too.”
Music and dance are the artist’s first loves, but they recognize their identity has a political component. “Unfortunately, that’s just the reality of it,” Dickerson tells. “I can’t ignore the grander scheme of things going on.” So while Maarquii, the performer, “grind[s] so hard” to C.A.B.O.’s eerie beats, one question will always sound true for Marquise Dickerson, the artist: “How can I use the creative side of me to help heal this wild, crazy world?”
MOST RECENT RELEASE: C.A.B.O. out now—listen below