Dion Mckenzie wants to tell you about her accent. “When I came to New York I felt there was a lot of stereotyping,” she explains in a voice that flits between generic American and lilting Jamaican. “People made the assumption that you can’t be Jamaican unless you’re speaking patois, and I found that very frustrating.” Then again, fitting in with people’s expectations has never been Tygapaw’s thing. Growing up in Jamaica in the culturally mixed town of Mandeville (“It’s where a lot of British colonialists originally settled” she explains, “so I was around a lot of American and British kids”) it was the alternative US rock MTV played that she initially fell for, rather than the island’s own musical exports. “Reggae and dancehall is second nature to me,” she tells us. “You hear that coming out of the womb, but I got consumed by grunge music and the rock they’d play on MTV2. I’d never heard music like that, being Jamaican!”
By the time Tygapaw reached her late teens, her sexuality had her feeling ostracised and even in danger in her native country, so she set off to study at New York’s Parsons School of Design. “It was exciting when I first got there,” she tells us. “Seeing all these queer kids completely open. But it was also kind of scary because so many things were alien to me.”
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