Queen Tut Claims Her Throne
For one reason or another, some Milwaukee creatives remain buried in the underground depths of the city’s music scene. It’s easy for local musicians to be overshadowed by the city’s more established artists, especially during Milwaukee’s current hip-hop renaissance. With Milwaukee-based rappers garnering national attention regularly, it can be intimidating to break into a community full of so much talent.
Seshat Roberts, aka Queen Tut, made it her goal not to go unnoticed. Through music, fashion and philanthropy, Roberts has been making waves through both Milwaukee and New York City.
The rapper (or femcee, as she prefers to be called) was drawn to hip-hop after showing interest in poetry. Roberts eventually hit a wall when writing, and started to feel as though she couldn’t thoroughly express herself. She decided to make the transition from poetry to hip-hop and began to dip her toes into Milwaukee’s hip-hop scene, adopting her stage name. She caught the city’s attention after being featured on various local tracks, most notably on Lex Allen’s soul pop single “Shapeshifter.”
Roberts cites an eclectic mixture of influences, including Jimi Hendrix, TLC, Janelle Monet, Outkast and Missy Elliott. She says her biggest inspiration, both musically and aesthetically, is Lil’ Kim.
In 2015, she released her debut EP, Psychedelic Traphouse, a five-track effort that showcased Roberts’ lyrical talents as well as her unique production flair. The EP featured collaborations with multiple Milwaukee artists, including Abby Jeanne and Zed Kenzo.
A year ago, Roberts relocated to Brooklyn. She became acquainted with New York City while touring, and frequently attended AFROPUNK, a festival celebrating black alternative culture. Upon meeting potential collaborators and new friends at the event, she decided to expand her creative horizons to the East Coast.
When Roberts isn’t making music, she does editorial work as a freelance hairstylist and makeup artist. She is also heavily involved in social activism. Her Milwaukee performances have raised money for organizations like Milwaukee Public Schools, Planned Parenthood and Date Rape Awareness Milwaukee. Her New York philanthropic pursuits include a vegan food pantry that provides meals to the hungry and starting a cooperative production company for artists and musicians. The co-op’s goal is to bridge Milwaukee’s art scene with New York’s established industry.
When performing in New York, she says she always makes a point to let people know she’s from Milwaukee.
“When I am in New York, I definitely shout that I am a Milwaukee artist,” explains Roberts. “I don’t ever want them to claim me. I’m very aware that I don’t necessarily fit into their cookie-cutter view of whatever a female rapper should look like.”
Roberts says that New York’s hip-hop scene is quick to embrace new artists. Because everyone is from somewhere else, the music community is very open and inviting. She says that her New York contemporaries are intrigued by her Midwestern roots and are quick to notice them in her music.
“When they hear my music, they’re shocked by the Milwaukee
sound,” Roberts says. “It’s something they’re not familiar with. Everybody has
a different sound in Milwaukee. We all pick up different elements of things.
The sounds of our voices are different, our sounds are different. Personally, I
don’t think I sound like anybody.”
Queen Tut’s most recent single, “Cantaloupe,” dropped last July. The single seamlessly blends hip-hop, trap and world beats. In April, an accompanying look book was shot by Milwaukee photographer Mahdi Gransberry. Roberts focuses as much on her music’s aesthetics as she does her music’s sounds, being sure to combine her talents as both a musical and visual artist.
Roberts isn’t revealing too many details about her next project, except that it will include several Milwaukee features. Roberts says the project will include multiple “Milwaukee fan favorites” like saxophonist Jay Anderson and Sista Strings.
“I see this new project showing people a different side of me—the person I am now,” she says. “There’s going to be a new sound, and people will get the updated version of me.”
Queen Tut will perform at Cactus Club on Thursday, June 15 with CRASHprez and D’Amato. All proceeds will be going to Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. Her music can be found at soundcloud.com/seshat-queen-tut.