Transgender rapper Lil Lavedy finds her voice in hip-hop

There are times when she averts eye contact, directing her gaze to her hands, her dark blue lipstick and gleaming bejeweled nose ring a visual reminder of the contrasts that constitute the woman before us.

Alice Villa is many things all at once: a singer, a rapper, an ace ukulele player, a jokester, a voice of reason, a voice of anger. Her demeanor mirrors this breadth, mostly pulsing with energy as if she were plugged into a nearby electrical outlet, but also given to quieter, more contemplative moments where she tilts her head down and clamps her eyes shut as if visualizing her thoughts.

There’s a reason, though, that Villa can come across as a tangled knot of emotions. As transgender rapper Lil Lavedy, she’s immersed herself in a culture with a complicated history in regard to how both women and nonheterosexuals have traditionally been treated.

The daughter of a “hip-hop nerd” father, this punk-turned-MC grew up loving a music that hasn’t always shown a lot of love to those who don’t fit into traditional notions of gender and sexuality.

“There’s a lot of homophobia, transphobia and sexism in hip-hop,” Villa says on a recent afternoon, the gold trim on her black floral dress sparkling beneath the lights at The Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Southern Nevada, where she sits next to The Bronze Cafe. “It’s always been weird trying to justify liking Easy-E when you know a lot of what he says is really derogatory. I don’t think that I want to necessarily fight that, but I want to make the people who are saying that in front of me uncomfortable. When somebody says a homophobic line and I’m at the show, you kind of see them squirm a little bit. And that’s what I want.”

Basically, Villa’s less interested in being a firebrand than simply being who she is, whether onstage or off it.

“I’m more than transgender, I’m transcending / Your feminine guidelines for being so ladylike,” Villa announces on the call-and-response chorus for “TRANScending,” one of two songs featured on her debut demo, which was produced at Naked City Audio by John Kiehlbauch (it can be streamed at Villa’s an animated, off-kilter presence on the mic, her voice bouncing on the beat like it was coated in rubber, the delivery of her sing-songy rhymes ranging from frantic and hyperventilating to playful and childlike.

A Vegas native, Villa joined her first folk-punk band when she was 15 and has been mostly associated with that scene locally, most notably as frontwoman for Alexander the Terrible. Villa’s maintained her in-your-face stage presence as she’s transitioned to hip-hop, where she acknowledges that there has been some initial wariness from unprepared crowds as they witness Lil Lavedy perform live for the first time.

“When I first started seeking hip-hop shows, so many people were uneasy about a trans person playing hip-hop shows, not because they themselves were bigots, but because they were afraid of what other people were going to be,” she says. “But then when you get in front of a hip-hop crowd and you’ve got bars, that’s all they care about.”

Villa’s acquitted herself well enough to earn the respect of a scene heavy hitter like Hassan Hamilton, one of Vegas’ most acclaimed MCs, who’s both shared the stage and collaborated with Villa.

“Any trailblazer is gonna ruffle feathers along the way,” he says of Villa. “That’s why I feel that hip-hop is the perfect outlet for her ideology, beliefs and content because some of the greatest ever MCs and groups pushed the envelope and made you look at reality no matter how uncomfortable it made most people. Somebody has to start somewhere in regards to the inclusion of transgender and other queer individuals or groups into the culture. I’ve always believed that hip-hop gave a voice to the voiceless, and it would be a shame for that to change now.”

For Villa, this voice isn’t confined to gender issues, which she doesn’t want to be defined by. To wit, the other song on her demo, “Ghosts” is as haunting as its title suggest, a ruminative reflection on the many people who have come and gone in Villa’s life.

“As much as I feel that being trans is going to be a big part of my career, I also don’t want it to be a gimmick by any means,” she explains. “I want my word craft to be the most important thing. But at the same time, screaming, ‘This is who I am!’ is important, too, because when I deal with a crappy customer at work who is transphobic or I get stuff yelled at me while walking to the store, when I finally come home to write, that’s something that’s affecting me. So, of course I’m going to say something about it.”

Soon, Villa will be off to the studio for a recording session with Hamilton and Kiehlbauch. She has plenty to say. Time to go say it.

Jason Bracelin’s Sounding Off column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at and find him on Twitter: @JasonBracelin.

Entertainment Videos
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
Baked Alaska a specialty at Favorite Bistro in Las Vegas
Award-winning pastry chef Claude Escamilla makes Baked Alaska with strawberry sorbet and vanilla gelato and flames it at Favorite Bistro at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Chili cooks face fierce and friendly competition at Nevada cook-off
Forty chili cooks competed in the Nevada State Chili Cookoff in Pahrump on Sunday, March 17, 2019, with the winners advancing to the World Championship Chili Cook-off in Des Moines, Iowa. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door and Banksy art in Las Vegas
Arcade ‘speakeasy’ leads to secret door, Banksy art in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hazel in Las Vegas serves modern takes on traditional cocktails
Hazel serves modern takes on traditional cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas celebrates St. Patrick's Day
Tonight the city lit the Welcome sign green, McMullan's Irish Pub and the Guinness store also prepare for this weekend's St. Patrick's Day festivities. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Reuben sandwich at Served in Henderson, near Las Vegas
Matthew Meyer, chef/owner of Served, makes a Reuben sandwich with house-brined corned beef, house-made sauerkraut and gooey melted cheese at his restaurant in Henderson, outside Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Las Vegas day club season returns with big-name DJs
Rick Ross, March 23, at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay The Chainsmokers, March 30, at Encore Beach Club Marshmello, April 6, Kaos Dayclub at the Palms Chuckie, May 11, Marquee Dayclub at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Calvin Harris, May 11, Wet Republic at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Pizza expert Chris Bianco makes meatballs in Las Vegas
Chris Bianco, who was the keynote speaker at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, demonstrates meatball making for expo attendees. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas pulmonologist talks about new movie dealing with cystic fibrosis
Dr. Craig Nakamura, Director of Cystic Fibrosis Center of Southern Nevada, talks about the upcoming romantic drama “Five Feet Apart” where both of the lead characters suffer from cystic fibrosis. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
World Pizza Champion crowned in Las Vegas
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Italian pizzaiolo Federico De Silvestri took the top prize and more than $12,000. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Italian wins Pizza Maker of the Year at Pizza Expo
Federico De Silvestri of Verona, Italy, wins the finals in the non-traditional pizza category during the International Pizza Challenge at the International Pizza Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday, March 7, 2019. De Silvestri went on to beat winners from each of the four other categories — traditional, pan, pizza Napoletana and Roman — to win Pizza Maker of the Year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Good Pie Coming To Arts District
Local pizzaiolo Vincent Rotolo says Good Pie is coming to the Arts District. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Local comedian says "It's ok to laugh, ...the comedy club is dark."
K-Von, a half-Persian comedian, talks about his style of comedy which keeps audiences entertained.
Pizza Dough Throwing Competition
Contestants participate in the World Pizza Games at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Wednesday night. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
World Pizza Games showcased in Las Vegas
The World Pizza Games, part of the International Pizza Expo, drew competitors from all over the world to Las Vegas to compete in events such as dough stretching and box folding. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Pizza competitors dazzle at international expo
The International Pizza Expo at Las Vegas Convention Center included the first rounds of the World Pizza Games. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas showcases products and trends
At the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, vegan and gluten-free menu choices and compostable packaging were highlighted, as well as Detroit-style and Roman-style pizza. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about a new restaurant
Chef Dan Krohmer talks about the construction of his new restaurant at Fremont Street’s Fergusons Downtown complex in downtown Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neon Museum lights up the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign
The Neon Museum in Las Vegas flipped the switch on its latest acquisition Monday night, the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
A Taste of Eataly Las Vegas
Executive Chef Nicole Brisson gives a tour around Eataly Las Vegas, located in the Park MGM. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas
Order a pretty purple cocktail at North Italia in Las Vegas (Janna Karel/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Towering triple decker sandwich at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas
Jonah Resnick, executive chef of Sadelle’s, the newest restaurant at Bellagio in Las Vegas, serves a daunting concoction of roast beef layered with house-made cole slaw, turkey and more cole slaw, on rye bread. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Paris Las Vegas Debuts New Eiffel Tower Light Show
The Paris in Las Vegas unveiled its latest Eiffel Tower light show, Wednesday evening. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Video: Las Vegas Omelet House Marks 40th anniversary
Omelet House at Charleston Boulevard and Rancho Drive in Las Vegas, which opened in 1979, is a locals’ favorite, known for fluffy six-egg omelets. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Golden Knights' Ryan Reaves readying new beer
Ryan Reaves, a forward with the Golden Knights, has plans for a second beer, a lager, through his 7Five Brewing Co. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Adds Lady Gaga To The Fountain Playlist
Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” has been added to the rotation of classic tunes played for the dancing waters at Lake Bellagio. The song debuted at 6 p.m. Monday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Comedian uses laughter to bring understanding about AIDS
Comedian Brandon Cox Sanford talks about how he uses his comedy sketches to bring light to his AIDS diagnosis. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas
Sasha Rincon-Camacho, regional marketing director, talks about the 20th anniversary of the House of Blues in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Meow Wolf opening an 'otherworldly' art experience in Las Vegas
Meow Wolf opening "otherworldly" art experience in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing