Ro Walker Mills radiates optimism. The 26-year-old hip hop artist and LGBT* advocate’s Riverview home is a reflection of his personality: full of hope and positivity.
“There’s lots of creative energy in this house,” Mills says. “Even the (other residents) are artists as well. I enjoy it. We’re all a weird bunch here, but it works for us.”
Mills has been bringing that same openness to his music for the past three years. Starting out in slam poetry, Mills organically made the move to hip hop. But his roots in poetry are clear, with his lyrics showcasing an honest and vulnerable account of his experiences as a transgender man. Speaking with his characteristic optimism, he says the audiences for his music give him hope for the future.
Despite that optimism, Mills stresses the importance of advocacy in his work.
“Now, as a white man, there are certain privileges you need to be aware of and help other people feel safe about being themselves. Especially transgender women of colour. You put those two intersections together, and they have the highest murder rate every year. I think about them and I think about my life, and those lives look very different. Yes, there’s progress, but work still needs to be done.”
1) INSPIRATION WALL
“There are lots of weird things in here. I’m a little bit embarrassed about the Taylor Swift picture, but everyone loves her.”
2) ALBUM ART
“I like to do the visual side of my art too. I’ve been playing with (the image on the right) as my next album cover. (The left image) was my first EP cover.”
3) DELTA COR PATCHES
“Everything I do is DIY. I started my own record company called Delta Cor records. So you’ll see ‘Cor’ all over the place in my house. On my shirt, on furniture, these patches.”
“This is just a model, but I’ve got it tattooed on my chest. This was laying around on a shelf in the house when I was a kid, and I’d pick it up and play with it. So this to me represented my masculinity growing up. I don’t just have a gun tattoo to seem like a gangster. And beside that is an ‘XX’ tattoo, which is my chromosomes. Sort of a stealthy trans tattoo.”
5) MICHAEL JORDAN
“You see lots of MJ in my place. I grew up playing basketball. I actually played for the University of Winnipeg on the women’s team my first year at university, before I transitioned. There’s no one better than Michael Jordan.
6) DIY RECORDING SETUP
“(The keyboard) is to make some beats. You can program it or do a little riff and loop it. You can do so much on the computer too. (The interface on the left) allows me to hear myself while I record. Then all you need is a good mic.”