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Name: Adam Bernard
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Hand Job Academy Are Enjoying Their Happy Endings
Thursday, November 21, 2013

When Brooklyn hip-hop trio Hand Job Academy first started out, emcee Clara Bizna$$ says that at concerts they had to shout out very specific instructions regarding finding them online. “I would say, ‘Find us on the internet. Don’t look for us at work.’”

Fast-forward a little over a year, and now Hand Job Academy, which is made up of Bizna$$, Ash Wednesday, and Lil’ T, shows up ahead of all the porn sites that partially share their name thanks to their viral video sensation “Shark Week.”

The musical ode to a woman’s menstrual cycle struck a chord with listeners, as did the group’s wild video that featured bloody panties, bloody wedding dresses, and, well, pretty much bloody everything. Lil’ T, who directs all of the group’s videos, explains the concept, saying, “What I look for when I create everything is a definite shock factor, and I try to be as literal to the lyrics as possible, because it’s funny, and I just want to be ridiculous, inappropriate, shocking.”

The video for “Shark Week” accomplished all of those goals, as the clip (which was taken down by YouTube, but found a home on Vimeo before YouTube realized its mistake and allowed it to return) became an instant hit with female focused blogs such as Jezebel, and Bust. Shortly thereafter the mainstream press, most notably New York Magazine, started taking notice.


Clara Bizna$$ isn’t surprised that the internet turned out to be Hand Job Academy’s launching pad to notoriety. “I think the internet is the Paris of the 1920s,” she explains, “because that’s where all the artistic stuff happen. There’s not one geographical location. It’s not like New York in the 50s and 60s. There’s no Greenwich Village now. It’s just the internet, so that’s how art spreads today.”

The road to Paris, however, started in Brooklyn. Ash Wednesday recalls that just last winter, “We had started taking every opportunity that we could to play any kind of show that we could.” This would result in the trio performing in some unexpected places, to audiences they weren’t sure were necessarily going to appreciate their brand of music. Those shows, including one at House of Vans, which is a skate part in Greenpoint, turned out to be wildly successful.

Clara Bizna$$ feels one reason a multitude of non-hip-hop crowds enjoy Hand Job Academy is the group’s ideology. “I think of us as a punk band,” she explains, “I think of us as sort of like a Riot Grrrl organization. All the other videos we’ve done, they look great, and we had zero dollars to make them, so it’s very DIY, it’s very punk, and Riot.”

Those other videos include clips for “Pop (Tumblr Bitches),” and “U Mad.” Both songs were produced by Good Goose, who the women of Hand Job Academy credit with turning their musical project into something much more focused and real. According to Clara Bizna$$, when the trio started working with Good Goose, “It went from just like, let’s play shows for our friends and not make any money, to like maybe this is something we can do with our lives.”

“Pop (Tumblr Bitches)” was released through Tommy Boy earlier this year, and Hand Job Academy’s latest single, “Take Me 2 Skool,” which features Big Dipper, was released on the label earlier this week.


The music of Hand Job Academy is an exercise in fitting in by not fitting in at all. Clara Bizna$$ explains, “I want people to know that it’s OK to be a nerd. Beyonce is at home and in bed by 11 o’clock, and she fucking runs the world.”

Bizna$$ added that when it comes to how she hopes the group is viewed, “Here’s this queer, and this valedictorian blonde chick, and whatever theatre fag tattooed weirdo I am, and (people) can be like whoa, they’re doing whatever the hell they want, and they’re not letting somebody tell them that just because they’re who they are that this isn’t for them.”

This is important to the group, as Lil’ T admits some of her favorite artists occasionally alienate her with their lyrics. “There are a lot of rappers that I listen to, and that I genuinely like, but there’s homophobic undertones to it,” she laments. “It’s like the only time that they talk about anything LGBT, they’re like ‘oh yeah, I got these two bisexual girls that I’m fuckin.’”

Lil’ T continued, adding, “I feel like gay rap, the genre that’s kind of homo-hop that’s coming up, I feel like I’m separate from that, as well. I feel like right now we’re just kind of our own thing. I don’t know where we stand in any type of stereotype, or hip-hop group, or anything like that.”

Ash Wednesday, who teaches high school, feels that through the music of Hand Job Academy there’s a possibility of achieving some very realistic goals in area of feminism. “I’ve noticed a lot of high schoolers are terrified of failure,” she explains, “and they’re really scared of embarrassment, or looking foolish. I noticed especially girls try to look perfect, dress perfectly, wear their hair perfectly, and if we could just represent young adults, or adults, who don’t have to behave that way to get attention, or look that way to get attention, maybe we’re doing a service to women in that way, and I would hope that we are doing a service to women in that way.”

For Hand Job Academy, empowering women would be the most satisfying happy ending they could possibly give.


Interview originally ran on Arena.com.

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