Are those engine noises I’m hearing? Yes, it’s a whole formation of motopapis burning fuel before the sun of the motomami era sets forever. Join E&M author and editor Alberto Méndez to find out about their journey.
“Okay, motomami – heavy is my tatami – hits like a tsunami – Oh – Okay motomami – Fine, like origami – Raw, as a sashimi” – these are the verses with which the singer Rosalía introduces the listener to what would become a key mantra in the Spanish-speaking queer community of 2022 and 2023. With distorted voice, reverb, and a thunderous bass, the singer charges towards the camera and violently warns: “motomami, motomami”, announcing not only the title of her new musical work but also the social character that illustrates the “energy” and “way of being in the world” from which she composes.

Prior to the release date of the project in March 2022, Twitter was flooded with a countdown of commandments written by the artist herself, in which she informally described what it meant to embody the term she had coined. Some examples included “A motomami is loyal to her own people because loyalty is a flex 2/20” or “A motomami is a fitness legend but always orders dessert 🍧 9/20”. In essence, the intuitive fusion of the words “moto” (as an abbreviation for motorcycle) and “mami” (as an informal diminutive of mother) leads the listener to deduce that it represents a juxtaposition of concepts and that the closest conclusion would be “a mother who rides motorcycles” and therefore “an empowered and daring woman”. Adding to this, “moto” in Japanese (a culture greatly appreciated by the singer) means “tough”, which further strengthens the term.

The reception by young generations on social media was such that it didn’t take long for internet users to create their own versions of the “motomami” commandments. As Rosalía is a singer of great popularity within the LGBTQ+ community, male-identifying members of the community quickly demanded the equivalent masculine “name” to include it as part of their sociocultural identity. The existence and validity of the neologism “motopapi” was confirmed by Rosalía herself on her official Twitter account in response to a tweet from @LeonLara_Adrian on March 2, 2022.

And around this, orbits the present article. In celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we look back and revisit a phenomenon that has resonated especially among males in the LGBTQ+ community, who may not fully identify with orthodox masculine gender expression and traditional masculine culture, but find themselves within the codes of  a “motopapi”. Throughout decades, pop artists have become identity markers for their fans by association, but rarely do they manage to penetrate society and become a cultural reference as in this case. Therefore, we will now delve into the keys of the “motopapi” code.

In addition to the initial 20 commandments mentioned earlier, more characteristics were added to the collective imaginary as the album’s promotional plan rolled out (especially within the fan community). Every outfit at events or on “candid” paparazzi photos, every social media post, every response in an interview, every music video and choreography… all contribute to the “motopapi” persona. In specific terms, being a “motopapi” implies not only being a fan of Rosalía’s music but also adopting the album’s aesthetic: tight-fitting garments, matte or shiny black, passionate red, extravagant sunglasses in a “rave” style reminiscent of the early 2000s, leather and latex accessories, motorcycle clothing, customized helmets, gelled hairstyles with a distinct mid-parting, braids, wet hair effect, strategic layering of so-called “subversive basics,” and so on. Simply searching the hashtag #motopapi yields hundreds of examples.

This phenomenon is significant as it marks the first time that a Spanish artist has popularized an aesthetic among fans worldwide, transcending continents and borders. Concerts in Europe, the United States, and Latin America are evidence of this, with a large amount of content shared on social media by her fans. However, this era is coming to an end. Rosalía has made sure to communicate in each of her promotional interviews for her latest single “Tuya,” that she needs a break and to step back from the media scene in order to create again.

In the world of mainstream music, this means that she will disappear for a while and return with a completely different audiovisual concept to remain innovative, fresh, and continue to sell. Consequently, we find ourselves at the dawn of the “motopapi” phenomenon. If Rosalía is absent, there is no one who can continue updating the concept, keeping it alive, defending it against controversies, defining and distinguishing it from other neologisms. The myth surrounding “motomami” can only be sustained through Rosalía’s constant preaching in accordance with it. Otherwise, it crumbles, as it is an illusion generated by collective fanaticism, post-pubescent narcissism, and escapist hedonism.

Being a “motopapi” is not new; it is rather the same as being a “bichote or bichota” (Karol G). It does not differ much from the millennial equivalent of being a “little monster” (Lady Gaga), “katycat” (Katy Perry), or “smiler” (Miley Cyrus). The adolescent values of feeling like a protagonist in the world without asking for forgiveness or permission but still maintaining a certain sense of moral correctness have been sold as a product for a lifetime. It is the same formula but dressed in a disruptive aesthetic that appears fresh. However, this is not the most relevant aspect since, when it comes to art (especially pop art), everything has already been invented, and it is only a matter of recombining what already exists in the right place and at the right moment.

The underlying importance of highlighting this case during LGBTQ+ Pride Month is that over the course of 15 months of promotion for this album, hundreds of thousands of young queer individuals have put on a motorcycle helmet and felt unstoppable. They have appropriated many elements traditionally associated with cis-heterosexual males, such as motorcycle clothing, and claimed them as their own right. In a world where queer children carry a worrisome amount of trauma, many of them find peace in creating a new adult comfort zone where nothing can remind them of a childhood in which they were reproached for not “qualifying” as worthy men or women. Therefore, when a “motopapi” puts on a motorcycle helmet his way and feels like the king of the world during the 90 minutes of a concert, it is wonderful and most importantly fair, because it is what they deserved to feel when they were kids.

Happy Pride Month, Motopapis.

Top picture by FlorS Q on Pexels.

  • retro
    Alberto Méndez

    Editor & Author

    Global nomad from Barcelona. Advertising, Marketing & PR grad fascinated by culture, sociology, art and media. After having specialised in Marketing and Management within the Music Industry, Alberto is currently working as a brand manager assistant for a creative hub where record label-bureocracy, audiovisual production and fashion brands meet.

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