Arts & Entertainment
Reclaiming hip-hop for the GLBT community
Published Thursday, 15-Mar-2007 in issue 1003
Barbara Streisand, Madonna and the soundtrack to Dreamgirls normally grace the shelves of a typical queer’s music collection – but what of hip-hop? This genre, while popular in mainstream, has not always been favored by the GLBT community – until now. San Diego has become the launch pad for HomoRevolution, the historical, first-ever regional tour of GLBT hip-hop acts in the Southwest.
Gay hip-hop or “homohop,” as it has been called, has been underground a long time but is now challenging the traditionally homophobic music of famous hip-hop artists like 50 Cent, DMX and Eminem, essentially fighting hatred with the power of music.
“HomoRevolution is the natural progression of the LGBT hip-hop movement,” said Camilo Arenivar, organizer and manager for HomoRevolution Tour 2007. “The documentary Pick Up the Mic documented the lives of the 18 LGBT hip-hop artists throughout the world, and this tour is the natural progression of this. … No longer should this music be kept hidden from those who might find it beneficial.”
Soce the Elemental Wizard
Leading the tour is controversial gay rapper Deadlee, who made headlines in the hip-hop music world following his announcement of the tour late January and his condemnation of the blatantly homophobic lyrics of hip-hop’s biggest names. His comments were the talk of many entertainment and pop culture blogs – including Rolling Stone and Wired magazines. The attention led to a CNN interview on the subject of hip-hop and homophobia on the Paula Zahn Now show.
“[HomoRevolution] is a movement born out of a collective group of rappers who are gay, wanting to expose our messages to the masses,” Deadlee said. “People always ask, ‘Are there [gay rappers] or who is the gay rapper?’ A lot of us have been playing and making CDs for years and have never been in the closet. The problem is it hasn’t got national exposure until now, and that is just why we decided to do the tour is to showcase the great hip-hop/rap talent in our community.”
Joining Deadlee in the tour are fellow Pick Up the Mic artists Tori Fixx, Johnny Dangerous and Qboy, who hails from the United Kingdom. Also from the U.K. on tour is Mz. Fontaine. Other artists scheduled are San Francisco’s JFP, Detroit’s Feloni, Ohio’s Bigg Nugg and Long Beach-based transgender artist Foxxjazell. At least half a dozen other artists will play supporting roles in various cities.
San Diego hip-hop artist Mc Flow
The name of the tour was taken from a scene in Pick Up the Mic, the definitive documentary – and official tour sponsor – of the GLBT hip-hop/homohop phenomenon. The edited version of this documentary is presently on the MTV-owned Logo network. In the film, gay hip-hop pioneer Juba Kalamaka makes the statement, “Queer boys doing hip-hop is a revolutionary act.”
San Diego’s GLBT hip-hop community is slowly becoming apparent to the mainstream, thanks to HomoRevolution. “[The GLBT hip-hop community] was very, very, very underground,” Arenivar said. “Initially, I thought Deadlee was the only one in SoCal, and then they came out of the woodworks to the extent that I’ve had two local LGBT hip-hop showcases as fund-raisers for the tour and have had over 10 artists perform at each one. They only represent a fraction of the burgeoning scene here in SoCal. L.A. has Deadless, Delacruz, Ricoshade, Skim (Korean lesbian hip-hop), Best India Game, J.R., Dunn Deal, Salvimex (hip-hop en espanol), Melange Lavonne, Cat Eyez and so many more. San Diego has MC Flow and DJ Jeffa.”
Contrasted with other musical genres, GLBT hip-hop artists are faced with greater challenges. “We face challenges in our own community first – since hip-hop hasn’t always been popular in the gay community as a whole – it has taken a while for press to write about the scene, so imagine getting any attention from mainstream press,” Deadlee said. “Record labels also need to be more diverse and realize gay people buy albums and there is an untapped market out there. Whoever is smart enough will tap it!”
Bigg Nugg
Arenivar agrees: [GLBT hip-hop artists face the challenge of] being given a chance. Being taken more seriously and not as a joke,” Arenivar said. “[It’s also a challenge] trying to get the gay media on board. They will take a chance on telling another story about Paris Hilton or Madonna for the 1,000th time before showcasing talented artists trying to make it in the music world and making a difference in people’s lives.”
The community is growing and making waves, one city at a time. HomoRevolution is only the beginning to a much greater movement in challenging dominant perceptions of hip-hop music and other art forms.
“I think there is a homo revolution going on in all the arts – musically, on TV and more and more actors are coming out,” Deadlee said. “There may be a backlash for a minute, but I think the younger generation just doesn’t give a fuck about who you sleep with. When it comes down to it, is the beat good? Are the lyrics talking to them? I also think it is important to step up to the plate and call Eminem, 50 Cent and the others on their shit. The problem is before we stayed quiet, but I for one am not gonna let anyone talk shit about me or my community! It’s a homo revolution – I will go out with a fight!”
HomoRevolution hits San Diego March 29 at The Brass Rail. Featured artists are Deadlee, Mc Flow, Soce The Elemental Wizard, Delacruz, Bigg Nugg, JFP, QBoy, Mz. Fontaine, Foxxjazell, DJ Jeffa and Shorty Roc. The show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10. You must be 21 or older to enter.
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