If the “hood” is more interested in black gay rappers — and if the media is as “in love” with the idea of an out artist as DDm says — are hip-hop industry insiders ready for an LGBT MC?
“The interest is there. Whether they are super-serious, I don’t know,” DDm clarified. He finds that as he promotes himself in the business to PR people, record companies and possible managers, “they are all interested.” But DDm stressed that, just as it is for any other artist, hip-hop industry insiders want someone who can package and promote themselves — and make money, gay or straight. “When they see the financial benefits of it, then of course you will have every major company wanting to sign an out hip-hop artist. Do I think they are just going to pick one of us, because we are so talented? They don’t even do that with artists in general.”
But the outspoken rhymer is just as concerned with making it in the right way as he is with making it big.
“Let’s face it, when you look a the media — especially as a young, black, gay male — we’re being portrayed as some girl’s sidekick on a reality show. I’m getting tired of being the fashion queen,” the Baltimore native related. “Gay people are way more three-dimensional than that. And not to discount those representations in gay life, but we always see those representations of gay life. What about the kid that might be a little bit country, or a little bit rock and roll, but you might be a little spicy? Like me, I go to balls, but I do hip-hop ciphers all the time. But that vision is not showcased. Either I have to be a super homothug or saying ‘yessss!’ If you’re in the middle, they just don’t want to see you. As gay people we know the nuances of what all the gay personalities are. We can’t leave that up to straight people to determine what we as a gay hip-hop demographic should look like.”
If the time comes when Baron, Foxxjazell and DDm make it to the big time, they are prepared for the mixed reactions they might receive. If they had to walk into a meeting with the Young Money Crew, which is run by superstar Lil Wayne and features big names like Drake and Nicki Minaj, they are ready for a range of reactions.
Foxxjazell is realistic. “I think the reaction would be to basically automatically close up. Be on their guard. I don’t think the reaction would be that embracing, or that the reaction would be off the bat transphobic or homophobic.”
DDm believes business would be the prime measure — after assessing talent. “First thing they are going to tell me is, ‘Let me hear something.’ Then I’m going to rap for ‘em. Then they’re going to be like, ‘Okay… that’s cool.’ They’re going to look crazy for a little bit,” he laughed. “Then they’re going to be like, ‘What’s your Twitter following? What’re your YouTube numbers?’ Then they’re going to start getting technical with me, just because that happens a lot — not to sound horrible — but when you’re actually good, people start to get technical with you. Because then it’s like, ‘Well, we can’t say he’s not good. Now let’s get to the numbers. What do the numbers look like?’”
Baron agreed. “I think they are going to approach it first by asking, ‘Do you have skills.’ Second, ‘What are your numbers.’ They’re going to approach it like a business. Like they probably approach Nicki Minaj, or Drake. Can they sell me.”
Ultimately, that means it’s about the fans. Are the fans are willing to buy 10 million units from an out gay artist?
“I definitely think so,” Foxxjazell immediately stated. “I think that from my experience looking at the business, anyone with mediocre talent can be polished to be that next big thing.”
Sadly, there are people that — no matter how much “polish” is applied — will maintain a bitter hatred of gays.
“I have a thing,” DDm said very smartly. “For every Coke there’s a Pepsi. And at the end of the day, there is always going to be an anti-movement to every movement, no matter what you do. To quote Mother Tyra Banks, if you create the bait, that means you’re doing something special. If people are indifferent about you, then you’re not really making a change. So, I actually think that it’s necessary to have people who are continuing to be ignorant and act like it’s not 2012, because that is making the other people in the other parts of the world think, ‘You know what? You’re really a douche. And let’s examine this a little bit more.’ I think that a lot of people don’t like bullies.”
And a transgender artist — is the world ready for that?
“I can definitely say no to a point,” Foxxjazell answered, “because I believe that for them to be more open to a transgender artist, a gay artist needs to come in and open that door. The reason I [also] say yes, is because, if it were to happen it would have to happen with a major cosigner — and major backing. Because there are still gay people that are not comfortable with transgenderism. If I spit like Jay-Z, or have the talent of Eminem, that would not make a big difference, if I did not have the support or the major backing that I needed to get to the next level, because of the fact that so many people are uncomfortable with my presentation and my gender.”
Until the moment comes when Foxxjazell, Baron and DDm have to wrestle with these broader questions, as out gay rappers they will continue to enjoy their very broad appeal. They might not be “Cash Money millionaires,” but they are performing for large college crowds, touring Europe, and connecting with diverse audiences of all persuasions around the globe.
Yet, it would help these artists break through if the closeted members of the mainstream rap community contributed to the struggle. “I think that in order for us to elevate to the next level of acceptance in the hip-hop culture we’re going to need people from behind the scenes that are in powerful positions to step up to the plate, because I have interned at a couple of record labels myself,” Foxxjazell said. “I know a lot of people that are A&R people and people that own these record labels — I’m not going to say their names out of respect for them — that are homosexual and lesbian, and have the power to get these things done, but choose not to do so, because of the fact that they don’t want to look [gay] or have the fingers pointed at them.”
The biggest barrier to the acceptance of an out gay rapper might be this type of mental or emotional block, more than a social one. Perhaps people are just having a hard time conceptualizing it, or are too quick to remember the broad rejections of the past. But with the collective tide of opinion changing so rapidly, the time seems right. It just hasn’t happened — yet.
DDm believes, “I think it’s only a matter of time.”
Baron had a sentiment for the mainstream black community on this issue that is a bit more intimate. “The one thing I would say is, ‘I’m part of the culture, too.’ That’s what I would say,” he told theGrio when asked if he had a message for African-Americans specifically. “People seem to think that because hip-hop has this homophobic bubble over it, that homosexuals don’t like hip-hop. And I think that’s the error. Because I love hip-hop. I love it.”
LISTEN: The Last Taboo – LGBT Hip Hop Cypher 1.0 Presented by the NYPL and Souleo Enterprises LLC
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb
These artists took part in a series being created and produced by Souleo Enterprises, LLC and presented by the New York Public Library on hip-hop, performance culture, gay identity and homophobia. By openly expressing their identities, the artists hope to facilitate greater universal acceptance — while rocking the house.