Up the Mic - Opening Montage (2005, part)
This is Queer Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and this month's show will explore the world of Gay Hip Hop. You might also call it Gay Rap, Homohop or Queerhop but it all boils down to music of a genre that's not at all been very open to GLBT artists. So I'm going to try to share with you the history and a number of the artists braving this world. You'll also hear about the new documentary film on the subject called "Pick Up the Mic," and the first regional gay hip hop tour, called the Homo Revolution Tour 2007. I have interview clips from a number of artists but my special interview is with Tori Fixx, a veteran of the ground breaking group Rainbow Flava, and he's had widespread contributions to the culture.
The show started off with part of the opening montage of the film "Pick Up the Mic" and then segued into "La Revolucion," the title track from the debut album by Bigg Nugg, a member of the Homo Revolution tour. I guess I need to say that researching this project was very interesting, and I was amazed at how many GLBT artists I found doing rap or hip hop. Of course I will not be able to cover them all, and I'm glad that there are too many to cover in one show. And the number is growing every day.
One big challenge I had with producing this show is one that is inherent with the genre itself, the language. A big element of what comprises rap or hip hop is its motivation. Its spirit includes expressing anger against the system, or just the freedom to say what you want, how you want, with no boundaries to the subject matter, with sex and violence and politics being the common themes, themes that actually real people talk about. Many of the important songs contain language that the FCC will just not permit. So how do you put together a show like this for broadcast radio? Very carefully.
I've reluctantly had to do a little editing on some of the songs, you'll probably know when, and many artists have a wide enough collection of material that I could pick radio-friendly songs. But there are many songs that can not and should not be edited. You'll find some of those on Part 2 of this special, found on my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com
Now since this is a history show, I want to deal early on with the matter of, okay, who had the first gay rap song? With any genre, that's a grey area. I'm not sure there is one correct answer to it. If you talk about rap in general the nod is often given to the Sugar Hill Gang's 1979 hit, "Rapper's Delight." Perhaps that's just the first hit people think of. If you do a google search on the words "first rap song" you'll find enough information to conclude that there's no one answer to the question.
Now of course I did internet searches on the "first gay rap" or "first gay hip hop" song. And I found mention several times of the song you've been hearing in the background. It's by Man Parrish, who in the 80's was an influential figure in the genre of electronic dance music. One article I found gave the opinion that the song you've been listening to, "Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop)," from 1984, was, and I quote, "a period-defining work that provided the basic genetic material for modern acts and remains an undisputed classic of early hip hop and electro to this day." Well, that was the opinion. Here's a little bit of the song at regular volume, displaying the very few vocals of the recording.
Man Parrish - Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop) (1984)
Personally, while I'm willing to allow that the early electro rhythms could have had some influence, I also wonder if some writers glombed on giving that song credit due to its name, "Hip Hop Be Bop." The widespread mention could have been a result of lazy research repeated on the internet. The answer on that track may be somewhere in the middle, but to me it sure bears little resemblance to what we now think of as rap or hip hop.
I went into all that because if you search the net on the question, you'll find it mentioned and now you can form your own thoughts on it. I'm not willing to give it credit as the first gay rap or gay hip hop song for another reason. I've got an older one.
John Callahan Interview
In Los Angeles in 1981, two men got together from very different music scenes. Their names were John Callahan and David Hughes and their group was called Age of Consent. Their first project was a political gay rap song called "Fight Back."
I tracked down John Callahan and asked him about the start of the group.
It was formed when I came out to Los Angeles, in 1980. I didn't know anyone here and I went to the gay center and they had something about a seminar being conducted on contemporary music. It was being conducted by a guy named David Hughes. And so I went to the seminar and met David, and got into a major argument with him about disco music, and we became friends after that. And then he was putting on a Sound & Vision series. When I went down there and saw what he was doing I said, "Well, look, do you know about rap music?" And he said "no, not really." He had heard Sugarhill. And I said "why don't we do a rap, because we can put in the politics that we want and we can communicate with people, and so out of that came the "Fight Back Rap."
Tell me about that song specifically.
Well, "Fight Back" started off to be a very traditional kind of rap. If you remember the early rap, they were bragadocieos. They were like, I'm really a king, I can get all the women I want. And so what we did, we wrote about each of our kind of personalities at the time, where David used to go to this dark sort of leather bar, where they had sort of avant garde music, European music, and that was the one way. And I was more promiscious, to be honest, and so we decided, let's play off of that. And that's what we did, but we wanted also to end it with a very strong message as to what the hell should happen if someong hassles you, which is you have to fight back
Here's their first song, called "Fight Back"
Age of Consent - Fight Back (1981)
Callahan and Hughes were soon joined by Thea Other, adding a feminist perspective, and the trio performed widely around the L.A. area, at clubs, political benefits and on the radio, before disbanding, around 1984. They were generally known for their live performances and most of their music was not released at the time. Their song "Fight Back" did end up on an avant garde various artists spoken-word compilation in 1983 called "English as a Second Language." Fortunately in 2004 a collection was released capturing their contribution to our culture. The CD is called "Age of Consent: Old School on the Down Low."
I've got more to the interview with John Callahan and that and more of their music can be found on the internet version of my show.
I'm going next to one of the more well known acts, whose name I always have to pause before pronouncing, Me'Shell Ndegeocello. She got a lot of attention in 1996 with the song "Leviticus: Faggott."
Ndegeocello - Leviticus: Faggot (1996)
Me'Shell Ndegeocello and "Leviticus: Faggot" from her album "Peace Beyone Passion," and I broke into that song with a bit of the end of the song "Girlfriend." On that track Me'Shell was a guest artist helping out Queen Pen, and that song also got a lot of attention. I can only play the chorus for now, but on Part 2 you can hear all the lyrics.
Now, as you can see, there was queer hip hop or rap going back to the early 80s, but it wasn't until around 1996 that a community started to evolve, and that was due to a large extent to the efforts of an artist in the Bay Area named Dutchboy. He founded the group Rainbow Flava and reached out to other queer artists. In 1998 he founded Phat Family . That's spelled P-h-a-t Family, and it's a loose collective of artists and also a record label, and I think a remarkable one, in that it's been a conduit for many GLBT hip hop artists from all over to get exposure, on the several compilation albums that have been released.
The group Rainbow Flava lasted until about 2001 and its membership varied from time to time but other than Dutchboy one of the most visible contributors was Tori Fixx, and they both can be heard on a song from the album from 2000 called "Digital Dope." Here's a bit of the song "Freaky"
Rainbow Flava - Freaky (2000)
Tori Fixx Interview
I'm very pleased to bring you an interview now with Tori Fixx, and I started out asking about his catalog of work.
I've read a bio of you online and it went on for several paragraphs about your recordings and productions and guest spots and by the time I'd finished I was a bit overwhelmed. How many solo recordings have you done, and how many collaborations?
Ah, the collaborations, I really it's been so many I cannot count. My solo work I've done "Code Red," the new CD that's out now, will be my sixth official release
In what time frame?
Starting with my "Impact" CD, in '98.
One interesting thing on your resume is that in the mid-90s you were sort of the on-call DJ for Prince.
Actually I was one of his he had two personal DJs and it was another guy and myself
I want to pause to ask about terminology, what is the difference between rap and hip hop?
The difference to me has always been hip hop was much more hip hop was the fun stuff, hip hop was the more universal and light-hearted material, as opposed to rap was always the harder, more aggressive, you know, just part of the genre. I guess I compare it to like rock & roll and heavy metal. It's like you have the rock bands, and then you had heavy metal which was a lot harder, a lot more aggressive, a lot angrier, a lot more raw. And that's kind of what hip hop and rap was always to me.
Musically are they that different?
Ah, now I'd have to say no, the lines have kind of been blurred, but when hip hop really began to take off it was, definitely the sound of hip hop was, you know, the music itself was light-hearted, it was you know, fun music, it was music you could realy sit back and listen to any time of the day for the most part, and really enjoy it. As for rap it was always lots of hard beats, minor chords, not as musical as hip hop was, be it a hip hop sample or whatever the case may be, live instruments. Rap was just a little more stripped down, a lot more raw, and aggressive, even musically.
Tell me about your work with Rainbo Flava
Ah, Rainbow Flava was my first group, ever, it was my first experience with collaborating with other people, as far as sharing ideas musically, image-wise, just across the board. I had just moved to San Francisco, I think it was around '97 and I'd already heard of Rainbow Flava and I eventually met up with them and just started sitting in on rehearsals, going to their shows, and eventually I got asked by Dutchboy to kind of well, initially it wasn't to join Rainbow Flava, it was to be like an opening act, so I would just I still got to Tori Fixx and open for Rainbow Flava and eventually the lines just kind of blurred there because there was such a chemistry amongst all of us, that I just started incorporating my material with their material on stage. And before I knew it it was just Rainbow Flava material. So that was the beginning of it and then we went on to record our second CD, they already had a CD released, so their second CD which was "Digital Dope" that was our second CD, and we recorded that and toured behind that, and after that I went on to do more solo material.
What was your involvement with the film "Pick Up the Mic"?
"Pick Up the Mic," wow, I was priveledged enough to be one of the I believe 12 featured artists in the film. I was lucky that the majority I'd say half of the artists in the film I have produced or worked with at some point in time. A lot of the artists ended up, or I should say, the director ended up using a lot of the material that I did produce for the other artists, like Deadlee, Johnny Dangerous, Rainbow Flava, so I really lucked out there. On top of that there was some underlining score music that they asked me to contribute, so I did contribute to that as well.
Sounds like a family affair.
It kind of is, if I can help it, it generally is.
So, the film is finished. What did you get out of the film?
Wow, just so much, so much more than really financially and money could buy not only have I travelled all over the country and even internationally with the film I got to meet so many people and introduce them to for them this new type of music, this new community, this new thing that they really did not know existed. And it was such universal display of emotion and reactions time and time again, so many people were just shocked that this community, this gay hip hop community existed.
A couple years ago Kanye West openly denounced other rappers' gay-bashing in interviews. Have you seen any changes in that climate since then?
No, not at all, not at all.
That was a short answer.
I apologize, it just for me that's a really sensitive area just because I get to answer that question in depthly sometimes, a lot of people are like "okay, isn't it great that Kanye said this, and stood up for you all?" Well, he really did not. Kanye made a statement in regards to something that was personal to him. He had a family member who came out, and he had to deal with his own homophobia, you know, basically towards his own family member. I took it more of a defense of that, something that was personal to him at the moment.
As for the community it really did nothing for, you know, GLBT artists who are hip hop artists, some that are trying to break into mainstream. He didn't hire anyone that is openly GLBT at all, and say, look, it's okay, this is cool, you know, I've hired this person or this person is on my staff or I'm producing a song for this artist who happens to be a lesbian emcee, or rapper, or group. I think that would have been a greater statement and something to really look at and recognize and think about, but most people in just the hip hop community and the music scene in general didn't really bat an eyelash at it.
How did you get involved with the Homo Revolution Tour?
I was invited by Deadlee and his manager Camillo [Arenivar] I want to say back in September. Deadlee had contacted me and told me he had the idea for a tour, and if I would be interested in going it would be in the Spring, and of course, if Deadlee calls, nine out of ten times I'm going to go. And there were no specific details and outline just yet, but he said it definitely was going to be something to come to light, and we're definitely going to have this happen, so of course I was on board from the beginning and now it has defintely come to pass and it is going to happen and it is starting to get larger than I think any of us had anticipated, but I think that's a wonderful thing.
I think larger in two ways, both with people being added in different cities and the impact of the tour is larger
Indeed, indeed, there's so many people and I'm hoping that people do come out in droves, even for curiosity sake. There's so many people who just have no idea what this is about or how this could be happening, or, can this really be done, I'm really hoping they come to see the talent that lies out there and the quality of the material and this is just a small group of artists, even though it's a large roster, it's still a small portion of how big this community is worldwide.
It seems like "Pick Up the Mic" and the Tour are really two big thrusts for gay hip hop.
Ah, enormous, I cannot tell you how blessed I am just to be able to be a part, especially of "Pick Up the Mic," when there are so many more artists out there, and I got to be one of the twelve featured in there, and I can't tell you how much that has done, and will continue to do for those artists that are featured in the film.
I want to mention that I've seen the film, and think it does an excellent job at covering today's world of queer hip hop. It's not out on DVD yet, but those of you with access to the Logo channel may be able to catch it there.
I love your song "Marry Me". Tell me about it
"Marry Me" was one of those songs that for many people it really depends on your interpretation of that song. To me it's just a love song. It is a love song, and yes I use the, you know, the f-bomb, in there, but really that was placed in there to display how much one human loved another. They were so in love and it was so passionate and so intense that it was basically like forget the world, forget everything, and I think when you use kind of the f-bomb in there it puts a heavier statement or just a bigger stamp on how much, you know, I was in love, or the storyteller wants to marry this other person, and for us being gay men made it an even stronger statement. And at the same time I had written that song it was the big war on gay marriage, like, all across the nation, it was really kind of the first major attack coming from the President and Congress and all of that that was going on in every state, and so really the song kind of came about in that area, and it was somewhat my answer to everyone even I had friends questioning if they approved of gay marriage or not, and I'm like, well, you love me but you're not sure if I deserve to be married, so "Marry Me" had a lot of layers to it as far as meanings and definitions and what it stood for.
And how it's been received.
People loved it. Shockingly enough, I was really surprised. People loved it so much. As a matter of fact, when Matt Wobensmith heard the song he was the one who jumped on my case and jumped into the project and, you know, the entire "Marry Me" album was born. He wanted to put it out as single, which we had a maxi-single, with a few remixes and a couple of bonus tracks, and I created a few more tracks which he enjoyed them so much he really wanted to try to push for an entire CD, which at that point was not a difficult thing for me to do.
Tori Fixx - Marry Me (2004)
this comment in an article by writer and television producer Herndon Davis,
and I found it very interesting and wanted to get your comments on it.
I would have to agree with him. I probably could not have said it better myself. It's another one of those things as well where it's very sad because even with a lot of press, say like with the Homo Revolution Tour the thing you seem to find out most is more people are focused on your sexuality than the merit of your work. There's so many people that know "okay, Deadlee is just a gay rapper, Tori Fixx is a gay hip hop artist." But the whole thing is "he's gay." Not "wow, he's really good" or "God-des is amazing" or "the CD is great" it's first and foremost their sexuality, and it seems to stop there. Some people, yes, break through to the other side and get to hear the music and find new artists that they like and enjoy, but the majority right now, you know, still just hold you at your sexuality and everything is still based off of that.
Tell me about your new album "Code Red"
"Code Red," wow, "Code Red" is not only my sixth release, it kind of marks my tenth year as being an openly gay recording artist, more specifically, recording hip hop artist. And "Code Red" really both vocally, musically, it sums up, and it taps into everything I've done up until this point, so there's little elements from all of my past CDs, and then it also offers a little bit more, as far as who I am now as a person and as a musician in general. It gives a little taste of what the future is probably going to look like for Tori Fixx as well. It's also a good CD, I always say, for anyone who really jumps on the Tori Fixx bandwagon for the first time, this is a great place to start, I think. I've been proud of all of my CDs thus far, but I've never been more proud of a CD as this one.
Of what song that you've recorded are you the most proud?
Wow, you know, any song that has attained enough reaction from people to email me or let me know in concert or either way someone has communicated with that it has affected their lives so much, and it's hard to name one song. I have my favorites but the songs that I'm most proud of are the songs that, and there are not a lot of them, but the songs that have moved people and that is an accomplishment that you can't buy, you can't pay for that.
What song gets the most audience reaction?
The most audience reaction it depends on the city, and really the crowds. "Why Does It Matter" gains and usually gets a lot of reaction, people love that song. Geez, what else? It would probably have to be a lot of the songs ah, well, classic in itself, probably the fan favorite is "Breakthrough." I have to say that universally across the board from Toronto to San Diego "Breakthrough" is probably the big fan favorite right now, and big thanks to "Pick Up the Mic." That was kind of like the theme song around that film.
Would you talk a moment about that song?
"Breakthrough" is not just for GLBT artists, but for any artists in general who are chasing their dreams musically, it is really from my heart and myself just saying "all I'm looking for is a breakthrough." Yes, it would be nice to be as big of a star as Madonna, and that's great but my dreams and hopes really surround with me just being able to get my foot in the door of entertainment and do what I love to do, which is make music, produce music, DJ to be able to do that and make a living, comfortable living doing that. I think if everyone gets a chance to do what they love in this world, and make a living from doing that, I think so many people would be so much happier and that's what "Breakthrough" is really about. It's not asking for anything more or anything excessive, it's just saying all I'm really looking for is simply a breakthrough, and the directors from "Pick Up the Mic" really had just taken to that song and overall like the theme of "Pick Up the Mic" that's kind of what sums it all up in a nutshell, in a three-minute nutshell "Breakthrough" just sums what everybody is doing in relating to in "Pick Up the Mic."
Tori Fixx - Breakthrough (2003)
More of the Tori Fixx interview can be heard on the internet version of this show.
Tori Fixx QMH ID
And this is a good time to invite you to check out my website. If you visit it while you're listening you can see the playlist and follow along, while looking at photos of the artists and recordings. I've always considered our music history as a visual as well as an audio experience. Again, that's at www.queermusicheritage.com, Also, for more very queer programming, please listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Friday night/Saturday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT, it's Queer Radio, with attitude.
"Pick Up the Mic" clip
That was the voice of Tim'm T West and he was a founder of an act very important to the history of gay hip hop. They were and still are called Deep Dickollective, also known as D/DC. The act was formed in early 2000 by Juba Kalamka, Tim'm T West and Phillip Atiba Goff, and a number of others have contributed over the years. They have been called intellectual architects of homohop as they deftly serve up their politics and beats with a barage of polysyllabic words. This is a group that takes close listening. From their album "The Famous Outlaw League of Proto-Negroes" is the song "We Out," and that's a quote by Bayard Rustin starting it off.
Deep Dickollective - We Out (2004)
Up next is one of the headliners of the HomoRevolution Tour. He's been called groundbreaking, confrontational, and a homothug and he's gotten a lot of press lately, with his two albums, appearances in films and at many venues, and lately he was interviewed on the CNN show Paula Zahn Now, discussing homophobia in hip hop. His name is Deadlee and here's a bit of his song "Nasty.
Deadlee - Nasty (2006)
Deadlee is another artist who believes in collaborations and he has a very interesting one with Johnny Dangerous called "Crack Hit." I can't play that one on this show but here's one by Johnny called "Topsy Turvy."
Johnny Dangerous - Topsy Turvy (2003)
Johnny Dangerous is another Homo Revolution Tour headliner and is known for his outspoken, in-your-face sexuality. His first album, "Dangerous Liaisons" was nominated for two Outmusic Awards and a CD single has already been released from his upcoming album, to be called "Gayngsta Glam."
"Pick Up the Mic" clip
Another act getting a lot of attention is God-des and She. Their first album, "Reality," also got an Outmusic Awards nomination and they recently performed their song "Lick It" on the TV show "The L-Word." Here's a new single by them called "Love You Better."
God-des & She - Love You Better (2007)
Oh, their voices go so well together. God-des and She.
I'm down to the last song, but before I get to it I want to thank you all for listening, and I want to especially thank Tori Fixx for the wonderful interview, and Alex Hinton, the director of "Pick Up the Mic," for providing me with sound clips from the film. And as I had expected, Tori's interview was so good that I could not fit all of into the radio version this show, so my internet listeners can hear an extended version with a lot more comments and additional music. And as I mentioned at the start there are many many songs that not only would fit into the radio version for time reasons but also for language concerns. That's not a concern on the continuation of this show. That of course can be found at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, as always if you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston.
It was hard to pick a closing song for this segment but the one I picked is a duet by Dutchboy and Shante Smalls, now going by Shante Paradigm. Together they form the group called B.Q.E. and the song is called "Understand/Overstand." During my interview with Tori Fixx I asked him from a history point of view what artist I could just Not leave out of this show.
From a history point of view, what gay rap artists can I just Not leave out of my show?
I personally have to go with Dutchboy, my old roommate and partner from Rainbow Flava. I could talk about that man for so long and go and on, so I'll try to keep it short and sweet, but I can't see anyone ever mentioning gay hip hop without mentioning Dutchboy
B.Q.E. - Understand/Overstand (2003)
Miss Money - Xcursion (2002)
Welcome back to Queer Music Heritage. This is JD Doyle and you're listening to Part 2 of my special on gay hip hop, and I've got a lot of ground to cover. For one, you'll hear the rest of my interview with Tori Fixx, and as this is the internet version of the show, well, I do not have to worry about censoring the music or choosing songs that are "radio friendly." I started this part with Houston's own Miss Money, and that track was called "Xcursion," and I got it from the Phat Family compilation from 2002 called "Down 4 the Swerve." I definitely recommend the three Phat Family compilation CDs if you want to check out a lot of artists with very little effort.
One of the artists who has been included on a Phat Family album is Jenro. Her latest album is called "Hate It or Love It" and from it is the song "Try It."
Jenro - Try It (2006)
That was Jenro and a little of her song "Try It." On Part 1 of this show I teased you with a bit of the song "Girlfriend" by Queen Pen. I couldn't play that song on broadcast radio, so here's your chance to check out the lyrics.
Queer Pen - Girlfriend (1997)
And here's a variation on the same theme, from a couple years earlier
CWA - Chickenhawk (1995)
That was a little of the song "Chickenhawk" from the group CWA, and I can't tell what that stood for. Well, I can, but I just don't use that word. The track came from the 1995 compilation "Outpunk Dance Party."
In Part 1 of the show I told you about Dutchboy. Well, I want to share just a bit of an interview with him. It was done in August of 2003 at KPFT studios, on Jimmy Carper's After Hours Show. I was very pleased to have been invited to take part and you'll hear Jimmy and myself and Dutchboy and Miss Money. And incidentally part of this interview was used in the film "Pick Up the Mic."
We pick up the conversation as Dutchboy was describing the honorary award he had received a couple months earlier at the Outmusic Awards in New York.
After Hours Dutchboy & Miss Money Interview clip #1 (2003)
And, here's another part of that interview that I think is kind of fun.
After Hours Dutchboy & Miss Money Interview clip #2 (2003)
Dutchboy and Miss Money to say the least were very generous in their comments.
And this would be a great time to play Dutchboy's song "Funky Bisexual." It can be found on his BQE CD, from 2003.
Dutchboy - Funky Bisexual (2003)
Tori Fixx Interview, Continued
As promised, I want to continue my interview with Tori Fixx. There was just so much that did not fit on Part 1 of the show.
Tell me about the song "Sweet Playa"
"Sweet Playa" was initially a Tori Fixx track from my first CD, "Impact," and Dutchboy actually really liked the song, he liked it a lot actually, and wanted to be a part of it in some way. So we decided to re-record it and add a verse from him and really, I guess, from what he had taken from my story and the song that I had written was great, cause he added on his story, and it kind of grew into this bigger thing. It was a fan favorite for a lot of people. But for me personally it was just kind of it was an angry song for me. You know, I have a tendency to date abroad, all types of races, and it was really just kind of a track almost about revenge, you know, just getting back at the people who only dated me for my skin color, and that's kind of what, just being the victim of the sweet playa was.
Rainbow Flava - Sweet Playa (2000)
There are many artists who may add some hip hop to their repetroire, but what makes someone a hip hop artist?
I think and it really depends what the artist identifies with I like to use Lauren Hill as an example sometimes because she does both sing and emcee, and she has always considered herself to be more hip hop than anything. She actually started in a hip hop group, the Fugees, which was predominately just rapping and emceeing, she did some vocal stuff within the group, but she's always claimed herself to be that. So I really think it depends on the artist and where they feel comfortable identifying themselves.
And what is emceeing?
Emceeing is just another way it's the proper term of saying rapping. Everybody's like, oh he raps, or she raps, it's the proper terminology really is she is an emcee, or he is an emcee, you know, someone who controls the crowd and commands the crowd with what they do on the microphone.
I love the statement that your song "Anthem" makes.
"Anthem" is one of those songs directed at those who are homophobic in music, or actually homophobia in general. "Anthem" is just basically saying, "you can not stop us, we're not backing down, we're not afraid, we possess just talent as any of you musically" as well as giving a little bit of history as far as gay hip hop, or emcees or rappers or musicians have always been around. They necessarily may not have come out, but they're there, they always have been there. And whether you care to admit it or not this has always been. Now it's just coming to the forefront, so whether you want to accept it or not, we're here and we're not going anywhere, at all. And that's kind of where "Anthem" has come from.
Tori Fixx - Anthem (2004, with Katastrophe, Dutchboy, Aggracyst)
That was "Anthem" featuring the talents of Tori Fixx, Katastrophe, Dutchboy and Aggracyst.
I've read that the name of the Homo Revolution tour was inspired from a scene in PICK UP THE MIC, where gay hip hop pioneer Juba Kalamka makes the statement, "Queer boys doing hip hop is a revolutionary act". Do you agree with that quote?
I do agree with that, and Juba Kalamka is a very wise man. He has many quotes and just little sporatic sayings that you sometimes just have to sit back and think about, but yes, I do agree with that.
Can you tell me about your song "Area Code 404" with Johnny Dangerous
That was actually, and thank you for asking, that was actually a continuation to my song "Marry Me." They were both about the same person. I was in love with someone, which I wrote "Marry Me" about, you know, just our feelings and relationship and just how strong our love was and then there was the whole heartbreak and the downside of it and when we had separated it was a lot of back and forth, it was not just one easy clean separation. There were a couple, I should say, many levels of the breakup, and he happened to be from the Atlanta area, which is their area code, one of them, is 404. And I had tapped Johnny Dangerous who I was working with him at the time on his new record who had also lived down in the Atlanta area, and had a story about an ex of his from there, so I just kind of put two and two together and we ended up with a really great song, vocally and the track itself, the music itself is an entirely different story, so it's kind of the short version of "Area Code 404."
I kind of got caught up listening to it. Like, oh, this is a hip hop love song, and then, oh no, it's a hip hop break up song
Right, right, and that's what really the music itself is we kind of did it in a Kanye West type format, where you took a slow song sped it up and just kind of gave it a they call it southern bounce, everything about it was very southern, and unfortunately it was a sad song and a breakup song
Tori Fixx & Johnny Dangerous - Area Code 404 (2004)
Let's go back a few years, tell me about the song "Take Care of U"
"Take Care of U" wow, there's a song that has probably brought the most controversy into my career, I guess moreso because it is a song about people who are positive, and I guess I'll say HIV positive, it takes on that issue from both sides. And really what "Take Care of U" is saying in general is for those who are, I was really aiming it at people who are having unsafe sex and who are not, you know those who are positive, either way, it's like either way you kind of have a responsibility to, you know, either inform your partners that you are positive, especially if you are having unsafe sex, or, please, you know, use safe sex. And for those on the other end who are it was kind of way I was dealing with, and I've been in that position as well, those with the low self-esteem that will do anything when you're with a beautiful man or a beautiful woman, and you're not thinking about, you know, they could be infected, or you could be infected with this or that, or whatever may be, but just think, you know, please just take some time to think. And the way, when you write a song you don't get to express everything as much as you do like in an interview, or explain things in full, so there were a few lines in there that people were like "hey, what does this mean" or "why did you day that" or "are you saying this about all HIV positive people are not sexy, or this" no, that's not what I'm saying, and so there was a lot of controversy, a lot of emails surrounding that song.
Tori Fixx - Take Care of U (2002)
Hip hop hasn't always been popular with gay audiences, do you feel it hard to get the attention of the gay press, much less the mainstream press
Believe it or not, press has been very good to me. I really have to thank especially Out Magazine, the Advocate, press has been wonderful gay audiences in general I think still have a hard time with hip hop, whatever the reason may be. They haven't fully embraced hip hop yet, especially GLBT hip hop, and that's kind of sad because if anything I know the majority if artists that are doing this, are doing this for people like us, the queer community. And it's very difficult and very frustrating when the queer community still isnt really acknowledging you, or accepting you, or just basically treating you like any other artist out there across the board. And it hurts me very much to know that so many artists are busting their butts and working really hard to find acceptance, funny as that may sound, to find acceptance within the queer community.
What do you see as the future of gay hip hop?
This actually, JD, is the hardest question of the day. I'm I'm worried about gay hip hop, the future of it, and not for reasons that people may think. This is actually the first time I get to answer this question publicly and openly. But in all honesty I'm worried about the future of gay hip hop because of the upcoming artists, not the guys and the girls who have been there and have been a part of the start of this movement, but the newbees, all the young cats that are coming in. I don't think they have developed any sort of respect for what has gone on and what is going on here. And I say that because there's so many I get demos all the time, or I see myspace pages, or I hear about all of these new GLBT artists that are coming out. So of course I'll investigate and go see, okay, we got a new cat coming on, he's young, what's going on? And to hear just the lack of quality put into their work, in so many ways, not just concepts and images, but overall. I take that as not just laziness but a lack of concern and lack of care, not just for your career but for community, in general.
To me it's almost a certain level of disrespect for those who have been paving the way before you, you know, people like Deadlee, who's taking death threats for doing what he does, to this day, in the 21st century, just to make a way for artists to come behind him, and have a platform to play on, or venue to play in or tour to go on. Or people like Juba Kalamka creating things like "Peace Out" but to sit and hear these artists come and there's I don't want to say no talent, but no care for what they do, no quality in what they do. That really just, for me, just shows the straight community or mainstream music America or mainstream music around the world that we are a joke, that we can't be taken seriously. We're not putting out quality material. We're not putting out anything worthy enough for radio to play, so why would they why would they want to sign an openly GLBT artist. And the future of gay hip hop worries me for that reason more than for anything else.
Very interesting comments. And I think it only appropriate to close out Tori's interview with the title track from his brand new album. I let him give a plug for the album.
"Code Red" is the new Tori Fixx album. It is the most universal record that I have, the most family-friendly there is a little bit of swearing there, but it is the most radio-friendly as well, it's a fun record overall, it really is. I would say anyone coming to Tori Fixx would want to start with "Code Red," that would be the record to buy.
Tori Fixx - Code Red (2007)
that's strong stuff. Tori Fixx and the title track from his album "Code
with something completely different, a homophobic comedy song by a straight
No Time - Gay Gangstas (1997)
Okay, you get the idea. I told you this was the uncensored version of the show. And I'm going to try to show some balance from another straight act. Now I could do a whole show on homophobia in hip hop, but I want to give one example of a rap artist who changed his ways. For example, the first four albums by the rapper named Common contained some very homophobic lyrics, but on his 2002 album "Electric Circus" he talks about a friend coming out to him and dealing with his homophobia. That's in the third verse of his song "Between Me, You & Liberation"
Common - Between Me, You & Liberation (2002, part)
Very interesting. I guess a one-minute verse about acceptance is progress. Again, this show is about gay hip hop, not homophobic hip hop, but on my site you will find some links to articles about the subject.
Up next is a very political track, and it's brand new.
Melange Lavonne - Gay Bash (2007)
That was a fairly new artist, Melange Lavonne. I've read that she released her debut album in 2005, but she says now that it didn't have a lot of significance, because it hid her sexuality. Not so her upcoming album, as it will contain tracks like the one I played, called "Gay Bash."
This next artist calls himself Soce, The Elemental Wizard, and maybe that's because he incorporates a lot of different elements into his music. Here's a taste of that with his song "Movin On."
Soce - Movin' On (2006)
Okay, I'm fading out of that one because I also want you to hear his outrageous song called "I Am So Gay." Love the Beach Boys-inspired harmonies at the beginning.
Soce - I Am So Gay (2005)
You can't get much more explicit than that song. Soce the Elemental Wizard and "I Am So Gay."
I love the way this next artist mixes hip hop and spoken word. He's Antony Antoine and I first discovered him on an album by the group Adodi Muse called "Ain't Got Sense Enuf to Be Shamed." That's a wonderfully political spoken word piece, and soon after I became aware of his solo albums. This next song comes from his CD "Closets on Fire," from 2005, and on it he got some help from Tim'm West and Craig Washington. Here's "Dontueva."
Antoine - Dontueva (2005)
And why not a Spanish language hip hop song? It was called "Tributo A Mi Tierra," and the act is called Salvimex, and besides being heard on their own album they are represented on the compilation called "Homo Revolution Tour 2007," which gives you a taste of most of the acts that participated in that tour.
While not true hip hop artists, here's a fun act I found on myspace.com. They're out of Seattle and they go by the name Team Gina. I love their tribute to butch dykes.
Team Gina - ButchFemme (2007)
This next artist is from California and she needs no help with her gay pride. That's the title of this song, and her name is Delacruz.
Delacruz - Gay Pride (2006)
Mz Fontaine - Wavin' da Flag (2006)
Welcome to Part 3 of Gay Hip Hop. I know I didn't warn you that there would be three parts, but there's just too much to include that I just didn't want you to miss, like that first artist, another that I saw on the Homo Revolution Tour. She's Mz Fontaine and that song was "Wavin' Da Flag."
John Callahan Interview, Continued
Next I'm going to continue my interview with John Callahan of the group Age of Consent. Though they haven't really been recognized as such I credit them with being the first gay rap group. My favorite of their songs is one called "Gay History Rap" and I asked John to tell me about it.
I really wanted to do a rap about the Stonewall Rebellion, and more and more people don't know anything about it. So I went to Jim Kepner at the time, and told him what I was interested in. He gave me information. I interviewed Morris Kite. I talked to sort of the gay godfathers here and we just started writing it, and all the details in there, about the women and drag queens and throwing of the coins and all that kind of stuff, that's all real. And we wanted to put those kind of details in so people would hopefully believe that what we're talking about is not a made up song, but something that actually happened.
Age of Consent - Gay History Rap (1982)
Tell me about how you chose the name of the act.
Well, coming out of the 70s, which was really a sexually liberating time I started thinking, well, what is the next big sexual conflict about, and I said it's age of consent. Age of consent is something that we don't deal with. We don't want to deal with it, and I said, that would be a really good thing to deal with, putting that name out there.
Tell me about the types of venues you performed at. I get the impression they started out as performance art types of places and then evolved into clubs and benefits.
Yeah, we performed mostly in clubs, and we performed a number of times on KPFK (Los Angeles) on their gay liberation day, which was all day Sunday, and we would bring our takes when we had tapes, and the live band when we had a live band, and perform there.
Were you aware of any one else doing openly gay rap at that time?
No, in fact I'm pretty sure that there was only one West Coast rapper. It was Ice-T, that's his name. Ice-T was it, cause I bought some of his raps cause I also used to go down to south central to the record stores and pick up what I could there.
You had two different women in the group, could you tell me about them?
Yes, the first woman was a protogee of David's, who had worked with him in the Sound & Vision series and was a very close friend of his. And so Andrea (Carney) became sort of like the woman in the group, in bringing women's issues which we wanted, we definitely wanted that. So, when we started performing however Andrea had no rhythm, and that's a terrible thing to say, if you're in a rap band. Eventually it just wasn't working so then we just put an ad in the paper saying what we wanted: we're a gay rhythm-rap group looking for a female vocalist, and Thea Other came to David's apartment and she did a little bit of rapping and she had rhythm, and I loved the way she looked, she had was all sort of punked out, and so she became a member.
Tell me about the song "Schizo Rap"
Now, "Schizo Rap" is a rap about people and this was David's, this was one of David's things that he wanted to talk about. David was working temporary in a number of offices, and he would go to work and he would see these people that he would see in the bars, and they would shun him and not talk to him about anything gay, and this really annoyed him. And so he decided that he would write "Schizo Rap" about being straight all day and gay all night.
Age of Consent - Schizo Rap (1982)
So what brought about the CD of your material?
What happened was, I started listening to my tapes, cassette tapes, cause we had recorded lots of our performances and I started listening to them, and I found a bunch that I didn't know I had. I had copies of just about everything we had done. So I called David and I asked him about it, and he said he'd look too, and so he had a bunch of copies as well. Obviously there was a period of deciding which version would go on the CD, which did take a number of weeks or even months when you have three strong personalities trying to decide on a version. But once we did decide on which versions were going to be on it then we went ahead, I think we sent it to Canada or something (to be pressed)
How would you like Age of Consent to be remembered?
Well, I would like people to acknowledge the work that we did when we did it, which is very hard, because unless something gay happens in San Francisco or New York, it hasn't happened, and I read about people claiming to be the first gay rapper, and it's like from '95 on, and it just, it makes me sad. I think Age of Consent is the first rap group to deal openly with gay politics and subject matter, barring none.
And I agree, that's why I brought you that interview.
Jon Sugar Interview
I've got another artist who also made history, for an early gay rap song, and I bet you've never heard it. I would be surprised if you had. It was written in 1981 and recorded in 1984, and while it wasn't really released at that time, it got some airplay on San Francisco radio. It's by Jon Sugar. He's a musician, journalist, comedian, songwriter, DJ, and empresario of the Gay Artists and Writers Kollective in San Francisco. The song gives a bit of social commentary and is called "Gay Type Thang." I tracked down Jon Sugar and asked him to tell me about the song "Gay Type Thang."
I recorded the song in 1984 with a band called Pray for Rain.
And why did you write it?
I'd just gotten out of a horrible relationship with someone I was with for only a year, but I was like, I was crushed for years after. I think I proceeded to committ to quatrains of the worst possible things that could happen to a person. Oddly enough the youngsters who hear it now think it's a hoot. Times change, that's for damn sure.
Did the song get any airplay?
Oh, yeah, I aired it probably half a dozen times on KPFA (Berkeley). It was aired on about a dozen college radio stations back in the day.
So was it released?
It was, you know, I pressed it as a 7" 33. I called it my 7" extended thang, there were like two mixes, so it was released independently, I pressed 500 of them, and I gave away 250 of them, sold another 200, and I think I have like 10 left, something like that.
And this was '84?
And it was recorded in '84, it was released in '88. It was written in late '81. It was recorded in '84, and it was released in '88, and it was the first the first queer hip hop single ever, alterna-boy, queer hop, hip hop single, first one, ever recorded.
Now you may be thinking, gee, I thought John Callahan just said that Age of Consent was first. Well, remember he said they were the first queer rap group, and the song "Fight Back" was probably the first gay rap song performed live, in 1981, but I'll give Jon Sugar his first for the first gay rap 7" single. I sure can't think of another one earlier. You've waited long enough, here's "Gay Type Thang."
Jon Sugar - Gay Type Thang (1984)
Jon Sugar and "Gay Type Thang."
I found this next track of particular interest from a gay music history angle. It includes guest vocals from Bishop Carl Bean. Before he was a Bishop he was known more for his 1977 gay anthem "I Was Born This Way," which I've played several times in the past on this show. He's helping out an artist going by the name Cyryus, and that's spelled c-y-r-y-u-s. She released one album, in 1998, called "The Lyricist," and then she dropped out of the business, but she's back now and can be found on myspace. Here's a little of her song "The Immaculate Deception."
Cyryus - The Immaculate Deception (1998)
That was Cyryus the lyricist.
Now, there are just a handful of transgender hip hop artists, and only one has received an Outmusic Award for Best Producer, and he did it with his debut album. He goes by the name Katastrophe, and incidentally his first album was released on the label Sugartruck Recordings, founded by Juba Kalamka of D/DC, another example of how collaborative the efforts are within this community. Here's a bit of Katastrophe's song "Oh, No." It's from his 2005 album "Fault, Lies, and Faultlines."
Katasrophe - Oh, No (2005)
And we go from that one to an artist who goes by JFP. I won't tell you what that stands for, but her name is Julie Potter and the song is called "Straight Bitches"
JFP - Straight Bitches (2006)
And this next song will change quickly. It's by Scream Club.
Scream Club - And You Belong to Me (2006)
Scream Club and their song "And You Belong To Me." They are from Olympia, Washington, and say their names are Cindy Wonderful and Sarah Adorable. Why not?
And here's a song that I think is a lot of fun. It came out in 1992 on a CD-single with four remixes, this is the hip hop mix. Now, a friend of mine has a pressing of this CD and on his copy it says the group's name is Brothers About Living, Loving & Sensuality. On my copy they are just known by their initials, BALLS. They do a remake of the O'Kaysions big hit from 1968, "Girl Watcher" with the appropriate queer changes. Here is BALLS with "Boy Watcher."
BALLS - Boy Watcher (1992)
As long as we're in a lighter vein, I've got a song by Gay Boy Ric. He was an actor, writer, comedian and sometimes singer, who sang his parodies frequently on the Howard Stern show. I have a 6-song cassette tape by him. It's undated but was probably from the late 90s.
Gay Boy Ric - I'm da Beastie Gay (late 90s)
That was "I'm da Beatie Gay" by Gay Boy Ric, who sadly died of AIDS in 2004. I'm following Gay Boy Ric with another comedy song. It's by former "Kids In The Hall" member Scott Thompson. He wrote a song dedicated to Enimem, called "Dear Marshall."
Scott Thompson - Dear Marshall (2000)
More comedy rap. Sudden Death is a comedy group popular on the Dr Demento Show. They do rap music and from their 1995 album "Brain Dead" was a song appropriate to this show called "I'm Not a Man."
Sudden Death - I'm Not a Man (1995)
And now I'd like to give an example of rap being used by a gay artist in a Christian song. The artist is out of Houston and his name is Alan Lett and he's also a producer, having worked on the last two albums by Jason & deMarco, and several others. But on his own album from 2004, called "The Noise Next Door," he featured guest rapper Ben Shallenberger, and I really like the result. Here's an edited version of the song "From Now On."
Alan Lett & Ben Shallenberger - From Now On (Second Chance) (2004)
Up next is some music from a cutie from the UK.
Qboy - Q.B.O.Y (Is Just So Fly) / Moxie / Coming Out 2 Party (2007)
You obviously figured out that artist's name is Qboy. He sent me several mp3 files and it was hard to choose, so I put together a triple play. You heard "Q.B.O.Y (Is Just So Fly)," "Moxie" and "Coming Out 2 Party." Of course that last one sampled Anita Ward's trash disco hit "Ring My Bell."
I'm going from the UK to Detroit, so you can hear Aaron-Carl. He's a talented artist, producer, remixer and DJ. The song I picked is from his 2002 album "Uncloseted." "Bring It On"
- Bring It On (2002)
Following Aaron-Carl was Cazwell, who obviously buys his socks on 14th street. That's from his 2006 album "Get Into It."
I've got to make room for the mult-talented Tim'm T West. Now I've already mentioned him as being one of the founders of Deep Dickollective, and he was one of the artists featured in the film "Pick Up the Mic." But he's also an accomplished in other areas, as a poet, educator, activist, emcee and journalist. I'm looking forward to his new album "Blakkboy Blues" and here's a preview of it, with his song "Soulmate."
Tim'm T West - Soulmate (2007)
Now here's a song with a powerful story. It's by Deadlee and he's helped out by Micah Barnes. I highly recommend you check out the video. In the song, Deadlee raps about a young Latino boy named Joey who lives in a homophobic situation. Joey is caught with his male lover by his father and is kicked out of his home. He eventually commits suicide by jumping off a bridge and into a train. The song is called "Good Soldier II," and I asked Deadlee to talk about it.
That came in response, I worked with gay youth for five years now, and I just really feel that they've gone through a lot, something they go to school and get picked on, and I've even seen some kids end up committing suicide and that whole song was just about standing up to the pressures of being gay and society and not bowing out to pressure. And there's a refrain that goes "I stand, I stand, I stand," and that's what's it about, just to stand proud. And in the video you see the boy actually jumps, but I don't think we got to go out that way
Deadlee - Good Soldier II (2006)
"Good Soldier II" by Deadlee and Barnes, and a few days before the Homo Revolution Tour hit Houston I interviewed Deadlee and the tour manager Camillo Arenivar and that complete interview can be heard on my site.
Time to bring this show to a close. I hope I brought you some of the history of gay rap or hip hop and exposed you to some of the many artists bringing this part of our culture to us. I want to thank John Callahan of Age of Consent, John Sugar, and Deadlee for the interview comments used in this segment. This is JD Doyle for Queer Music Heritage and I thank you for listening.
I'm closing the show with something a bit more upbeat, and it's very queer and proud. It's from the debut album by the artist I started the show with, Bigg Nugg. He's from Ohio but is another example of how gay hip hop artists interact with each other. I can count seven other artists who guested on his CD, and again, this is his first release. What a community. On this track is Deadlee from L.A. and Qboy from the UK, and the song is called "My Family." Here's Bigg Nugg.
Nugg - My Family (2007, with Qboy & Deadlee)