Gay Hip-Hop Challenges Genre’s Prejudices

Transgender Hip-Hop
LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA – Transgender Hip-Hop artist Foxxjazell thinks audiences are ready for her raps and rhymes.
“If people are ready for white rappers, then they are ready for me,” says the 22-year-old Long Beach resident, whose real name is Keva Jackson.
This 5’10” mocha beauty is one of 10 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rappers who will perform at a special hip-hop showcase Sunday at Mick & Mack’s restaurant and nightclub in Long Beach.
The concert also is a fund-raiser for the HomoRevolution Tour 2007.
Want a musical revolution?
A group of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rappers are fed up with hip-hop’s blatant homophobia and antigay lyrics and challenging the status quo with the HomoRevolution Tour, which hits the El Cid in Silver Lake on March 30.
Are members of the the hip-hop scene ready to accept and embrace music promoting open sexuality or gay empowerment? It doesn’t matter to these musicians, who refuse to sit any longer at the back of the bus.
“If openly gay rappers aren’t invited, then we’re kicking down the door and inviting ourselves,” says tour headliner Deadlee, who’s been described as “the bastard child of DMX and Lil’ Kim.”
“It’s our turn, and it’s about time.”
The HomoRevolution Tour is possibly the first GLBT hip-hop tour of the Pacific Southwest and will stop in 10 cities, including San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The grassroots tour has been unable to secure corporate sponsorship, and Sunday’s concert will generate funds to cover tour expenses such as food, gas, lodging and travel.
The Long Beach concert features an ethnically and gender-diverse lineup of emerging artists: JB Rap; Delacruz, who played the 2004 Long Beach Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival; Salvimex; M lange Lavonne; JFP; Dunn Deal; Best Inda Game (BIG); Cat Eyez; Dyminds N Da Ruff, and Foxxjazell.
Gay hip-hop, or “homo-hop” as it has been called in underground music circles, has been around for at least 20 years, according to music experts.
In 1986, the openly gay Man Parish released “Hip Hop Be Bop (Don’t Stop),” which is considered the first gay-rap record.
The genre didn’t catch fire with mainstream audiences, but did begin to slowly cultivate an underground following of fans and musicians.
In 2001, the first PeaceOUT World HomoHop Festival was held in Oakland and was such a hit that it has become an annual event.
Gay hip-hop was brought to the attention of the larger GLBT community and some mainstream audiences in Alex Hinton’s 2005 documentary, “Pick up the Mic,” which debuted on the gay television network LOGO last October.
The 90-minute film profiled 18 LGBT hip-hop artists throughout the world, including Deadlee and JB Rap, who perform at the Long Beach showcase.
Deadlee, born Joseph Lee, has been openly gay and rapping for seven years. He’s the tour’s most outspoken and politically charged rapper.
The lyrics on his two CDs, “7 Deadlee Sins” and “Assault With a Deadlee Weapon,” address police brutality, gay teen suicide and homophobia, among other topics.
“I enjoy the political side,” says the 33-year-old Echo Park-based singer. “I want to be a revolutionary in homo rap.
Transgender Hip-Hop“Homo rap is fresh,” he says. “It comes from a different place. There’s a struggle in it. Coming out is still tough for a lot of blacks and Latinos. There’s still a lot of hate at us for being gay.”
But not all gay hip-hop acts openly rhyme about being gay. Salvimex is a 3-year-old trio (Drastiko, Cruz and Dante) based in Echo Park. The group’s name refers to the union of two cultures and countries, El Salvador and Mexico.
On its debut CD, “Uniendo Fuerzas,” the members rap in Spanish and English slang about universal issues such as gang violence, immigration and loneliness.
But Cruz, born Jose Cruz, says his future lyrics might address his sexuality, such as past or current romantic relationships.
“I’m a gay person who makes music. I want to write songs that talk about my relationships, but not right now,” says the 24-year-old Carson resident. “When I feel the moment, I’ll do it.”
Foxxjazell represents another part of homo-hop’s musical rainbow. The 22-year-old Long Beach resident is a transgender singer blending dance music and hip-hop.
Foxxjazell says she’s doesn’t hide her identity because she wants to be a role model for other people struggling with the issue.
But that decision hasn’t been an easy one.
“In the beginning, people didn’t know what to make of me when I sang at nightclubs,” she says. “You’re more accepted if you stay in your box, a drag queen who lipsynchs.
“I’m not a drag performer. I rap with my own music.”
She also has set a high goal for herself – commercial success.
“I want to go mainstream,” Foxxjazell says. “I have something strong to say that everyone can relate to – ‘Be Yourself.’ “
At first, M lange Lavonne (real name Chandra Edinburgh) wasn’t herself.
In 2005, she released her debut CD, “M lange Lavonne,” but says it “didn’t have a lot of significance” because she hid her sexuality.
Lavonne is at work on her new CD, tentatively titled “Revolution,” and says, “on this one, everything is obvious. I’m being honest and truthful.
“I didn’t know there was a market for gay hip-hop artists,” says the 28-year-old Moreno Valley resident. “Now, I’m full speed ahead.”
One track, “Gay Bash,” was influenced by Matthew Shepard’s beating death and explores the injustices and inequality against gays and lesbians.
“It’s heartbreaking that people can’t look at me as a person,” she says. “They judge me on my sexuality.”
from The Press Telegram

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