By Shelby Powell
When the average rap fan considers homosexuals in Hip-Hop they probably imagine prancing, stiletto wearing men with lisps and women who look like they could kick Chuck Norris’ ass behind the mic. Armed with this preconception, the path of logic will inevitably lead to a decision that Out Hip-Hop is an oxymoron.
Rap is driven by stereotypical presentations of machismo and femininity. Men are uber-aggressive in their narrow minded pursuits of money, power, respect and most importantly…pussy. Women connive their way into status by using what they got to get what they want; normally from that uber-aggressive caveman character. While all of those components can be found in the realm of Homo-Hop, the fact that these artists are openly gay is enough to weaken their commercial viability and keep them on the mainstream sidelines.
The desire to crossover in many of these artists seems to be waning though. The long-fought battle has been relatively fruitless, relegating the musicians to gay underground status and producing the occasional lyrical pot shot at the lameness of radio friendly Hip-Hop. Most seem to have come to the realization that acceptance from throngs of straight Hip-Hop lovers is beyond their grasp; hence their targeting of fans within their own community. However, a quick trip through a fantasy land where rappers are judged solely on ability would put some of these folks at the top of the Hip Hop food chain. Feel how you want about their “lifestyle choice,” the bottom line is some of these emcees are just dope.
MondoHomo, a five day festival dedicated to gay issues, politics and art descended on Atlanta for Memorial Day Weekend. Among Friday night’s offerings to the festival was The Hip-Hop Electro Clash, a rap concert featuring the best and brightest of the Lesbian/Gay/Bi-Sexual/Transgendered Community. The venue was small, the crowd even smaller, but what it lacked in size and grandeur, it more than made up for in energy and some really great music.
No offense to those who took the stage prior to rapper Last Offense, but his set left most of the other artists in the dust. The emcee toggled between original material and flows over popular tracks displaying an unquestionable grasp of live performance as well as a great lyrical style that could best plenty of better known emcees. “Massive,” a collaboration between Last Offense and Tori Fixx, tackled just that idea. The song is an admission that their orientation keeps them from the spotlight, but also a boastful statement of lyrical dominance over some of today’s radio friendly artists. And the young men are correct on both counts.
Another crowd pleaser was Benni E. The Philly native’s bohemian mix of Hip Hop and neo-soul was seamless. Song construction and flow were on point and the production was a bit out of the box but none the less funky.
She came with a stage comfort that made the audience feel like they were listening to her talk to them as opposed to watching her perform. Benni E. lived up to every claim made by her bravado-filled lyrics and was by far the highlight of the evening. This young lady could probably put most of her male counterparts in the Out Hip-Hop game to shame.
The show closed with a performance from a female duo called Kin4Life, a self contained unit who write their own rhymes, produce their own tracks and release all original material on their own label, Noriq Records. The ladies were pretty, polished and professional and it’s obvious that they’ve worked hard to hone their multiple crafts and to be taken seriously as not only rappers but the owners of the only indie label in the country helmed by two females.
Of course, the show presented layers of themes from the political to the downright raunchy. There were tales of lost loved ones, sexual encounters, as well as an occasional silicone filled titty exposure. It was your average hype ass rap concert. Yet the reality is what it is. If the average straight fan can’t relate to the lyrics or even finds disdain in them, these folks will continue to watch lesser emcees become more successful. The artists had to have known going in that being gay and being a successful rapper in today’s Hip-Hop climate are mutually exclusive. It is the noble fight. However, that fight comes with great sacrifice.
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