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I Am Gay
and I Am Hip-hop

I Am Gay
and I Am Hip-hop


A music industry insider explains how hip-hop helped him grow from traumatized teen to proud gay man.

Growing up in Detroit, I was raped by an adult male next-door neighbor. The incident left me emotionally and mentally paralyzed. But it started a craving and yearning for other teenage boys. I figured it was a phase. Something I would grow out of. I felt lost.

Then something happened out of the depths of New York City in 1979. A movement was being born, and it helped me discover a voice I felt had left me. I came across a song called "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang in my aunt's living room, and it sparked something in me. The voice was relatable and the message was timely. I fell in love with this new movement and its creators: Run-DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. and Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, MC Lyte, and Whodini.

In 1985 a young teenage rapper from the Hollis neighborhood of Queens had everyone listening to his Radio. His name was LL Cool J--short for "Ladies Love Cool James." This breakout sensation was energetic, masculine, and sexy. When I saw his sweaty, muscular body gyrating in his video "Rock the Bells," I fell in love with the genre all over again--and he was the reason. LL became my new fascination. This new sound not only spoke to a generation of young people across the country but also had young girls and boys lusting after its stars.

When they sported their Adidas, Kangol hats, and skin-tight Levi's, I couldn't get enough of the eye candy. Was this a ploy to spike the hormones of young men questioning their sexuality? If so, the movement grabbed me so ferociously I couldn't breathe. Long before "leaked" sex videos and naked pictures of celebrities became the popular marketing ploy, Father MC became the first to bare all--for Playgirl. I rushed out to get my copy. I constantly stared at his naked, dark body.

The messages in the songs were equally satisfying to my soul. The music gave me a reason to understand the power of words, of being confident, strong, black, and proud. It also gave America another reason to acknowledge the power of black youths.

As the years went by and record labels got involved, hip-hop went from powerful voices, fun times, and party anthems to gangster thugs, killing machines, and beef rivalries. Yet the homoeroticism remained in the videos, magazines, and CD covers. These hard-core thug rappers were more than happy to display their chiseled, worked-out bodies--bulky chests, ripped abs, huge biceps, and sagging pants. I and many gay men across America wanted a thug--as Luther Vandross sang so eloquently--"if only for one night."

There was Big Daddy Kane (what did his name really mean?), Chuck D (there is nothing sexier than an inspiring, outspoken intellect), 50 Cent (his muscular body and no-holds-barred gangster mentality), DMX (a true dog), Naughty By Nature (Treach--need I say more?), Common (the sexiest rapper to hit the scene), Nelly (a country boy with an adorable Southern drawl), and Tupac (the epitome of the urban bad boy).

Years later I found myself no longer merely a fan but working in the thick of hip-hop at MTV Networks. I got to meet a lot of my idols and many of my crushes like Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye, Snoop Dogg, Sean "Diddy" Combs, the Wu-Tang Clan, and Will Smith. I also found myself romantically linked to some of the most adored members of hip-hop, and became part of their "down-low" underground. From one perspective, nothing changed. They were men like me, seeking love, acceptance, and self-identity in a male-dominated environment full of ego and machismo.

However, working with them afforded me another insight into hip-hop. It was a force to be reckoned with. I was a part of it. I was no longer a young boy questioning my sexuality and lusting after these sexy men. I had grown into a man, a proud gay man working to help make the genre a phenomenon--a gay man ready to come all the way out. Man, I love hip-hop.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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