by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
Seattle Gay hip-hop artists Shit Damn Hella (SDH) and Huggy B, with local drag queen Jackie Hell and DJs Jodi Bon Jovi and Jake G, held a "Healthy Homo Hip-Hop" concert at Wild Rose on December 26. The 10 p.m. show featured all Gay performers in direct response to homophobia in the mainstream hip-hop music industry.
"There is currently a very active anti-Gay movement in hip-hop, sparked by the 'no homo' campaign launched by big-name performers," Shannon Carroll, aka Shit Damn Hella, told SGN. "These hip-hop artists post homophobic videos on YouTube."
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Urbandictionary.com lists "no homo" as a phrase used after one inadvertently says something that sounds Gay. In other words, you add the phrase to statements in hopes of avoiding a Gay double-entendre. An example would be, "His ass is mine. No homo," or "Hey man, pass the nuts. No homo."
SDH and Huggy B decided to respond to these insults with humor and a positive Gay image, performing only healthy, upbeat, comical rhymes about "the great things we experience in our Queer identities."
The show began with a special appearance by local drag queen shockstress and emcee Jackie Hell. Mixing comedy and witty vocals with bad makeup and a wig that has seen better days, Jackie Hell got the audience ready for the main event: Huggy B and SDH.
The Gay hip-hop duo compliment each other's style nicely. Wearing short shorts, T-shirts that said "Carb Thuggin" and SDH headbands, the boys rapped about riding bikes, eating carbohydrates, picking up a boyfriend at the local grocery outlet, and the need to support local homos. Huggy B, a veteran Gay hip-hop artist, showed off his skills as a freestyle rapper, asking the crowd to yell out things for him to wrap his rhymes around.
Although most of the night was about having a good time and celebrating Gay artists and the LGBT community in general, Huggy B and SDH used the stage as a vehicle to drive home the point that homophobia should not have a safe haven in hip-hop music. In fact, the two said, Gay hip-hop artists celebrate the true roots of the hip-hop movement, a music style that began in the streets as a community-centric outlet for young artists to express themselves.
Despite the acceptance of hip-hop music by the mainstream, a major section of the music style's fan base has a rocky connection with the LGBT community. Allegedly, "no homo" began life as East Harlem slang in the early days of hip-hop. In the '90s, the term first entered the hip-hop lexicon via Harlem rapper Cam'ron and the Diplomats crew. The term made its way into the mainstream with the help of Lil Wayne, a rapper who has used the term across cameos, mix tapes, and more boldly on his Tha Carter III LP, which was 2008's best-selling album. The phrase didn't stop with Lil Wayne; infamous rap legend Kanye West recently used the slur during his cameo on Jay Z's "Run This Town." On the track, West raps, "It's crazy how you can go from being Joe Blow to everybody on your dick - no homo."
"Basically, these hip-hop artists are telling people, including the youth that buy their CDs, that it is OK to be homophobic," SDH told SGN. "We put together this show as a response to that. To say, 'It's not okay to discriminate against the LGBT community through hip-hop.' Gay artists should be free to make any kind of music they want to - including hip-hop."
The term's appearance could be traced to the so-called "down-low brother" phrase, used to describe a closeted man demonized as a guy who spreads disease and sleeps with men while appearing to lead a "normal" life, by rappers who figured that if they said "no homo" they could distance themselves from the "down-low" phenomenon.
The most recent evidence of the "down-low" insult happened last week when the internet was abuzz with chatter that rapper Asher Roth was Gay and would soon come out of the closet. Rumors ran wild that Roth, who had one of the year's biggest hits "I Love College," was fired from his record label and was proud of his Gay lifestyle. Roth released a statement that not only put the "down-low" rumors to rest, but shocked fans and detractors alike by saying he did not think someone's sexual orientation should be an issue.
"I hate to disappoint and take away the entertainment of it all, but I am straight, not Gay. It's disheartening to know such 'news' on someone's personal life can be portrayed as fact with no viable source. This, to me, is an opportunity to expose our vulnerability to lies and manipulation through unprofessional and irresponsible news outlets, in which people consider truth," Roth's statement said. "Further, someone's sexual orientation should never be big news, as it delivers a troubling message to children that they can't be themselves without fear of judgment. Race, creed, and sexual persuasion should not just be tolerated, but understood and accepted. It's extremely disappointing that this topic would be used with intention of being hurtful."
"We are near 2010, yet race, and sex and religion still play a major role in a hate-driven society. For the love of the future and humanity & let's wake up," Roth's statement concluded.
Perhaps the notoriously anti-Gay rapper Eminem was listening. In another twist of events where acceptance trumps hate, Eminem has bowed to Gay pressure on December 28, as he agreed to refrain from performing lyrics that could be perceived as being homophobic during an upcoming summer festival in the United Kingdom.
The SDH and Huggy B "Healthy Homo Hip-Hop" show was one in a series of performances the two hope to book. The duo says they are ready and willing to bring their brand of comedic rhymes to whoever will listen. Like Roth, SDH and Huggy B believe in acceptance and say there is a place for Gays in hip-hop, even if the mainstream has yet to market an openly Gay hip-hop act.
"Hip-hop music is about having fun and telling a story. Commercial success in the mainstream isn't what hip-hop is about," Huggy B told SGN. "We just spread our message of non-hate and have fun doing it."
Still, as the entertainment business becomes increasingly Gay-tolerant, hip-hop will have to reassess its relationship with the LGBT community. In the meantime, Gay artists like SDH and Huggy B are helping to make hip-hop a Gayer place. If Huggy B and SDH had their way, local rap and hip-hop radio stations would play songs by Gay artists rhyming about exercise, cutting coupons, crushing out and blushing, Queers, eating carbs, and beyond. Huggy B and SDH say they will announce upcoming shows as they are booked on Facebook and in the SGN. For more information about Huggy B, visit the artist on MySpace at www.myspace.com/mchuggyb.
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