Ano­maly in the hip-hop in­dus­try

GA Voice - - Professional Directory -

West grew up singing in gospel choirs in his min­is­ter fa­ther’s church and later in a capella groups dur­ing col­lege, but he didn’t for­mally get into a stu­dio un­til the year 2000, as co-founder of the black, queer hip-hop group Deep Dick­ol­lec­tive (DDC).

He recorded his first solo al­bum in 2003 and pro­ceeded to roll out a se­ries of al­bums, ei­ther with DDC or solo, over the next sev­eral years while still pur­su­ing his day job as an ed­u­ca­tor.

As far as his sound goes, he con­sid­ers him­self a “golden era hip-hop head” with an em­pha­sis on the more po­lit­i­cally con­scious hiphop mu­sic that came out from 1987 to 1994.

He thought he might be done with his mu­sic ca­reer af­ter go­ing through writer’s block while briefly liv­ing in Washington, D.C. last year. That changed af­ter he ac­cepted a po­si­tion as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Teach For Amer­ica’s LGBT Com­mu­nity Ini­tia­tive and moved to At­lanta.

“Lit­er­ally within weeks of com­ing to At­lanta I just had a burst of cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion,” he says. “I think in part be­cause At­lanta has a pretty vi­brant mu­sic scene, a lot of artists and good energy.”

And out came “ICONog­ra­phy.”

West sings, em­cees and does spo­ken word on his latest, with lyrics that ad­dress var­i­ous so­cial jus­tice is­sues, in­clud­ing po­lice vi­o­lence against the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity. But he in­cludes love songs as well.

There’s also the oc­ca­sional bit of house mu­sic, which West hasn’t used since his first al­bum and which is a way for him to pay homage to black queer DJs, many of whom have passed away, like Frankie Knuck­les.

“There was some­thing about the energy and the ur­gency of their liv­ing that I think gave rise to a cer­tain cel­e­bra­tion and a cel­e­bra­tory mo­ment,” he says.

As a queer rap­per, West is a bit of an ano­maly in the hip-hop in­dus­try even now, 15 years af­ter his first al­bum.

He also be­lieves the white LGBT com­mu­nity has been slow to ac­cept mas­cu­line black LGBT rap­pers.

“I think a mas­cu­line black man in the eyes of many gay white peo­ple is still seen as a threat­en­ing pres­ence,” he says, cit­ing Kaoz, Sonny Loubang, DDm, JB Raps and I.K.P. among other black mas­cu­line LGBT rap­pers whose mes­sages aren’t res­onat­ing like they should.

Some have reached out to West as a men­tor to talk about the is­sue.

“I’ve said, you know, in­ter­est­ingly and sadly, I think peo­ple would find you less threat­en­ing in the queer com­mu­nity if you were to gay it up,” he says. “But I don’t think that peo­ple should be in­au­then­tic in their pre­sen­ta­tion and if you hap­pen to be mas­cu­line, you’re just mas­cu­line. And that shouldn’t be a threat.”

He’s more mat­ter of fact about his sex­u­al­ity with “ICONog­ra­phy,” a stark con­trast to his ear­lier work, when he felt more of a need to point it out.

“I re­ally feel like that’s re­ally what the change is, it’s get­ting peo­ple out­side of our com­mu­nity to find that there’s some­thing beau­ti­ful and mov­ing about our sto­ries, just like any­body else’s.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.