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The Out Crowd :: "Pick Up the Mic" ushers gay hip-hop out of the closet

By Jason Newman

As a hard, thumping beat plays in the background, LA rapper Deadlee grabs the mic and starts spitting a verse before busting into a chorus of "no fags allowed." A tattooed, muscular man in standard thug gear - black, baggy pants, black bandana, wife beater - this wouldn't be particularly noticeable in a genre with a history of homophobia. But given that Deadlee is performing the track at Peace Out 2003, a festival devoted to queer hip-hop, the perceived incongruities are all the more striking.

The scene opens Pick Up The Mic, a landmark new film by director Alex Hinton chronicling the MCs and producers who make up the bourgeoning queer hip-hop movement. Premiering in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film was one of the most talked-about of the festival and was named one of the top five movies by the weekly newspaper Now Toronto (calling it "historic" and "fascinating.")

"Pick Up the Mic brought me into a culture of which I was not aware and as a music documentary, I felt that we were seeing some very talented artists who had yet to get the kind of exposure they deserved," says Sean Farnel, programmer for the festival. "There was a shared passion among them that was quite genuine and inspiring."

The 90-minute movie, edited down from over 300 hours of footage shot between 2002 and 2005, was born out of Hinton's fascination with the idea of a gay rapper - an idea he thought was purely hypothetical. "I was sure there couldn't be any openly gay hip-hop artists," he says. After an Internet search brought pioneering queer hip-hop groups Rainbow Flava and Deep Dickollective (D/DC) to his attention, Hinton was surprised at the lack of media coverage - including gay-centered magazines - the movement had received. "I just found that the subject of queer hip-hop was this humongous untapped subject," he says via phone in Los Angeles. "When people hear the initial concept of queer hip-hop, they automatically go to the stereotypical imagery of what a gay rapper would be."

continue the story at URB Magazine

The queer eclectic

MUSIC / The rise of hip hop in the queer community is breaking down misconceptions about the genre and ours

Hywel Tuscano / Vancouver

On the phone Shante Paradigm is an eloquent speaker with strong opinions about the intersection of queer sexuality and hip hop music. She is a co-founder and executive director of Peace Out East, a New York queer hip hop festival in its third year. She is also a singer-songwriter, emcee and poet, in pursuit of a PhD in performance studies at New York University.

"It's a mistake [to view] queer hip hop as some kind of hilarious pastiche," she says. "It is actually individuals saying I rhyme, I break dance, I DJ, I'm a woman, I'm queer. People are actually artists. It's not just tacking "gay" onto hip hop culture. The attention on it has become a human-interest story, a niche market."

Journalists writing on the subject have been quick to point out the oxymoron apparent in "queer hip hop." Contemporary rap music lyrics are often laden with misogyny, violence and homophobia; hip hop culture can be seen as one boasting of divisions between haves and have-nots. As a result, hip hop and its most contemporary associations can make many queer people wary.

"Rather than painting 'queer hip hop' as an oxymoron, it's more important to think about it as utilizing the tools to save our face. It's all about a reclamation of space, music, fashion, art and commentary," says Paradigm. "Some people are political rappers, some are about street life, and there are some people who really want to take it to the streets in terms of gender and sexuality. One's own personal politics and viewpoints are essential to the music."

continue the story at Vancouver XTRA! West


“A celebration of multicultural diversity”

-Kevin Thomas, LA Times

“A landmark new film”

-Jason Newman, URB

“A standout”

-Robert Abele, LA Times

“Package full of entertaining content”

-Dennis Harvey, Variety


-Glenn Sumi,NOW

“4 out 5 stars”

-Will Doig, Metro Weekly

“Bursting at the seams with life”

-Arne Johnson, Frameline Program Notes


-Kristina Aikens, IFF Boston Program Notes

“Dynamic documentary”

-J. O’Neill, Image Out Program Notes


50+ Festival Screenings Worldwide





- Complete Festival Rundown -


FEAR OF A PINK PLANET - Documenting a growing subculture in modern hip-hop: homosexual rappers.

-Resonance Magazine

Houston “Homohop” Performer

Gains Wider Attention

-Houston Chronicle