Gay rappers lead lives full of contradictions, performing music that's embraced by millions"but being shunned by many because of their sexuality. Windy City Times spoke with one such artist"Bry'Nt"about music, homophobia and the singer Fantasia.
Windy City Times: From reading your biography, it seems like it was tough growing up. Could you talk a little bit about that?
Bry'Nt: I just felt like I [ was in ] an isolated situation, being gay and Black. I felt like I was taking on the whole world, so I exhibited some rebellious behavior from my teen years through high school. I was dealing with this on my own.
The main thing was that I didn't have anyone who understood what was going on in my little head, you know what I'm saying? Most people can dialogue with their parents, and a lot of gay people can't do that.
WCT: You grew up in Hartford, Conn. A lot of people think the East is very liberal, but what is Hartford truly like?
B: [ Laughs ] Well, the part I was born in is the north end of Hartford, which is predominantly Black. There's been an increase in Jamaican and West Indian immigrants, so homophobia is very rampant. It's a day-to-day war zone if you're openly gay because of the West Indians who oppose homosexuality, and they're not afraid to voice that.
WCT: And Connecticut allows same-sex marriage.
B: That's is [ interesting ] , but you have to separate white liberalism from Black liberalism. Some Black people are still very old-fashioned when it comes to religion, sexuality and stuff like that.
WCT: Let's go on to music. I have a very basic question: What is hip-hop to you?
B: In the beginning, it was the voice of oppressed Blacks and how we felt about our community"and today, it's still like that. It's the voice of an oppressed subculture, whether it's Blacks, teens or someone else.
WCT: Since you talked about white vs. Black liberalism, are you OK with white hip-hoppers?
B: Oh, yeah, I am. I'm just saying it started out with Blacks. Hip-hop is popular, [ particularly with ] suburban whites. Everyone can be participants in hip-hop.
WCT: What themes do you cover in your songs?
B: For the most part, there's some vulgarity and club music. You won't hear me touch on issues too much, simply because my audience [ won't deal ] with me being preach-y. What I'll do is get the audience's attention first with club music; then I can slip in lessons. My audience is street kids, and children of the ghetto"so I have to slip lessons in [ cleverly ] .
WCT: What's been the reaction of mainstream rappers to gay hip-hoppers, in your opinion?
B: The initial reaction is obviously, "What are you doing?" and "Gay people can't rap." But once they actually hear me rap, they switch up their story: "You're hot for a gay guy." I have to prove myself, but they like my metaphors and similes.
WCT: You and I both know that there are gay rappers in mainstream hip-hop. They just haven't come out.
B: Oh, yes.
WCT: Have you read the book Hiding in Hip Hop [ by Terrance Dean ] ?
B: I did. It would've been more entertaining if he said exactly who did what. It would've been nice if he had given more clues, I would've appreciated the book more. I wish he had gone the Karrine Steffans route. [ Note: Steffans is a former music video performer and porn star who named famous people in her tell-all best-sellers Confessions of a Video Vixen and The Vixen Diaries. ]
WCT: I was just thinking that! She named Usher, Vin Diesel and these other people. Why do you think [ Dean ] didn't name names?
B: I think there was this fear factor. Number one, she's a female so she was talking about heterosexual acts"so men won't react violently. However, with homosexual acts, people react violently. I went to a party, and Delicious from Flavor of Love went up to him and asked him to name names, but he was [ initially ] reluctant.
WCT: Switching gears, I read that you were on the same stage with Fantasia, one of my favorite singers. What was that like?
B: It was at Club Avenue in [ Washington ] D.C. It was great. After seeing her, I said, "I need to inhabit that." She came on stage after running through the crowd with one shoe on. She had four bodyguards"and this was at a gay event"so they were pushing lesbians aside, stuff like that. [ Laughs ] By the end of the first song, she had sweat pouring down. It was crazy.
WCT: Who would you like to share the stage with?
B: I would like to perform with Mary J. Blige; she has great stage presence. You can't ignore that type of energy"you start running around and screaming, too. As for touring, I'd like to go with Kanye West or M.I.A."people who are doing things outside of regular hip-hop.
Find out more about Bry'Nt at www.myspace.com/bryntmusic.