At your door now: DDm headlines Pervers/cité closing party
It’s hard to believe that Pervers/cité’s closing party is only one night away! To make sure that everyone is properly exhausted for Sunday’s parade, POMPe and Benni E will bring in Baltimore queer rapper DDm to headline the event. We talked to the vogue MC about being a black, gay artist from a rough town, and about today’s queer hip-hop explosion.
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“Where I live and how I live, being an artist is rough, I don’t know how to do pink clouds and fields of daisies,” spouts DDm, the up-and-coming queer rap sensation from Baltimore formerly known as Dappa Dan Midas. Ultra-aware of queer history and the importance of coming out as a black artist, DDm has a sweet personality that contrasts majorly with his tough-talking music. “The thing with me, I’m a nice person, but life is not nice,” he explains, smiling over Skype on his way back from getting his passport in nearby Washington, DC, just in time for his first Canadian gig.
“I grew up very poor in West Baltimore. We saw a lot of evictions… Living in Baltimore, it’s a rough city, so you get in fights a lot,” he explains, (after I joke that for most people, Baltimore conjures up only two references: Johns Hopkins and John Waters). Before he came out publicly in Baltimore Gay Life last summer, DDm’s sexuality was only a partial secret, and was otherwise a non-event for much of the city’s music scene. His 2012 album Winter and the Tinman’s Heart showed off tracks like “Fake Girls” and “Legendary”, which solidified his reputation as a vogue MC, i.e. one who takes to the mic during balls, those mythical competitions of style, dance, and beauty that are part of queer black and latino culture in many of America’s larger cities.
The Teachings of West Baltimore
While much of the vogue ball scene in North America was thought to have disappeared or gone underground in the late 90′s, DDm confirms that “in Baltimore they never died. They were always here and they never went anywhere. The culture of Baltimore is different from other places: It’s very retro, but at the same time it’s a lot more progressive than other places,” he explains. While much of the spirit of the earlier vogue balls was to create an oasis of queer acceptance for people of colour – in a highly structured, competitive atmosphere – in Baltimore, it is simply part of the fabric of the city.
“It’s like a real scene. It’s taken real seriously. There’s balls every month of the year. They’re one every week too. It’s not a game in Baltimore!” he says, and neither is rap, that most “urban” of genres that until recently was considered an impenetrable macho world where coming out as gay was all but impossible.
“Growing up in West Baltimore, you learn three things: how to fight, you learn how to dress, and you learn how to be quick-witted,” DDm tells me, explaining how his rap battle skills developed from learning how to defend himself with words. So, it helped that when he came out in 2011, his reputation in Baltimore’s rap scene was already unshakable.
The New Black
“I’m representing a different idea of what a gay black man is,” he explains, just as successive generations of American blacks forged the way in showing that they could be lawyers, doctors, Presidents, and even TV stars. “Gay people are the new black people,” he jokes, clarifying that the challenge for many queer people of colour is primarily within the family unit, more so even than in society at large: “In black families, it’s at your door now, so what do you?” he asks rhetorically.
“I’m glad to see more three-dimensional images of gay people of colour. I definitely feel a connection, because we’re all fighting the same fight. We’re all connected regardless… it’s an exciting time. Frank Ocean and Mykki Blanco are very important,” he says, reminding me that “these types of people have been around for decades.” So where did this recent explosion of queer hip-hop come from?
“People don’t ever realize how the AIDS epidemic affected the impression of gay culture,” DDm’s analysis begins. “During that time, gay culture went underground and kind of disappeared like we were never here. Starting in the mid-2000s, suddenly there’s too many people in your face! All’s it takes is one stone throw to get the ball rolling.”
Check out the video for DDm’s “Piece of my Heart” from DDm’s 2012 EP Winter and Tinman’s Heart:
“DROP CUNT” w/ DDm, Benni E, Tigga Calore + DJ Tam Ika
Saturday, Aug. 18, 11pm, $8-$10
@ Coop Katacombes, 1635 boul. St-Laurent