is a growing sensation in the hip-hop scene. The L.A.-based gay rapper makes no excuses for his edgy and often controversial lyrics and sees no need to hide his sexuality.
We sat down with Deadlee to talk about his run in with Prince's Apollonia, 'punks' on the down low
and his new found groupies.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. So, you're based in L.A... Which part?
Downtown, in the Echo park area.
I actually went to Downey High School in California.
Really? [laughs] Do you know Apollonia [Katero] from Purple Rain
? I was taking an acting class and she was there. So, we're having a conversation and she's like, 'What's the 'D' on your neck [stand] for, Downey?' I said, 'No, my name is Deadlee.' She thought I was reppin' for Downey. I had just told her my name was Deadlee, too. Then she came back and told me she was from Downey.
Where did you get the name 'Deadlee'?
My real name is Joseph Lee so I incorporated my last name into my rap name, Deadlee. Deadlee is a strong name. I felt like if I was coming out gay and rappin', then I'd need a hard name. I'm already going to get cracked on just for being gay, so I needed a hard name. You can't f*** with it.
You could've easily entered the hip-hop scene on the down low or in the closet. Was it difficult to come out in hip-hop?
I didn't think twice about it. I was just doing my music. I went into the studio and just started recording sh** and didn't know what was going to come out. I guess it's considered hip-hop because that's what I was feelin'.
When I was starting to write my lyrics some of it was coming out fake. It was wack and [my producer] was like, 'Why don't you write some real sh**—whatever you're feeling, whatever you are?' A lot of gay lyrics came out.
What do you think about guys on the down low?
I feel like the guys on the down low are the biggest punks. It takes guts to be out. Sometimes I have no respect for them because they got their lady on the side and then they're doing their dirty sh** on the other. To each their own, but I'd rather be out.
So, what's your music about?
I was getting harassed by the cops all the time, so on the first album, 7 Deadlee Sins
I had a song called "Carnival In My Mind" that was about the police messing with me. I also have a song called "Drag-On" about the kids in the ball scene
and drag queens
My second album, Assault with a Deadlee Weapon
has some gay and some political stuff.
The hip-hop scene sees LGBT people as weak. Is there place for us in so-called hardcore hip-hop?
Definitely. I come hard to let them know that we ain't all punks or weak or feminine. I'm not saying if you're feminine you're a punk, but that's how they relate it. I just want to give them a different image. I've always been masculine and I look hard. I just want to flip it on them a little bit. I hope there is a place for [us] in hip-hop eventually.
Do you think other hip-hop artists respect you less because you're openly gay?
I thought it was going to be the other way around; like they would give me more props because I'm just being down for who I am. Some straight rappers give me more props because I'm doing this. Every since my interview on CNN
and Allhiphop.com, I've been surprised at all the backlash out there. There's a lot of hating of gays out there. They really think a gay person should not pick up the mic.
I've been doing this for a long time, so it's nothing new; but they think I'm doing this just for publicity.
Does the backlash add fuel to your fire or does it deter you from doing what you're doing?
It's given me more ammunition and more stuff to write about. People don't understand when you try and stop something, it just makes the other person want to throw it back in their face even more. [The backlash] has just given me more power.
You have gay hip-hop in one corner with the homohop movement and mainstream hip-hop in the other corner. Can there be one love?
I wish this whole gay hip-hop thing didn't have a label. We had to do it to make a distinction that there are gay hip-hoppers out there, but hopefully [gay hip-hop] will just blend in. I don't want to be in just a 'gay hip-hop' section. That's kind of wack, I think. I want to be in the hip-hop section.
I'm going to be, like, the gay rapper, regardless. Just like Eminem
is the white rapper. [That label] has come off him, but it might take a while to take the 'gay' off.
Tell me about the Homorevolution...
We've always done the PeaceOut festival in Oakland. There are a lot of gay rappers out there in different cities and we just thought why not do a tour with all of us.
Are you involved with anyone right now?
Too many! [laughs]
The groupies, man... the groupies...
[laughs] Now I understand the whole life of a rapper.
So are you going to play the field or fall in love?
I'm actually one of these people that falls in love all the time. I can't play the field too much because I fall in love. I'm a one guy person.
Learn more about Deadlee and get tour dates at deadlee.com or on myspace.