Felicia Pride writes a commentary and review of this new book on Black Voices. "Hiding In Hip Hop" is written by Terrance Dean, a black man in the music industry who battled with living two lives in hip hop culture. He goes on to say:
It was important for me to continue my double life. One for my career and the other for myself--the real me. Only I didn't know who the real me was. I was so accustomed to living in multiple worlds I often confused myself. As a down low man, I had to make sure people saw me as a heterosexual man; they had to see me with women...Nothing about me could be associated with the gay lifestyle.
From the perspective of a brotha in the Down Low scene in hip hop, he continues to reference the struggles of popular hip hop & r&b stars without naming them. In her article, Felicia Pride talks about the "tell-some" book:
In Hiding in Hip Hop, Dean writes of tight-knit communities of down low men in both Hollywood and the music industry. He writes of thugged out rappers with girlfriends and wives who sneak around to sleep with other men. He writes of down low ministers and in-the-closet R&B singers... He writes of a world where fear, pain, shame, and a lack of self-love are the dominant emotions. He paints a world where masculinity is narrowly-defined, heterosexuality is the only option, and down low men spew hatred toward homosexuals because they hate themselves.Wow. Intense. What is also intense are the comments that Felicia Pride gets in response to her review. There definitely seems to be more vilifying of the men in DL culture than criticism of a larger culture that gives few options for people to just live their lives. I am not endorsing anyone cheating on their wives/partners in order to have down low interactions, I just think that some of the pain that Terrance Dean seems to convey should be taken into account... As a hetero man, I myself wonder what it would be like if I lived in bizarro switcheroo-change-o land, and had to keep up appearances to be "a gay man" but really want to date women, and have to see them on the down low. If you are also a straight man, and reading that made you cringe... hold on to that feeling. Especially if you are not able to understand why men would go on the down low. Empathy to the human condition is essential for us all to make it y'all...
I hope this book starts more conversation on homophobia in our communities than spark witch hunts. I myself am waiting for some dancehall version of this book to drop! That would be amazing. I think the author might be exiled from yard tho! But for reals, like it says in the last line from Felicia Pride's quote about down low gay men "spewing hatred against homosexuals"... I suspect that a similar connection may be happening in Jamaica, and that it is very possible that dancehall artists who are most vociferous with anti-gay lyrics may actually be expressing self-protection/self-hatred around their queerness and masculinity. Another yardie friend of mine and I were talking about a lyric by a dancehall artist that sez: "bad man nuh wear g-string". Ok. sooo... i guess the lesson trying to be conveyed here is that real tough guys don't and shouldn't wear g-string panties. The thing is... this artist had to actually conjure up this image in order to write this lyric...! Where did this image of guys in g-strings come from? Not saying that this lyric is evidence that the artist is gay, but i consider it a curious example of the extent that some Jamaican men will go to in order to showcase their heterosexuality- paradoxically evoking homoerotic images in the process! But where this leaves a lot of men in Jamaica... not only down low men have to keep up appearances of straightness, but some hetero men also have to keep up the exhausting job of re-proving their heterosexuality and a certain brand of masculinity.
What makes things even more headspinning is that the rude bway style (aka the thug steez) includes aesthetics that may be construed as queer associated in European and North American cultures. Meticulously plucked eyebrows, Vaseline on the lips to make them shiny, see through mesh/net shirts... i could go on. Is it possible that down low men in Jamaican culture have become such powerful icons of hyper-masculine heterosexuality that there is now safety to be less gender conformist in appearance? Or is masculinity in Jamaica something so complex that it escapes definition?
The labyrinthine journey to one love continues...
also peep Keith Harris' essay on the down low phenomenon, he is a gay black man who very much calls for gay black men to step back up into a visible representation of black masculinity. This is one of the essays featured on BeyondMasculinity.com.