Hip-hop has a long history of social and political commentary, but the genre has been slow to embrace artists who don't fit neatly into its hypermasculine mold. After all, hip-hop coined the phrases "pause" and "no homo" to deflect criticism of behavior that might be perceived as queer.
But even with hip-hop's heteronormative doctrine pushing him to the sidelines, 26-year-old Brooklyn rapper Jay Boogie still sees himself a worthy contributor to the culture.
"I consider my artistry a form of activism," Jay Boogie says. "It just so happens that my voice is the weapon I use to fight against whatever the battle is."
Though he doesn't identify as queer — Boogie says he's a person before anything — he says, "Yo estaba harto," ("I was fed up") and decided to pick up the mike five years ago to give the world his side of the story. It was emphatically different from what straight-identifying rappers were singing about. By speaking up about topics such as homophobia and masculinity, Boogie hoped to make listeners be honest with themselves.
"It was a pre-midlife crisis where I needed to turn things up a notch, and hip-hop became that avenue for me."
His Dominican-Colombian heritage means he also experienced firsthand the Latino stereotype of what it means to be a man. Dominican culture reveres the hypermasculine ideal, calling anyone who exudes manliness a tiguere or tiguerazo (the Dominican slang term for "stud"; however, it can also mean "dude," "thug," or "thief" depending upon the context — similar to the way Miamians use "bro").
"For every person that can't relate, there are another five that can," Boogie says of his music. "But as far as becoming a commercial hip-hop artist, the gatekeepers would never allow a person like me in the office — that's just a fact. That's the code of the streets and the code of the game, period."
The gatekeepers haven't stopped Boogie from making the kind of music he wants to make and rapping about familiar things. In his latest track, "Factually," he raps, "I'm so fucking pretty/I'm a pretty sissy/Debit card, lip gloss/With a buck fifty," leaving the listener assured that Boogie definitely doesn't lack braggadocio.
And his musical output has evolved into a two-part performance piece titled "I Dare You." The first part took place last night at Soho Beach House, where Boogie opened up about his experiences with hip-hop and homophobia. The second part, a collaboration between curator Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz and Miami artist-turned-rapper Poorgrrrl, will see Boogie premiere a performance piece and musical set with a focus on the men who typically would bash him for his flamboyancy.
"'I Dare You' is about an interaction and dialogue that I had between men that tried to make it difficult for me for just being myself," Boogie says. "It's a very dangerous thin line. I think that men that encounter men in these settings, they are uncomfortable by my aesthetics or my mannerisms... I really want to bring that confrontation to the light through performance."
Boogie will still deliver his sanguine rhymes throughout the show, with the night falling somewhere between a performance art piece and concert. And with mainstream hip-hop getting plenty of attention this weekend at Bayfront Park, Boogie will certainly show that his point of view is in line with the genre's core principal of shedding light on societal problems.
"My intentions aren't to tamper hip-hop's infrastructure but to contribute to its evolution."
Jay Boogie's "I Dare You Pt. 2"
8 p.m. Friday, May 5, at 229 NE 65th St., Miami. Tickets cost $10 via dareyou2.bpt.me or $15 at the door.
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