Have you ever told a dirty joke so well it eventually wound up owning you? It began innocently enough — a light-hearted anecdote whose punch line you could scarcely make it to without laughing. What it morphed into was a narrative monster out of your control, one you were asked to repeat, over and over, until no amount of poetic license could keep you interested in your own story.
Debbie D. and Daphne D. understand. To them, the past six years with their two-woman booty/punk/sleaze/rap group Avenue D have consisted of just that: finding new ways to expound on one topic — namely, raunchy sex. And they still love it. It still makes them laugh. That's why it's best to end things now, before they're yawning through a punch line of their own design. But you have to admit: Their joke has been pretty fucking funny.
It was the summer of 2001 and both had just finished college — Daphne in Maine, Debbie in New York. Best friends since high school in Miami, they moved in together into Debbie's NY apartment, and the girls began discerning what they wanted from their postadolescent stage. The Ds thought they knew what they wanted for their immediate futures: job security, applying what they learned in academia to landing careers, and basically becoming grownups in the quasi-traditional sense. Thankfully none of that happened. Or at least not right away.
"I saw this ad in the paper," says Debbie. "I was looking for a 'real job' in the Village Voice, and it said, 'White women rappers wanted for major record deal.'" The idea was too tantalizing to pass up. "I thought, Hey, let's go be rappers!" she says, laughing. "It would just be such a funny thing, to go to this audition and bust out our favorite Trina song and be like, 'See. We can rap.'"
What the girls didn't bank on was actually landing a slot at the audition. Or how many people would want to help make their act a success. Debbie was working at Bowery Bar, in the East Village, which had just launched a new cabaret night. A manager encouraged them to practice their audition material live and onstage. Then one friend offered to craft them outfits, another to mix their beats. The girls threw in their own lyrics: scatological love notes to Miami booty bass, circa 1989. "So come cabaret night, the whole place was packed and it was a superbig hit," says Debbie. The subsequent real audition, however, was "wack."
"They were like, 'What the hell is this? Uh, don't call us, we'll call you,'" she says, laughing again. But it didn't matter: The cabaret gig exploded. Each week the girls took a little time out of their quest for adulthood to write and perform a new song. A network of friends clamored to see what perversity would spew from their mouths.
Just across the street, at Joe's Pub, Larry Tee was putting on his own now-notorious Club Badd parties, and smelled copulation in the air. He asked the girls to perform. Absurdist electroclash had just begun its reign of exhibitionism in New York, and thanks to Tee, the budding genre had voyeurs by the junk (and was fondling them while it gripped). Avenue D was plopped down in the middle of it all, freestylin' about sexual misadventures while accidentally building a fan base. "It really just snowballed from there," Debbie says.
There's something you need to understand about Avenue D: The duo packs enough salacious material into any song (and even into some song titles) to make Uncle Luke feel his own heart beating in his nethers. If your mother caught you listening to one of their albums, you would be grounded — until you turned 18, and then until you were married. And it would be worth it, because the songs are just that funny. And about their beats? They're this scandalous purée of disco whips, dueling banjos, ass-up-high booty bass, and synthesized ray guns. Basically, if you're ever in a position to fornicate at the roller rink, you'd better put on "Do I Look Like a Slut" or "2D2F (Too Drunk to Fuck)." And as far as their live shows — well, at this Friday's final Avenue D gig, the Plug Miami concert at Studio A, expect a trapeze.
Understandably record labels have been terrified of the double Ds and their X-rated lyrics. That fact wound up putting Debbie and Daphne in an interesting position: In order to spend their nights having fun — spittin' out rhymes about donkey punches — they would have to become the business-savvy women they originally intended. Together they learned how to manage a band, start a label, handle press, be their own distributors, self-promote, and even tour internationally. Now it's all ending, a new phase in their lives is beginning, and the Ds are able to reflect back. What they wanted they got, but in the most unlikely way imaginable. So after all of that, the joke was actually on them. Life's just funny like that.