Spit it

Pick Up the Mic skews hip-hop expectations

Juba Kalamka, one of the featured artists in Pick Up the Mic performed in Austin last month for the Sex Workers Art Show
Juba Kalamka, one of the featured artists in Pick Up the Mic performed in Austin last month for the Sex Workers Art Show (Photo By Roxanne Jo Mitchell)

The line wasn't long ... sometimes at festivals like this, some of the good ones fall through the cracks. Or some of the good ones are so niched, such thin slices of reality – like gay hip-hop.

Alex Hinton's documentary Pick up the Mic, follows East Coast rappers, West Coast rappers, and even some no-coast Midwest hip-hoppers with one thing in common: gay as a damn parade, laying foundation for queer kids who can spit it. It starts in the Nineties when members of Rainbow Flava stopped trying to fit into the mainstream of misogyny and fag-hating to make their own movement, making them the jolly dreadlocked afro-centric godfathers. They said fuck it, started putting together their own culture, making their own records, selling their albums their own damn selves, throwing festivals to celebrate queers who bob their heads.

It started with a few. Bisexual MC Dutchboy, founder of Phat Family records, and one of the originals in the game, has seen it from the roughest beginnings, when there was no crowd, there wasn't even a place for it, not even a term yet for it. But the kids were feeling it and wanting to choose to express who they are within the music, within the carnal sexual music that is hip-hop. You cannot hide sex from hip-hop. It finds it. In deep bass lines, and talking about the mack attack that all pimps on microphones mention at least once within a set.

So these kids can't just get up there and hide who they are. Or who they fuck. MC

Dangerous will talk about blow jobs and taking it up the pooper quick as they come. At one point young gun JenRo spits about "ladies eating her like a buffet," right in front of her mother, who shakes her head, "Oh my daughter. She is so crazy." Katastrophe takes baby schleps toward trying to figure out what it's all about, rocking the cutest baby face and heartthrob fan mail from teeny boppers who don't know what FTM means, apparently. They think he's always been a boy. "Why are you the perfect man?" They write him. "Because I used to be a woman."

Some of the artists want to make it big. God-Des, a Jewish white chick rapper from

Massachussetts makes her move to New York to really hit the jackpot, her clenched

jawline that won't even entertain the documentarian's off-camera query, "what if this hip-hop thing doesn't work for you?" Her eyes say it all. "I'm just going to make it happen, that's all."

But for others, it isn't about making it. It isn't commercial success or even recognition. It's about creating a community, about being who they are, about collaborating with like-minded cats that get down the way they do, and feel the same things that keep them up at night. It's about hip-hop not having a race, not having a gender, not having a sexual orientation. Just having that soul.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

Ten Key Moments in Austin's Year With the Coronavirus
Ten Key Moments in Austin's Year With the Coronavirus
The Plague Year

Beth Sullivan, Dec. 18, 2020

Top 10 Arty Ways 2020 Was the Best Year Ever
Top 10 Arty Ways 2020 Was the Best Year Ever
Barbara Purcell shares art highlights from a year that tested our sanity and humanity

Barbara Purcell, Dec. 18, 2020

More by Kate Getty
So You Think You Can Hate?
So You Think You Can Hate?
Homophobia shown over same-sex dancing couple on awful show.

May 26, 2009

Shameless 'Shame on You' Plug
Shameless 'Shame on You' Plug
It's coming soon. June 8 is the release date.

May 19, 2009


SXSW queers, Austin pride, SXSW, Kate X Messer, Kate Getty, queer, gay Austin, lesbian Austin, Gay Place, Austin gay, transsexual, trannies, dykes, fags, faggots, dandy, Dandies, queens, drag queens, drag Kings

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle