Arts & Entertainment
Rap Is Gay
Comedian, Creator Talk 'Dirty' New Cartoon And Its Star (A Gay Rapper, What?)
By Chris Azzopardi
Originally printed 1/9/2014 (Issue 2202 - Between The Lines News)
He's here, he's queer ... and he raps? It's almost an oxymoron, or at least it used to be. But then there was Frank Ocean, the hip-hop queer who came out in 2012, and Macklemore, the emcee whose pro-gay "Same Love" made a splash on urban radio.
The next step? Obviously a cartoon all about a gay rapper. "Chozen" (10:30 p.m. Jan. 13), the brainchild of Grant Dekernion, is the first of its kind - an FX original series starring an unapologetically queer ex-con who slays with his wicked rhymes. And you know, he just happens to like the penis. It's pretty gay. But how gay?
"Oh gosh, I guess I don't know what the parameters are for that," laughs Dekernion. "You know what, I can tell you this: Chozen is a super confident, super open type of guy. He's a pretty sexual guy. I see Chozen as a 15-year-old boy in that he doesn't have a filter and he has some basic needs - money, food, sex - and he's very open about that."
In personifying the character, a creation that just came to Dekernion randomly one day, there was one fundamental goal: Do something that had never been done.
"I chose his sexuality, which is obviously a huge part of him but not all of him," he says, "and I also had the story where he's been on hard times, he's coming out of jail and he's not necessarily a bad guy. It's this whole idea of a man trying to re-enter society."
Voicing the titular emcee is Bobby Moynihan, the longtime "Saturday Night Live" comic who, as a regular on the show, is familiar with doing gay things - most of it involving drag.
"They love putting me in dresses," Moynihan laughs. "That's their favorite thing to do. I didn't mind it at first. But now - it's just stockings are hard to put on, and I'm lazy."
For his part as Chozen, the comedian jumped at the chance to audition, and not just because this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (there's not exactly a demand for gay rapper roles - or fake cartoon ones, at that). What had Moynihan most pumped was working with Method Man. (The show also features the voices of Michael Pena, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, the "Reno 911!" actor whose entire career has been one gay thing after another.)
Moynihan compares the show to the edgy "Eastbound & Down," also starring McBride, and says, "(Chozen) is gay in the show and he's very aggressive and he does enjoy the company of men, and there are scenes with that, but it's not just the gay, white rapper show."
And GLAAD, don't worry: Chozen isn't here to represent all the gays. "Chozen is one character - he's one person - and he has traits that are unique to him, so I feel like he speaks for himself and the show speaks for him and he doesn't speak for any community as a whole," Dekernion says. "He's an out-there, brash guy and he behaves in that way. What you see is what you get."
What you get, according to Moynihan, is one heckuva dirty gay time. For instance, Chozen demonstrates how to play a butthole like a saxophone - and that, seen in the trailer, just scratches the surface. "We go as far as we can," Dekernion affirms. No full cartoon nudity, though. You will, however, "see him (Chozen) in various stages of undress."
When he's not making beautiful sounds out of a sphincter, Chozen is bonding with friends and having not-just-sexual relationships with other gay men.
"It's not political, it's not about identity politics," Dekernion says. "It's, 'How does this man relate to people? How did he go through his life? How did he experience things?' These are all common themes that affect everyone, gay or straight."
Dekernion calls Chozen an "anomaly"; he doesn't fit into any box, and he wasn't directly inspired by any real-life rappers (and actually, Dekernion is the one spitting Chozen's hot fire). But that doesn't mean some of Dekernion's own personal musical picks - like queer rapper/metropolitan virtuoso Mykki Blanco - didn't rub off on Chozen.
"Mykki Blanco is great visually and he does cool stuff, and his clothes are interesting," Dekernion says. "I am definitely hip to a lot of different people in rap, both from the straight and gay scenes, and I think there's some really cool stuff going on."
Could Chozen and the show inspire more of the same pro-gay progress Macklemore and Frank Ocean have already brought to hip-hop?
"If something good did come out of it, that would be great. I think we'd all love that," Dekernion says. "But I didn't create the character or pick hip-hop or anything with the thought that, 'Hey, this is gonna make a change.' I think those things happen organically anyway - hopefully. But I work with people in the hip-hop community and they haven't always been warm and fuzzy, but I'm hoping that will change. There have been some steps made for it, but obviously we still have a long way to go."
One need only look to Eminem's latest album to see that homophobia in hip-hop isn't just a thing of the past. What would Chozen tell Eminem about his gay slurs if he were to confront him? Moynihan isn't sure he'd be able to face him ... and only because the comedian himself couldn't when the rapper was right there in front of him on "SNL."
"I just said 'hi,'" he recalls, "and then ran away."