God-des and She
This hip-hop duo ain’t for suckas
Rap superstar Lil Wayne dominated the MTV countdown show TRL throughout May with the video for his song "Lollipop," which is not really about delicious candy.
Meanwhile, lesbian rapper God-des, of New York hip-hop duo God-des and She, got notice that the group's video for "Lick It" will not be played on MTV's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender channel, Logo. The Standards Department decided the video—for the edited version of a song that addresses the female cousin of the afore(not)mentioned sex act—will not air on any of MTV's networks, God-des says. To be fair to MTV, the title "Lick It" eschews even the transparent coat of metaphor applied to "Lollipop," but God-des still sees discrimination. When called for this article, an MTV spokesperson fielded a question about the video's rejection, but offered no reply on MTV's behalf.
"To me, it's almost blatant homophobia," says God-des, a mouse-eared MC who dresses in baggy jeans and ball caps.
"They'll have guys talking about their lollipop and licking their lollipop all day, and they won't let a woman talk about pleasing a woman."
God-des knows the male-dominated rap industry glances skeptically at female talent, to say nothing of bald, Jewish lesbian talent. Still, she thinks she and She could slip into the mainstream.
"Our music's universal. It's hard to deny when something is real and honest and good," God-des says.
God-des and She will headline the Albuquerque Pridefest June 13, days before their new album, Stand Up, drops June 17. They are basking in the notoriety of their performance on the season finale of Showtime's "The L Word." That appearance featured the spare, informative "Lick It" and provoked a wave of interest that inspired them to quit their day jobs, God-des says.
Multi-instrumental God-des grew up a tomboy marching band geek in Wisconsin, kicking Beastie Boys rhymes on the back of the bus and plugging in to the empowering feminine toughness of Salt-n-Pepa. She started her on-stage rhyming career in an awful punk band that played one song that featured her rapping.
"Everybody hated our punk group," she says, "but as soon as we did that rap song, the crowd just went wild."
She started coming out as a lesbian shortly before she started rapping in public. Rhyming allowed her to be heard.
"It definitely helped me, because I was really vocal then," she says. "I was so sick of being a girl in the back of this boy band."
God-des and She linked up in Madison, Wis., a too-accepting-to-be-true college town with a small, vociferous hip-hop scene. After years in Madison, the pair moved to New York City. God-des says she and She "hear music the same."
God-des is the driving lyrical force of the group, the showperson, the promoter, the political message center. Fiery-haired She offers thick soul hooks between God-des' modestly paced, fully intelligible rhymes.
"Our musical chemistry just really works together," God-des says.
God-des absorbed dialect and rhyme patterns in the Midwest and New York. In Wisconsin, she sounded like Eminem, she says. Now she describes her vocal style as a mix of Jay-Z and Eminem, with dashes of Salt-n-Pepa and MC Lyte. She lists the Notorious B.I.G., Talib Kweli, Salt-n-Pepa and The Pharcyde among her favorite MCs and groups. She speaks most reverently of Tupac Shakur, the social critic, party animal, women's advocate, misogynist. He could "take a world problem and sum it up with a song," God-des says. "He absolutely was my biggest influence as far as topics."
God-des sees the sexism in hip-hop and throughout the music industry. How could she not? But she prefers to attack it with humor, because jokes are more appealing—and potentially profitable—than diatribes from a woman at the intersection of gender injustice and homophobia. She wants straight hip-hop fans to think about their biases and prejudices. She recognizes the hip-hop tradition of misogyny, but she sees that in all culture.
"The truth is that our society is outwardly and blatantly sexist, and I think hip-hop is just an extension of people's feelings."
God-des doesn't shun the small, unheralded gay hip-hop scene that has carved itself into the world's most popular musical culture. She hopes Stand Up can help God-des and She crack the mainstream. Like any other rapper, she's waiting for the blow-up moment, her introduction to new fans, new customers, new recipients of her message.
"We absolutely rap for gay people; but you know, we can't just keep preaching to the choir."
God-des and She perform at Albuquerque Pridefest, Friday, June 13, at the Expo New Mexico grounds at 8 p.m.