PinkNews.co.uk’s Dave McElhill meets an artist fighting the stereotype of being a gay rapper in an industry perceived to be against him, and instead supporting campaigns against homophobia in schools.
A couple of years ago QBoy appeared, and was pasted across the straight media as the acceptable gay, white rapper, confronting homophobic hip hop.
But as I wait outside his plush South London apartment as he get dressed, images of a white 50 Cent in a vest are soon dashed.
In recent years QBoy has been dj-ing at club night Discotec, with his Pac-Man crew, at The End in Central London.
There have also been numerous performances and pride appearances, including a “ghetto bus”, at Brighton’s Gay Pride.
All this is in order to develop as an artist, as opposed to his magazine front cover image as the “pretty, young, white boy.”
“I enjoyed being covered but I am wary that most of it was ‘Gay Rapper’, isn’t this an interesting story.
“I fit into this idea of pretty, young, white boy that the media portrays.”
At the same time he believes such coverage is not only a disservice to him as an artist, but also to other gay hip hop artists.
His recent tour in the United States, to help promote the documentary film ‘Pick Up The Mic,’ in which he appears, has helped create a profile for him stateside, taking him around major cities like Chicago and New York.
“Pick Up The Mic” is an attempt to capture what its website calls “an unapologetic underground music movement just as it explodes into the mainstream – defying the music industry’s most homophobic genre in the process.”
For QBoy, the film represents something different. The screening allowed him to reconnect with the crew he performs with, a family to which he feels tied both as an artist and because its “nice to feel part of something.”
It has also allowed him to work on a music video for Q.B.O.Y. with Australian director Jarrah Gurrie, who talent-spotted him while watching the documentary.
QBoy’s performances went down well in the US: “There’s a lot of barriers they have to get over, a white rapper over there is very different.
“They’d never seen anything like it,” he says.
QBoy’s tour brought home to him the difference in size between the US and the UK music markets:
“I’m not interested in life as a fringe artist, and the UK is not big enough to sustain a fringe artist.”
QBoy’s open, non-confrontational music has marked him out as different from gangsta’ rap, but not in the way that the straight media first viewed him.
That is the key to QBoy’s perspective, an open music scene that anybody can dip into, and to understand this is good to look at where his music comes from.
He started off by getting into groups such as Salt’n'Pepa, and due to a lack of gay male role models, saw a connection with what he describes as”feminists in a misogynistic art form.”
QBoy first heard their mix of pop and hip hop on their 1991 greatest hits album, he quickly excuses the purchase claiming that “everyone in school was buying it.”
This attraction to SP means that he now owns their entire back catalogue, and he thrilled at recently appearing in the top sixteen Myspace friends on the SP site.
He drew more than just enjoyment from their music. He saw his role models perform not just in AIDS education campaigns, but also create a more open and pop-friendly style of hip hop.
The self proclaimed “Rapper For People Who Think They Don’t Like Rap” was bullied as a child, harassed through both primary and secondary school because he’d rather play with girls than play football.
“Later when in college I was ready to express myself by being excessively loud and gay and in your face,” he says, and this included enjoying himself by intimidating straight guys, though he admits that he has calmed down in recent years.
QBoy always wanted to be a performer, but claims he didn’t have a great singing voice – he did a lot of acting throughout his teens.
5 Star videos showed him that dancing was his “natural talent,” and he studied for a degree in Contemporary Dance.
It is his love for performance that led him to DJ mistermaker, and so began his life as a rap artist, making use of rhymes and words that he had written in school.
It was only through performing that he “realised that this was what I wanted to do.”
The experience of being bullied in school, despite never being open about his sexuality in school, led to a request to take part in a Channel4 documentary on openly gay schoolchildren. He jumped at the chance.
In post-section 28 Britain, he said: “Schools need to teach kids about the real world.”
He recognises that schools have changed since the time when he was a student, and that there are a number of gay role models in society now.
QBoy sees the Channel4 documentary as part of the campaign for better education in schools on issues such as homosexuality and homophobia, and he believes that as a person who can communicate in a socially respected art form, he can make a difference.
He is currenly working on new material, exploring homophobic bullying and its effect on young gay and lesbian people.
This belief in the importance of education is reflected in QBoy’s outlook on life.
“People have a right to believe that homosexuality is wrong,” he says regarding homophobia in the rap and hip hop scene.
He also points out that it is often just artists continuing to say what they have said previously in their songs, as opposed to their beliefs, that can result in being homophobic – to keep the money rolling in due to their macho image, “they want to keep the gangsta’ image.”
QBoy muses that this inflexibility is just as likely to come from money men as from the artist.
If you want to catch QBoy he will be performing at Discotec@The End on 31 August, with new artist Katanya.
For more details check out his myspace at www.myspace.com/supaboyq.