Denver musicians weigh in on Pride, being openly gay artists in 2012 and Freddie Mercury
ASiEL is a star. Whether he's playing a DIY venue to a handful of horny freegans, or controlling a massive crowd at the mainstage of Pride festival, he delivers an arresting performance that even the most racist, homophobe would stop and say, "Damn, that guy really brings it." Writing lyrics and staring in videos that are aggressively sexual, ASiEL casually exposes anti-gay myopia in the entertainment industry merely because his act, while being no more graphic than any hetero performer, is often taken as lewd simply because of the man-on-man imagery he presents. We recently got together to chat Catholics, Janet Jackson and what Jay Z has to do in order to really be pro-gay.
Westword: Other female rappers we've spoken with have said that it is easier to be an openly gay woman in hip-hop than it is to be a man. Is this something you would agree with?
ASiEL: I wouldn't say it's easier for an openly gay woman -- but more accepted than an openly gay male. Hip hop is a very masculine industry. I feel an openly gay male rapper is a threat to the straight rappers.
When you first started rapping, did you worry about entering a music culture that has a strong history of homophobia?
I never worried about homophobia and still don't. In fact, I welcome those kind of people. I like to challenge what it means to be masculine, some people don't like that.
Have you ever played hip-hop clubs were you felt your safety could be in danger because of your sexuality?
I have never felt in danger. However, I have played shows where some people have expressed their discomfort, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and the show must go on.
Your lyrics are highly sexualized, yet they utilize a lot of Catholic imagery to express that sexuality. Do you have a vendetta against the church, or is this just a humorous way to express yourself?
I rap about sex because, as humans, we are sexual beings and everyone can relate. As far as the Catholic imagery: I am very serious about those lyrics and although a person can find them humorous, that was not the intention. I wanted to address the Catholics for judging gay people and having priests who practice homosexuality in private.
You include a lot of fashion and choreography into your performances. Is this something that translates well when performing for a straight audience? Or is it mostly something only the gays get?
I consider myself a performer and artist. I feel choreography and fashion just come with the package. Although the gay crowd is more openly accepting, the straight crowd can't deny I give a great show. One time after a show a straight guy told me, "I'm not with all that gay shit, but you're talented as fuck"
In the last decade, there have been so many advances in accepting homosexuality and gender bending, from Andre 3000 and Janelle Monae embracing androgyny, to Jay-Z coming out in support of gay marriage. What steps do you feel the hip-hop/R&B community have yet to take?
I'll believe Jay-Z really supports gay marriage when he signs an openly gay rapper to his label.
When did you first come out as gay, and what role -- if any -- did music play in that process?
I first came out when I was sixteen. I have also been performing since I was sixteen. Music definitely had a huge influence on that process. I feel music helps a person understand their own emotions -- which leads to more self acceptance. Janet Jackson showed me it's okay to rap or sing about sex.
What is the story behind the ASiEL character?
ASiEL is a Hebrew name, it means "created by God." Its a reminder to myself and others that no matter what you are judged about, the same creator that made you made me.
ASiEL, 4 p.m., Saturday, June 16, at PrideFest 2012, Civic Center Park, Broadway and Colfax Avenue, free, all ages. Click here for more information on Pride Festival. (Note: DJ Narky Stares will be providing the beats for ASiEL's Pride performance.)