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Keeping It Gayngsta

Back That Sass up: DaQuan Motley (left) and DeShawn Seymore hope to release their first mixtape later this month.
Back That Sass up: DaQuan Motley (left) and DeShawn Seymore hope to release their first mixtape later this month.

Keeping It Gayngtsa


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“A lot of people have an issue with us using the word ‘faggot,’” says DeShawn Seymore, the “first lady” of gay Philly rap duo Sgt. Sass. “But I hear that word every day and I probably will for the rest of my life. So you have to own it.”

Three years ago Seymore, 23, and friend DaQuan Motley, 25, were hanging out in Seymore’s living room when Sgt. Sass was conceived. “‘Sgt.’ because we’re militant in a way—in trying to make a point and lead a generation,” Motley explains, “But ‘Sass’ because … we’re still gay.”

By calling their brand of hip-hop music “fag rap,” Sgt. Sass hope to reclaim “faggot” in the same way female rappers like Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim reclaimed “bitch” in the late ’90s.

It’s also a way for the pair to flip the script on rampant homophobia in hip-hop culture, a culture Seymore and Motley say they’ve grown up with and love.

“I’m from Rehoboth Beach but I’m not from, like, a beach house,” says Seymore, who was raised by a single mother on an aural diet of Grandmaster Flash, Salt ’n Pepa, and Erik B & Rakim. Motley grew up in Brooklyn. The pair linked up their freshman year of college, when they both moved here to study at the Art Institute.

Since the first queer hip-hop show took place in Oakland, Calif., in 2001, LGBT rappers across the country have demanded that hip-hop stop shutting them out.

Los Angeles Latino rapper Deadlee, Chicago-based Johnny Dangerous, Juba Kalamka of the groundbreaking Deep Dickollective and female-to-male transgender wordsmith Katastrophe are a few of the bigger names in the small but growing “gayngsta rap,” or “homo-hop” movement.

But walk into a black gay club and you’re far more likely to see heads bobbing to 50 Cent (whose antigay comments were published in a 2004 Playboy interview) than any out, gay rapper—or even artists who are considered
queer-friendly, like Kanye West and Pharrell.

Motley says he also listens to homophobic rappers like 50. “I might not buy the record,” he explains, “but I’ll listen to the song.”

Sgt. Sass find ways to subvert the ignorance and the stereotypes. Their current singles “Here Cum Dem Fags” (over MIMS’ “This Is Why I’m Hot”) and “Homo Homies” (over Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s”)—along with (this being
Philly) a Baltimore club remix—are posted on their MySpace page. But they’ve also recorded a track over 50 Cent and Tony Yayo’s 2005 hit “So Seductive.”

“You’re gonna talk about us, okay, we’ll rap over your beat,” says Motley, who also plans on making a dancehall
track as a statement against the antigay “burn the batty boy” culture promoted by many of Jamaica’s most popular reggae artists.

But in many ways Sgt. Sass want to stay as true to the hip-hop game as possible. In September they hope to catch a buzz by releasing an EP before putting out their debut album.

“We show people we’re not typical gay men,” says Motley, the more lyrically aggressive of the pair. “A lot of people are shocked we come to the mike as hard as we do.”

“I can get nasty a little, but I prefer not to,” quips Seymore.

With only four performances so far, Sgt. Sass are preparing for their upcoming appearance at Make Yr Break, a monthly queer-alt dance party temporarily relocated to the Bubble House. Their debut shows were at house and loft parties in West Philly, and at the Key West club on Juniper Street. Sgt. Sass also have links to the indie dance community.

They’re getting production help from Steven Bloodbath, whose Thursday night Mo Money, No Problems party at Silk City has become a big night in town.

“In Philadelphia everybody thinks of VIP when they think of gay rappers, and they also lump VIP in with Plastic Little and Sweatheart and groups like that—like, ‘Oh, it’s ironic,’” says Bloodbath. “I think what draws people to [Sgt. Sass] is the fact they’re two gay rappers and they aren’t passed off as ironic—because they’re kind of ’hood. So it doesn’t seem as kitschy that they’re gay and rapping about gay shit.”

Bloodbath believes the venues Sgt. Sass seek out boost their hip-hop credibility. “They play black events. I can’t see VIP playing a black gay event really. Sgt. Sass can go places those guys can’t.”

And with VIP having recently moved to New York to establish themselves in the downtown hipster party scene there, Sgt. Sass is the only gay hip-hop group in Philadelphia.

“They’re holding down the homo rap torch in Philly these days,” says Bloodbath.

Make Yr Break
Sat., Sept. 8, 10pm. $5. With Sgt. Sass. Bubble House, 3404 Sansom St. 215.243.0804.