by: Sawyer Lahr
Note: This piece was originally published at Go Over the Rainbow and has been republished with permission. You can read the original here.
CHICAGO – Upwardly mobile, bear rapper Big Dipper is moving to New York City to join the ranks of gay icon Cazwell and explore the nightlife scene where he is sure to be seen. Native to the Chicago area, Big Dipper (yes like the constellation) feels he’s done what he needed to do in the second city. Big Dipper’s music video director Tobin Del Cuore is attached to direct the official video for his latest single “Meat Quotient” which he released at Beauty Bar last month. Before moving to NYC this Summer, he plans to produce one more video for a brand new song. Big Dipper will perform at Berlin Nightclub Thursday, March 1st and at Touche on March 24th. He will also be rhyming at Hydrate in April with MCs Francis AD out of Philly now based in Chicago, Royale, and Deja Taylor (singer, slam poet, and 2008 Louder Than a Bomb finalist.
Big Dipper’s filthy persona is less like the person I meet at Kopi cafe in Chicago’s other gay neighborhood, Andersonville (his legal name is to remain anonymous by request). He passes on refreshments. I compliment him on his extraordinary music video “Drip Drop” and discuss the hotbed of queer filmmaking activity in Chicago as of late. Music videos the caliber of Tobin Del Cuore’s “Drip Drop” is rare coming in Chicago. The list of recent queer award-winning films made by Chicago-based filmmakers is growing such as Ky Dickens’ Fish Out of Water, Stephen Cone’s Wise Kids, Tracy Baim’sHannah Free, Blackmail Boys, Laid the Movie, as well as the forthcoming Scrooge and Marley (in development) and Nathan Aldoff’s Nate and Margaret. Notably, Seattle-based Gus Van Sant was in Chicago the Summer of 2011 shooting the HBO series, Boss, another boon for queer filmmaking in a city that sees sporadic business from big budget productions. I quickly delved into Big Dipper’s most recent success, the nearly 70,000 views of his “Drip Drop” YouTube premiere.
Were you prepared for your video Drip Drop to go viral?
Not really. We finished the video in August 2011 and we were sitting on it for a couple of months. We showed it bars around town before I put it on the Internet. People were like “put this online,” but I just wanted to make sure I was ready for it. Part of me was like this is a good product, so I need to be ready. What I didn’t want to do is put it online and have nothing else happen. We just put out another song last week, “Meat Quotient.” We put the audio out for that and the sync director Tobin Del Cuore who directed Drip Drop, he’s going to direct the “Meat Quotient” video. We’re going to do it again probably the Spring or Summer. I’m hoping to put another video out to another song before ‘Meat Quotient.’ I’m hoping to put ‘Meat Quotient’ up for sale.
Did anything inspire the style of ‘Drip Drop?’
Just the music and my own movement vocabulary. As a choreographer, when you have back-up dancers, you have to be able to do the movement as well. Whatever looks good on me, I’m going to put on the back-up dancers as well.
Did you have train or get fit?
No because I’m also a dancer, and I choreograph for other people.
Where else do you choreograph?
Gigs. I’ll get hired to choreograph for a production number, other video stuff, stuff with drag queens.
So you’re probably watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race?
Yeah, my friend Di Da Ritz is on it. She’s from Chicago.
What gave you the idea for Big Dipper? Does it have anything to do with the constellation?
Sure, so that constellation – the technical name is Ursa Major – it’s part of this big bear. The big sleeping bear up there. There are a lot of links there. I’ve always loved hip-hop music. I’ve been rapping since I was very young. I remember listening to the Kriss Kross album and I was like ‘these are kids rapping. I can do this do.’ I would rap all the time with my friends. In high school we used to freestyle at friends’ houses. A close friend of mine whose older brother had a rap crew were known around the town. So we used to hang out and watch them freestyle and we would freestyle with them and off their beats. As I grew older, I was working more in other arts, theater, performance and event planning. Director and choreographer are what I’ve been for long time. I have been doing video with Tobin for a while. We collaborated on that video ['Drip Drop'] together. I’m enamored with video directing. I had the opportunity to work on other projects as a director. I’m constantly creating, and it’s this awesome new outlet. I wouldn’t say that I’m a control freak, but I definitely have opinions about everything.
How would you compare yourself to Cazwell in NYC?
I’ve been a fan of his for a while. I tweeted him the video and he re-tweeted it and replied. I would say that his music has a sexual nature to it. He himself is a sex icon, he is huge in New York City and has albums out. He has a huge fan base, and he makes his living as a rapper. That’s what I want to be. I’m trying to be a full time rapper. I think the gay rap scene is fairly sizable. There’s a guy in San Francisco. His name is AB Soto. If you go to any scene that has a happening night life. You could ask around and you’ll find gay rapper. I have a bigger mission. I get messages from people in France.
As you mentioned in the HuffPost article, what is club kid jock rap?
I believe I was listing if this bear rap, there could be club kid rap, there could be jock rap. I think it’s funny that we have these labels in the gay community. In the queer spectrum, there are so many labels. I always equate it to porn labels where you go to a porn site and it’s like shiiit! [laughs].
Why is vulgarity so funny?
It’s fun to play in the fantasy. It’s fun to get as nasty as you can. Looking at hip-hop music or any kind of music; music is about sex. People have love songs. People have break-up songs. Music is about sex. People are trying to express themselves. Especially in gay culture, in a time when we have programs like Grindr and Scruff and all these helpful technological aids to get laid, it’s so interesting to talk about in a very open manner and in a really raunchy way. This is where you post a picture of your abdomen and write what you’re into. For me writing raunchy lyrics, it’s just fun to play in that and feel totally free and say anything I want.
What’s the dirtiest, nastiest thing you’ve ever done in public where you questioned whether you were going too far?
I don’t know if I ever questioned it. When we just did this last show, I prepared ‘Meat Quotient’ for the first time. A lot of people fetishize bigger folks, fetishize food, eating food. The promo for ‘Meat Quotient’ is me eating this sandwich so we had the back-up dancers eating sausages on stage in sexualized ways. They weren’t just fallating sausages [laughs] they were eating them. One back-up dancer, she’s a vegetarian, and she was like ‘I’m just going to rub this all over my body’ [laughs]. She stuck it through her legs and another dancer grabbed it then took a huge bite out of it. I don’t know that we’re ever going to do a show where we pull out a kiddy pool and everybody pisses on each other. I don’t think we’re going to put on a sex show; it’s still a music show. If the lyrics are raunchy and the show is suggestive, then audience takes it into their minds for the rest of it. I still like to keep it classy.
What do you think of public indecency laws, referring to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune‘s Red Eye?
It takes a lot to shock me. I’ve seen a lot. I like contemporary performance art, and I feel like in that world you seen a ton of shit: people stabbing themselves with heels, people fucking weird objects. I’m fascinated by that.
What about censorship? Do you think a white rapper has to censor himself more than a black rapper?
Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who is an activist. She was talking about the interview I did in the Huffington Post. The quote was ‘I feel like hip-hop has evolved;’ I used the phrase ‘appropriate rap music.’ I guess it was a total misstep to use ‘appropriate.’ Obviously, I didn’t mean that I’m trying trying snatch up someone else’s culture. I played the ‘Drip Drop’ song for a friend who said ‘I think that’s ‘cultural drag.” That’s a term I’ve never heard before, but I understand it; I’m throwing on fake Jamaican accent. To me, all of what I’m doing is fun. I’m just trying to have a good time. I’m not out to try to say anything. Ru Paul says that the most political thing I can do is put on heels, a dress, and a wig, so I think my sheer presence as an identifying bear, as a gay man, as white man, as a Jewish man, rapping [laughs], lump that all together, it’s not like I’m spitting rhymes for anyone. There’s a unique audience that wants to hear about hairy butt sex in my lyrics.
Do you worry about political correctness?
No, and I don’t necessarily strive to be politically correct. I just try to be correct for myself. As long as I feel good about what I’m putting out there, I feel good. People are going to come for you no matter what, so as long as you feel good about having the conversation then that’s all that really matters.