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Deep Dickollective 

The Famous Outlaw League of Proto-Negroes

Wednesday, Mar 10 2004
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A few years back, everyone was momentarily crazy for the rap fags. Articles on "homo thugs" popped up everywhere, from the New York Times to my mom's bathroom (in the form of Utne Reader). Oakland-based crew Deep Dickollective (made up of MCs 25 Percenter, Point Five Fag, JB Rap, and Mr. Man Man) never garnered quite the level of national attention that their fellow "homiesexuals" (such as Bay Area crew and sometime collaborators Rainbow Flava) did, and the mainstream homo-hop fervor has since died down. But the ramifications of that brief moment, when the world seemed on the verge of a new definition of both queer music and hip hop, inform the many and complex explorations of identity on Proto-Negroes, the D/DC's third album.

25 Percenter, Point Five Fag, and Mr. Man Man (sounding eerily like TLC's Left Eye at times) spit fire through conceptualizations of blackness and masculinity in the stuttering, almost melancholic "I Am." "We Out" is a fierce battle call of industrial bass thumps and stereotype-busting. But it's "Protonegroes Theme" that really begins to drive home the overarching premise of the album: These are artists who are constantly wrestling both musically and personally with what it means to exist on the imaginary but oh-so-unavoidable line between "black" and "gay" -- and how easily that shifting identity can be picked up and commodified by white liberalism and hipsterdom. The searing chorus of "Protonegroes Theme" ("We are famous proto-negroes/ Mission hipsters come to our shows/ Liberals, lefties step to our flow/ So well-spoken, so safe to know," and later "Scaring white boys in the Castro") sets the stage for Point Five Fag to rip into what you think you know about homiesexuals. Grappling with a concept as weighty as identity without coming across as pandering or didactic takes mad skill. With its complex web of pointed spoken samples (ranging from gay Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin to political singer/storyteller Utah Phillips to a shockingly indignant Bill Cosby), evocative production (from skipping-stone break beats to fuzzed-out jazz samples), and sick, clever (but rarely preachy) rhymes, Proto-Negroes proves that D/DC is more than well-equipped to handle the challenge -- and to hold its own against whatever the mainstream or the underground throws at it.

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Rachel Devitt

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