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The Love Below

A memoir gives the lowdown on the down low in the world of hip-hop.

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Illustration by Dienststelle 75  

After all those shirtless rappers with their antigay lyrics, not to mention the ambiguous ones for R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet,” someone has written the inevitable gay-hip-hop exposé. Terrance Dean, a former MTV producer, unveils Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry this week. He spoke with Esther Haynes.

How did you find other gay men in the industry?
I worked on Crooklyn with Spike Lee, and I went to a party where I met a producer who introduced me to this whole culture.

Do “down low” guys have extra sex appeal?
Yeah, to me it was very intriguing, like, “Oh my God, I’m getting away with something that no one else knows about.”

But they also dated women.
One guy had a fiancée. He was a singer, and I would watch women swoon, but he would always leave with me. I truly thought we were going to end up together. One day I asked him, “Are you still sleeping with women?” And he said, “Yeah, what makes you think I’m not?”

Why did you write this book?
My mother was a prostitute and a heroin addict. She died of AIDS after she gave birth to my baby brother—who also died of AIDS, at age 19. We are dealing with a time when HIV and AIDS are on the rise in black women, and we are trying to figure out if the down-low phenomenon has been a catalyst to that. Plus hip-hop is a very homophobic environment—a lot of rappers call us faggots, homos, punks—and it doesn’t leave those in the gay community with the ability to address these issues.

Are DL men writing homophobic lyrics?
Yeah, many of them are just trying to distract from the rumors about themselves.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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