“Pick Up the Mic”
Not Just a Gay Themed Film
“Pick Up the Mic” presents an “in-your-face” picture of the burgeoning GLBT hip-hop/rap culture, and it achieves a feat that mainstream rap seldom does nowadays – it allows non-hardcore rap fans like myself to experience and appreciate what the genre is really supposed to be all about, taking the art form back to its basics.
When someone says the word “rap” to me, I automatically think of the old- schoolers: Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Queen Latifah and LL Cool J in their earlier days– before the rap world became co-opted by those really focused on the money, media manipulation and the murderous connotations it became dressed up in, once it became mostly about “THUG LIFE.”
Between Craig Brewer’s extraordinary HUSTLE AND FLOW, LOGO’s earlier doc, HIP-HOP HOMOS (which featured several of the same artists here in PICK UP) and now this film, I find myselg slowly warming up to the artistry, the raw energy and passion that these rappers bring to their craft, and it doesn’t hurt one bit that the attention centers on people who are also members of the GLBT community this time around.
The music and the rapid-fire lyrics come from the gut, the very heart of each person’s experience living as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered men and women, rap suddenly regains its vitality, once again becoming revolutionary, incendiary, political, sexual and most importantly of all…RELEVANT. And of course, none of it would matter if even for their unique personalities and stories, none of the people in this film were any good at it. And they are excellent.
With each artist as charismatic and ‘larger-than-life’ as any mainstream rapper in the spotlight today, director Alex Hinton doesn’t have to do much more than follow them around with the camera and just record as much of their interactions as possible, both with each other and their small but enthusiastic audiences.
And what a cast this is. Viewers not at all familiar with the scene will be blown away by the introduction to a group like DEEP DICKOLLECTIVE and its founders, Juba Kalamka, Tori Fixx and Tim’m T. West, all producers as well as skilled performers; Katastrophe and Marcus Rene Van, two FTM (Female-To-Male) transgendered performers whom the world would never know were TG’s if they weren’t brave enough to “keep it real”; Dutchboy, a bisexual rapper who proudly defies simple categorization, and outspoken gay and lesbian Latino artists Deadlee (from HIP-HOP HOMOS as well) and Jen Ro.
And that’s before you even get to meet Johnny Dangerous, hip-hop’s “kissing cousin” to GLBT pop-tart Jonny McGovern (aka “The Gay Pimp’) and Aggracyst, a former mainstream rapper/producer who was outed and ousted from what could’ve been the fast-track to a lucrative but closeted lifestyle and career. Perhaps his story is the one that drives the message of this doc home as effectively as DDC’s exploits. Gay and lesbian rap fans or would-be-fans of all ages need to be able to enjoy music that affirms them and their lives as much as rap did in the beginning for black people in general, and “PICK UP THE MIC” serves an important and uplifting purpose in bringing the message: it’s out there. As out there literally as the people who defiantly spearhead the new vanguard of performers bringing something fresh and different to the mix – something that even “regular” aficionados and fans can appreciate, if they keep an open mi
I didn’t know much about this film before I saw it but you have to know that this is a wonderful documentary.
After sitting through the stories of the artists involved you learn that all they really want is to be taken seriously as musicians. They aren’t just trying to push the envelope with being Gay/Lesbian/Transgendered rappers, they are trying to make music that people can relate to.
The film is about these artists saying and being themselves, no different the Eminem, 50cent or ‘Lil Kim are out there doing right now. They want to talk about issues in their lives and just say what they feel.They are creative people making a stand for what they love to do, I applaud that. No matter who you are, if you are passionate about something then your passion will rub off on people and make them respect you. I have to say that I respect these artists for their continued determination to make their music heard.
I recommend this film to anyone who is of an open mind & loves music, passionate people & humanity. You will want to know these artists through their music, something that I want to do.