As an openly gay hip-hop artist for over 10 years, I thought Frank Ocean was old news. Gay, lesbian, bi and trans rappers have been openly rocking the mic for nearly two decades now. Starting in 1997 with the formation of hip-hop collective the Rainbow Flava crew, the long and brave history of homo-hop has brought to us to new artists like Le1f and Zebra Katz.
The queens of ‘lesbians that rock the mic’ however falls upon the shoulders of the magnificent God-Des and She. Somewhere in the mid-western states of America, rapper God-Des met singer She and God-Des and She were born, an awesome funky duo, blending hip-hop, soul and pop and unapologetic lesbian-centric lyrics.
Ever since they appeared on Showtime’s The L Word, performing their infamous single Lick It, the pair hasn’t had a moment’s rest, releasing three albums to critical acclaim, holding down the one song spot on MTV LOGO with their song Love You Better, and touring the globe to connect their huge and loyal fanbase.
I can remember back in late 2004, I was on the line-up to perform at PeaceOUT East – a queer hip-hop festival in New York, and a few days before the events, lesbian rapper God-Des had invited myself and the other performers from the festival over to her then New York apartment where we were first introduced to one another.
Being on that Manhattan roof-top at night with so many other gay rappers was a groundbreaking moment, but out of everyone it was clear to me that God-Des had the drive and intention to succeed no matter what. This was also documented in Pick Up The Mic which was being filmed at the time about this emerging homo-hop scene.
A little while later I also met singer She, who equally shared God-Des’s vision and passion and provided the soulful melodic element to God-Des’s rhythm and rhymes. (She also did the same for me when we got together on my song and video Coming Out 2 Play).
The pair did not disappoint and lived up to their dreams. They got signed to major labels and have rocked thousands at their shows – sharing the stage with greats like Salt-N-Pepa, Lady GaGa and Sia. And now they are coming the London to rock their legion of British fans.
I caught up with God-Des and She again to interview them about the new record, touring and who gets their attention on Twitter.
How did you meet?
She: We met in Madison WI at a National Organization of Women benefit that both of our bands were playing at. I wasn’t God-Des’s first singer. She had a male singer she called Wanda. He was leaving Madison to go to Grad School in Boston for opera and is currently an opera singer.
I had a rock band for many years that I fronted, wrote the music and played rhythm guitar in called Doll. She asked me to sing some hooks for her. If you have never met God-Des she is a pushy ass dykie and I really had no choice. But luckily we had really great musical chemistry and the rest as they say....
When did you realize you were on the road to success?
God-Des: Honestly, we always believed we were on the road to success. If we would not have believed in ourselves from the jump, our success would have never manifested.
There were definite moments that pushed our career further like being on The L Word and having our video for Love You Better be number one on MTV Logo. After the L Word aired we were able to quit our jobs and do music full time. At the point, I knew there was no turning back and we were going to make this thing work no matter what.
She: Well the first step on the road to success was to take a huge risk and move to NYC from Madison WI. I was scared to death. Again God-Des was pushy and made me go. I sure am glad she did.
It was there we learned to hustle. We learned you have to make it happen. It was when we got the hook up for the L Word that changed everything. Two weeks after that show aired we got to quit our day jobs for good and be full time musicians. Since then we have built a fan base and a pretty awesome business that we are very proud of. It nice when you build something from the ground up and it starts to take off.
What is the best advice you have been given?
She: It was this poet I met in NYC named Buttaflysoul. I called him one day when I was freaking out in NYC. I had no job, no money, I felt as if I was failing. I called him crying.
He said and I will never forget this. ‘Guuuuuurl if called me to join in on your pity party you called the wrong motherfucker. You have to decide what you want and fight for it. No one is going to give you anything in this world.’ His words hit me like a bat to the stomach but they were the words I really needed to hear.
God-Des: To always be authentic and never try to be like anyone else. Also, to not have a Plan B. If this is all we have, we have to make it work.
Your views on the music business in five words...
She: It’s a double edged sword.
Who do you aspire to be like?
She: We have had to pave our own way so it’s hard to say who we want to be like. Artists who give and who inspire, no one specific for me at least. We want you to leave our shows with a fire to do something good in this world whatever that may be.
God-Des: I aspire to as successful as Lupe Fiasco and as inspirational as Harvey Milk.
What are your influences?
God-Des: Struggle and equality.
She: My influences come form all different places everyone from Bob Seger to JT. I love most kinds of music. I think our fans influence us as well because were not just speaking for ourselves.
What has been your best experience to date?
God-Des: A fan once told us about her story of being in a bad accident and becoming paralyzed. She was told she would never walk again. She listened to our cd Stand Up everyday in the hospital for inspiration. She started to be able to move her pinky then her entire hand. Two years later she came to our show walking.
She: I think for me it was bringing my dad to Vegas Gay Pride last year. It was his birthday, he had never been to Vegas and he loves to gamble. I flew him and he got to stay at the fanciest hotel in Vegas. He took his first limo ride.
It was amazing to share my success with him. It meant a lot to me to give him that. We aren't always rolling in limos but for gay prides they do treat us right. Vegas Pride is exceptional in the way it treats its artists. It’s hard to choose though, lots of good experiences.
How powerful is your presence and message for other young gay females?
God-Des: I think young gay females and gay folks in general are happy to have a voice they can relate to. We have often heard that we are the voice inside our fans heads that they have never been able express. That we are like their diary. We are unapologetic and speak the truth.
She: We get messages practically everyday from young women who feel validated and connected to our music. It makes it all worthwhile. It makes our day.
How difficult was it to want to be out and proud hip-hop artist back when there were no others to follow?
She: I don’t think we thought about it. We just carried on. But once we met everyone it sure did make it easier. That first trip to San Francisco for PeaceOut. It was something I’ll never forget. Amazing. I think we all thought the same thing, ‘surely I’m the only one?’ Ha ha!
God-Des: I have always been a bit of an outcast so my music was just an extension of that.
What do you think about the new wave of openly gay hip-hop artists? Any favorites?
God-Des: I LOVE Frank Ocean
She: I think it’s great. I like Avan Lava. Catchy ass shit.
Tell us about your latest album.
She: We are so proud of the new record. It’s heartfelt, political, powerful, inspirational with a comic twist. We are goofy and like to have a good time but we are also extremely passionate about the issues we care about: gay rights, women’s rights, the environment, injustice and inequality. God-Des did most of the beats on this record and I think it really is the birth of the definitive G&S sound.
God-Des: It is political, tragic, funny, powerful and will make you want to gay fly around the room!
You don’t shy away from politics in your music – what are some of the more serious matters you deal with?
She: We really just stand up for any injustice politically whether it be gay rights, women’s rights, civil rights, the environment, or poverty. We are musicians but we are also social activists.
Not a day goes by that I don’t post something political or informational on our social media. I get messages all the time thanking me for being a voice. It feels really good to spread information as well as inspiration.
What do you look forward to about touring?
God-Des: Meeting people, hearing their stories, and learning. Oh and having a shit ton of fun!
She: Touring is hard I’m not gonna lie. Being on stage and feeling the crowds energy and love is the reward. The perfect exchange. There is nothing like it. No drug could ever touch that feeling.
What is the craziest thing a fan has said or done?
She: The new trend is to get our signatures tattooed on their bodies. Fans for life for real!
Who do you follow on Twitter?
She: We follow lots of people. Some of my personal favorites are Rosanna Barr, Cher, Amanda Palmer, Jay Brannan and Chuck D.
Where will you be for your European tour?
On 19 April in Weissertrand, Germany for L Beach Festival, then on 23 April in London, UK [see below], on 26 April in Antwerp, Belgium at a venue to be confirmed. We will be in Prague, Czech Republic on 3 May at Kockpit Kafe, in Paris, France at La Muniterie on 5 May and in Berlin, Germany at West Germany on 11 May.
We are trying to get more gigs so holler at us!
QBoy (Marcos Brito) will be DJing for God-Des and She when they play their only London date on 23 April at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern as part of Bar Wotever. Find out more here.
See some of their hits and QBoy’s collaboration with She here: