Could two gay Texas hip-hoppers — Drew Mason and Infidelix — be the start of a new age in music for the Lone Star State?
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but rappers Drew Mason and Infidelix could be mirror images of each other. They are the same age — 24 — and hail originally from Houston. Both spent time in a military academy during their teen years. And now both are white gay men embarking careers in the predominantly African-American genre of hip-hop.
Yet they don’t know each other.
Whether Houston has become a breeding ground for angsty gay youth with rapper tendencies has yet to be determined, but these two, from similar sides of the tracks, are bent on making a mark in both hip-hop and gay cultures.
Drew Mason, ajar
Drew Mason could be the next Kanye West or Lady Gaga. Like both those superstars, Mason is fusing an artier image to his hip-hop music. It’s a natural decision he figures will sustain a longer career. Or at the very least, give him a cool debut video.
"I wanted it to be a unique video and not just another rap video. I’m a big fan of Joe Phillip’s art and I wanted it to tell my story. It turned out great," Mason says.
His video for "The Music’s in My Soul," from his debut CD The Paradigm Shift is illustrated in animated comic book fashion and introduces Mason assertively. Certainly, the video is a risky introduction, but one that implants his image in the mind anyone watching — if his music hasn’t done that already.
"I want my career to be an artistic one," Mason says.
And with or without the video, he’s on his way.
Mason’s childhood might reflect most of the clichÃ©s of troubled youth — tough neighborhood, substance abuse and an abusive dad — but it doesn’t make it less real. His troubles lead him unwillingly to a Marine academy for boys where he stayed until he turned 16. Depending on how you look at it, things didn’t improve after graduation. He dealt pot, made heavy cash and snagged his own place at 17, which he refers to fondly as refreshing.
"That apartment was my sanctuary. For a long time I didn’t have a home," he says.
But Mason needed out of Texas, so he enrolled in a recording school in, of all places, Wisconsin. The Badger State would be the first incarnation of the homo-hop star. However, he remained in the closet.
"I had always been a big fan of music and freestyling but I wanted to learn how to record myself. Wisconsin would be a total getaway. I released a few songs as ‘Lil Drew’ but I wasn’t out. It wasn’t a healthy move. I don’t regret doing that because I was putting all this money into it. But I was also locking myself in the closet," Mason says.
It was his internship in San Diego at Capricorn Studios that gave him the ability to wipe the slate clean, again, and be true to himself. And a kick-ass performance at an OutHipHop.com showcase got him the attention he needed to jumpstart his music career.
"It was a big step, moving to Cali," he says. "I wear my identity proudly and I wanted t make my story more personal. When I got to San Diego, everything took off. People said that I blew them away at the showcase."
Drew Mason now finds himself with a smart debut album and a video getting airplay on Logo. But will being an out hip-hopper hurt any mainstream potential? With genre-bending music and artists all over the spectrum, Mason might be hitting at the right time. Being gay in hip-hop immediately makes him more interesting, and his songs aren’t over-sexed divisive romps. They have more in common with the lyric and beat sophistication of Nas than with the dance-based gay rap of Cazwell.
"I think my music has the chance of breaking through. There is still so much growth that’s happening. I don’t relate to artists like Cazwell. I’d rather break that stereotype off the bat," he says.
Which he does with songs that are the musings of a repressed and lonely youth. With energy and angst, Mason vents hardcore. He’s yet to incorporate his sexuality because first, he needs to work out his other issues. But he’s not blinded by his troubled past enough to suffocate his debut.
"I gotta keep pushing to work toward a better message. It’s surreal to be living the dream but also, there is so much music based on struggle. And this music is my story."
ON THE AIR
Infidelix performs at Hailey’s, 122 W. Mulberry St., Denton. Dec. 18.
Doors open at 9 p.m. $15â€“$19. All ages. HaileysClub.com.
Is there something in the Houston water table that causes two homo-hop acts to hit their strides at the same time? Infidelix makes his own path in music but with unabashed attitude and full-force drive.
"The Houston scene is way different than what people think, but it yields great newer musicians like Paul Wall and Destiny’s Child," he says.
But now he’s dropped his hat in North Texas — today, he calls Denton home. And he performs this Friday in the college town with Lil Wyte, the rapper with lots of buzz discovered by Three 6 Mafia.
"This is what I’ve wanted my whole life, to make music on my own. This is a dream that I never wanted to tell anybody about," he says.
That dream stemmed from almost the same life Drew Mason had. In his youth, Infidelix (born Bryan Rodecker) was also sent to a military academy for spotty behavior, taking it a step further by ending up in the Navy. He claims to have lived an out life in the service, which seems true: He maintains a very loud, gay perspective, down to the rainbow tattoos.
"I’m very openly gay. I whoop somebody’s ass if they talk shit. I’m all tatted up with Pride tattoos. I let it be known, but it’s just the perspective of how you look at it," he says. "In my music, I make fun of myself. People don’t care when it comes to listening to my music. I have a lot of support. I think it’s the way I hold myself."
He has been told that "the gay thing" might be bad for a budding hip-hop career, but Infidelix pushes aside such worries. His pride is almost off the charts yet his persona is hardcore street. It’s almost the first thing he let’s people or artists know about, and if it bites him in the ass, he’s fine with it.
"People are hesitant to do stuff with me because of the gay thing or think it’s a bad thing for hip-hop. It’s not like gay hip-hop, I just so happen to be gay doing it. People are stuck up in an image. If shit happens, it happens," he says.
And with that brazen attitude, Infidelix is both character and artist, much like Eminem. He can crack jokes on himself with lyrics about how he "loves shitpacking" and coming out of the closet practically every time a microphone is in his hand. He just thinks it’s funny.
"I’m very open. Even at my shows, I crack gay jokes on myself. I’m pretty vulgar," he says.
What he does, though, is create a different kind of idol. Infidelix right now may just be a local musician trying to make it big, but his pride matches the audacity of the whole hip-hop genre. He talks shit and he doesn’t give a shit, either. If he blows up, Infidelix would represent a whole new type of pride.
"I wanna send a message that it’s OK and to pursue things you want. There’s no rapper today that’s come out. I wanna portray to people you can be a rapper and still have fans and people don’t hate you for that. I think it’s good to tell people if you’re gay to help the movement. Plus, I just want people to listen to my music and think that it’s badass," he laughs.
The only time it bites him in the ass is when he’s on the hunt for a boyfriend. He’s looking but he’s also in a scene that keeps him in the minority. It messes with his gaydar.
"No boyfriend here, but I need one. I end up liking straight dudes but I don’t pursue that. Plus, I have horrible style. I don’t match half the time. But I think it shows I’m cool to do whatever I wanna do." •
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 18, 2009.
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