Fresh from hitting the stage at New York City’s historic battlegrounds SOB’s EarthTone is victorious. The long-time producer/songwriter is full of emotions from excitement, to relief and pride after winning first place at the Faces in the Crowd Showcase on July 29th. The crowd and the judges took well to his new music and were feeling his message and flow, even though the 30-year-old East Orange, New Jersey native provides a disclaimer: he is an openly gay rapper.
But EarthTone’s appearance negates stereotypes of gay men, especially those in the spotlight. He is rugged; has a beard, dresses like a hippie, smokes blunts, and is the polar opposite of feminine. Nevertheless what he does behind closed doors has nothing do to with his lyricism and his latest EP G-Male proves just that.
I chopped it up with EarthTone and he talked about being comfy in his skin-after “coming out”, his musical journey, dealing with his mother’s death and more.
Is it true that after your mother died you found an outlet in music?
Music has always been a release for me, from the moment I became a fan. Losing my mother definitely proved that theory. After she passed I was in a really dark and conflicting place. I couldn’t make sense of how such a sweet and caring woman was taken from this earth in an instant. It kind of forced me to change my outlook on things and I was still in that dark frame of mind months after she pass, which was Easter ’13. I was able to channel that energy into what would become GMale: The EP.
You are very open with your sexuality on your YouTube videos you refer to yourself as an “Unsigned Openly Gay Rapper” why it important for you to be so candid?
Prior to my current EP, I’ve released a lot of material and none of it had anything to do with being gay or anything like that. I wanted to distinguish the work I’m doing now from what I was putting out before. It’s important because right now there is no voice in hip hop for the everyday gay male living in America; at least not one that really resonates with the community. I want to be that voice.
Do you think your sexuality adds to your persona as an artist?
Absolutely. It’s a part of who I am as a person so it definitely plays a part, and that’s something I want to embrace as opposed to hiding from.
Let’s jump into your EP GMale, you are quite the story teller. How did the EP come about?
Why thank you…lol. During the time I was coming to grips with my mother’s passing, like I mentioned before I was questioning a lot of things. Me still being “in the closet” was one of them. With all the music I had been putting out, it was like “why the hell am I not speaking on this part of my life?” I was in a real “life is too short to not be who you really are” frame of mind. That, on top of seeing some of the other LGBT artists that were making headway really motivated me to start crafting GMale. Once I had the concept, the music just poured out of me.
When did the EP drop?
It dropped officially on July 8th. It’s available on iTunes and Spotify.
What’s one of your favorite songs on the EP?
That’s a tough one. I would have to say “Turning 30”, because it’s pretty much a play-by-play of how my life went down from January to up until my 30th birthday, which was last year.
One of my favs is “Fuck Is You?” where you sample Ebro’s interview with Elliot Wilson. The song really just says F You! To those who judge you for who you sleep with.
Yeah I love that joint. When I first saw the interview, the idea came to me instantly. Ebro’s response to Elliot’s question really stuck with me and I thought it would be dope to play off the words of one of today’s gatekeepers of hip hop.
As a black gay male, who has on numerous tracks- you are masculine not feminine, do you think that as a rap artist that will play a part on how you are perceived in the industry?
I think so, but I think it’s like a double edged sword. People often associate being gay with being feminine, so if you’re masculine and gay it’s perceived as an act. “But I’m just being me, naturally I’m discreet. So certain aspects of my life you wouldn’t see”. On the other hand, it might be easier for the hip hop world to take me seriously because I am masculine, as opposed to walking around sashaying all over the place. At the end of the day, perception is reality. I just want to change the way the LGBT community is looked at as a whole.
Do you have a story or experience where you were treated poorly because you are a gay rapper who is not femme?
Not necessarily. It’s just interesting to see what kind of LGBT artists are put into the spotlight. You rarely see any masculine, regular joe type guys making headlines. It’s usually the overly flamboyant side of the spectrum that gets the most light.
On “Fucking Awesome” you show so much confidence, it’s another self-empowering track, why is it important for rappers to have that kind of swag?
Growing up loving hip hop and the culture, you learn quickly that confidence is everything. It can even outweigh talent in some cases. So being an LGBT artist in hip hop, going against the grain, I have no choice but to be extra confident in what I’m doing or else I’d get eaten alive. If I’m not confident in myself and capabilities, how can I expect someone else to be?
You are seriously a triple threat: A rapper, producer and songwriter. Can we attribute the success to a combination of your education and self-teaching?
Definitely. With the way technology is set up, if you love something and have a passion for it (along with some talent) there’s no reason for you not to become good at it. You can find a YouTube tutorial video on just about anything. So take that along with consistency, you can’t go wrong.
Did you attend school for music as well?
Yeah I did the 4 year college thing and got my Bachelor’s in Media and Communication Studies. Then I went on to the Institute of Audio Research in NY to learn how to produce and engineer.
“Blue Collar Beefcake” that beat goes hard. It has a Wu-Tang like feel, but it’s completely raunchy, in which you describe having a sweet tooth for lucky man who has caught your attraction.
That’s a polarizing track. People either really like it, or they really don’t like it…LOL. I got the beat from DMX and Cam’Ron back in the day. They used the sample on a track called “Pull It”. I knew I wanted to use the beat, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. I wanted a track that gave insight into the type of guys I’m attracted to, so that’s how I got the concept. My bro Mac Moe (who’s featured on the song) came up with the hook and the rest was history.
Did you produce and make the beats for the entire EP?
Yes, I produced all except for two. “To Whom it May Concern” was produced by Jake One for Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rain mixtape. “Turning 30” was produced by my brother-in-law Mikey Iceberg.
There aren’t many openly gay rap artists, but surely you found influence and inspiration in other artists. Who are they?
I came up in what they call the “Golden Era” of hip hop. I was always a fan, but the mid to late 90’s is when I really started paying attention. Some of my favs are Black Thought of The Roots, Redman, Canibus, Styples P, Andre 3000, Common, and Busta Rhymes. More recent guys would be Homeboy Sandman, Curren$y and Phonte, formely of Little Brother to name a few.
What do you hope to leave as your legacy in hip hop and in the music industry?
I hope to be one of the hip hop artists who makes it cool to truly be yourself.
What do you say to those who look at your appearance and judge you because of your sexuality?
FUCK IS YOU!!???
What words of wisdom do you have for young Black men (or young men in general) who are trying to pursue a career in music and are not the stereotypical gay males?
My advice would be to enjoy the journey of getting to know you. We get so caught up in trying to “get on” and “blow up” that we end up chasing something that wasn’t really meant for us. Get to know who you really are as a person and find you purpose, and then you’ll have something worthwhile to talk about and share with the world.
What’s next for EarthTone?
Well I just won first place at the-ground breaking Faces in the Crowd Showcase at SOB’s in NYC. I will be recording a visual for every track on the GMale EP so those will be coming. I’m already crafting GMale: The Album which will be out next year. I got a few more interviews and shows coming up and just letting the snowball roll.
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