We originally ran this piece to preview the first time we booked DDm to perform at the Howard. We’re re-running it today because we’re bringing DDm back to the Howard for this Friday’s HOMO FOR THE HOLIDAYS. -ed.
By David Carter
I was told the meet-the-artist interviews for this Super Sampler Show usually range around 10-15 minutes, and leave the reader with a light, crisp understanding of who the artist is behind the act. My interview with rapper Emmanuel Moss, aka DDm, lasted 100 minutes and I left with a friend. I’m not kidding.
Before we even began recording he started interviewing me and asked where I was from. I said, “Virginia Beach, but I ran away, and now I’m in DC for a while.” Emmanuel replied, “You learn and take what you can from each city then move on.” And that is exactly what Emmanuel’s done. Coming out of Baltimore, known for being the first openly gay rapper to do so, his epic street battles, and memorable cabaret style shows, this is DDm.
All 100-minutes are not here because it would take you 100-minutes to read. Instead, here are the highlights. We began talking about losing headphones on the MARC train.
DDm: They were like $10 ear buds.
David Carter: Oh good. So they weren’t Beats or anything like that?
Right. I love beats but I’m just not into paying $150-200 for it.
Yeah. I just want a good sound. I don’t care what the flair is.
Beats have a lot of shit with them. Like they have – You have to put batteries in them. I mean, like who takes batteries?! In the ear where the beats logo is. And the cord shorts a lot, like when you’re running in the gym. I go through so many.
I have three pairs of headphones. One with the mic, one for the gym, and the shit ones I lose on purpose.
(laughs) How old are you?
Oh, okay. Okay. No comment.
No, go ahead. Comment. Comment!
You make me feel old. (laughs)
I did not look up your age. Am I allowed to ask? Should I ask? We’ll redact this.
(laughs) Publicly- Publicly. Publicly, I am 25. *air quotes* But I’m 29. I just turned 29.
I feel old. Its crazy cause I feel like – Some people are late bloomers. Like I didn’t really start living until I was 22.
I read about that. You had a rebirth back in 2009? Where it all clicked?
Yeah. I feel real young. It’s weird because I’m in a process of writing this new project.
Tell me about it. You told me outside that your shows have this cabaret style feel to it. Between songs you will be anecdotal, and funny. It leans towards a one-man-show sometimes.
Yeah. Very much so. Its called “Life on Sale”. I wanted to make songs that an everyday person can relate to. I’m at this point in my life where everyone is out of college. Your friends have children. And this is going to sound weird, but I feel like a vampire. You watch your friends grow old but you don’t feel old because you are looking at their life. I used to live in an art collective; a few musicians, graphic designers, visual artists. Artist life is very much like gypsy life.
I love the idea of that life. It’s a very romantic style of life.
I know. Like when I was a productive member of society-
(laughs) When I sunk into a 9-5. When people admired me as a respectable adult! And somehow I went backwards?! And now I’m a vampire!
(laughs) Right! … We were that house down the street! That house where your mom would say,
“Oh, don’t go to that house.” Then you wake up one day, and you are that person!
When I do interviews, because my history is in battle rap and stuff like that, people are very surprised that I’m not- I’m not going to say ‘not aggressive’, but how do you survive that, being the type of person you are? Really it’s a battle of wits. I grew up in Baltimore. That’s the easy part.
But someone like me it’s like, “Okay, he’s gay, but he looks like that, but he does his nails, but-“ I think it’s just too much to digest. The media does a really good job pretending that America is progressive. It’s slowly getting there.
I was watching this documentary on disco. A lot of people are surprised that I don’t listen to rap as inspiration. We are in the middle of this gay revolution, queer identity in this public consciousness, but we are kind of behind. In the 70s you had acts like the Village People, Elton John, Sylvester, who were selling records and booking, and you don’t have acts like that now a days. I was watching American Idol and one of the acts was clearly a queen, who was playing it down, and it’s because Middle America doesn’t know how to digest it. Jennifer Lopez gets it. J. Lo gets it! But Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. were like (looks mystified).
Now Keith Urban I understand not getting it. But Harry Connick Jr.?! He is an avatar for show business! Just because his wheel house is being a crooner?
Adam Lambert should have won his season. And we still can’t remember who won his season.
Adam Lambert won his season. That’s how we remember it.
As far as rap is concerned, I used to want to be this giant rap star. But I know there is so much more. I have things I want to say. I used to want a record deal so bad. Def Jam! Platinum! All of that.
But we all have callings in life. But if you believe in nothing, believe in yourself and believe in what you are saying, ya know? We all have a calling. At the beginning, I would have been fine with staying in the closet, “Get me the deal, I’m platinum! I got the video! Ugh!” Ya know?! I would’ve been fine being a puppet. Just give me the check and I will perform on the Grammy’s. I don’t care! But – now…
You come from battle rap, but you also want to write you’re your generation and the ones right behind you. It seems to be two different voices. The battle rap seems to be cathartic for you, whereas the music you make is for other people.
Yeah. The battle rap is you and me talking. That’s me talking trash. That’s who I am at home. On my social media, I am known for pushing buttons. I will say what people won’t. But when it comes to my music, I will think about- I’ve made some personal songs – but really, it’s my job to minister. I will look at the lives of my friends for inspiration. I like how when I listen to the classics, I love how it makes me feel.
I love how I can relate. I was listening to Pet Sounds (Beach Boys), on the way over here before I lost my head phones, okay? I love how it makes me feel. I love listening to Sade. I’m a big Shirley Bassey fan. She could sing the telephone book to me.
Jumping ahead in the interview 30 minutes
DDm: I’m attracted to people. I am attracted to guys. My only boyfriend ever was in DC. But I also like a tomboy. I like aggressive energy. To America, I will be gay. No matter how many woman – it’s how it’s labeled.
David Carter: Two boxes. Yeah.
I’m not running away from that. But I found out that I am attracted to personalities and people. When I first came out I said I wanted this type. Fit, 6’3”. Wanted the dark skin, round the way guy, ya know? But what I found through living through that first experience, crashed and burned, maybe that’s not your type, sweetheart? I’m more of a kindred spirit. I am actually more attracted to the kid who watches Pokémon, lives in Westminster, and goes to Mica. There is racism on both sides. The black gay guys think ‘Oh you don’t want us?’ It’s not even that. It’s who you get along with. I want to drink my Malibu & Pineapple and listen to vinyl? You wanna do that? I just want to chill out while I catch up on House of Cards!
I’ve been so busy.
What are your addictions? Everyone has 3 shows that they try to get other people to watch, because no one wants to be alone. What are yours?
Do mini-series count?
American Horror Story: Coven. Only because anytime you get a group of women, together, on TV, especially good actresses, with fashion involved, and shade?! AND THEY GOT SUPER POWERS!? You can’t go wrong with that! Cathy Bates is a mother. Mother Angey and Jessica Lange! You got Emma Roberts! Precious?! Stevie Nicks!? C’mon! Really?
The only thing that would’ve made Orange is the New Black better would be IF they had superpowers.
Right! I tried to get into it but maybe I need to watch it with somebody. But I couldn’t get into it the way I wanted to, and I felt bad about it.
You shouldn’t feel bad about it. They aren’t trying to hook you.
As much as I like to bump the system, I’m very much in the system. You know? I don’t like it when everybody likes – Like everyone likes GIRLS and I just can’t get into it!
I hate it!
(laughs) I can’t!
Out of all the things we’ve talked about already, this is probably the worst thing to admit in this interview.
But I’m also not the audience. It’s also not for us. I don’t feel bad.
I’m kinda getting back into scripted shows. The Tomorrow People. Being Mary Jane.
I think Heroes is coming back. Called Heroes Reborn?
Really? That’s stupid.
You would probably like Being Human and Almost Human. Being Human is about a ghost, a werewolf, and a vampire live in an apartment together, which sounds like a sketch. And Being Human is where cops are robots, robots are cops, the main guy is anti-social with a prosthetic leg, and they shove titular metaphor down your throat. It’s a lot of fun!
How do you feel about who they cast as Wonder Woman?
She is pretty. I was imagining more of an Amazon, physically. How do feel about the new casting of the Fantastic Four? The Human Torch is now black, played by Michael B Jordan?
When I talk about it with all my comic friends, I get different reactions. The white ones, we all nerd out, and my black friends, we nerd out too, but there is also this feeling as if the casting was forced, that the media is giving them crumbs. Don’t do it just to do it. As if they are supposed to feel empowered?
Yeah. My stance on that is this: The super hero fan side of me is like, “Really? Really, dude? C’mon.” Now, Michael B Jordan may embody the spirit of the character, but people want to see their original icons on the screen, how they read about them in the comic.
You need represent the original source material. That’s why MARVEL’S S.H.I.E.L.D. is a let-down.
It looks like Perfect Strangers!
(laughs) It was originally a megalithic dark secret agency full of monsters, violence, and redcoats. Now it’s a simple shoot out, now everyone get back on the plane. There is something glowing blue in Austin.
I’m not mad at the idea of a black Human Torch. If it was me in my own universe, it would be super dark skin, beautiful features, tall; he would look like a Kenyan runner. His costume would be black, and he would look like a mythological king. It wouldn’t be [Johnny Storm] “Hey guys! ” More like a Phoenix.
Do you have a favorite memory in your battles? Do you have a favorite line, verse, or something that dug in and was so perfect? Do you remember crushing?
I’ve done a lot of cyphers where- It’s not any one line. I’ve done a lot where I’ve been better than everyone. But the most liberating one was, who changed the pendulum as to what my career was going to be was around 2010, after I came out. It was at Red Maple, when I still hadn’t confirmed that I was gay. It was the one picked up by World Star Hip Hop. That is the one where I battled a guy using all gay jokes, but I did it in a way, what it special is that the room was full of straight guys! And everyone in the room was living!
Final Thought from Emmanuel Moss, DDm: “I feel like it’s a life’s work. I love how I have my straight peers are saying “No Shade” now, but I’m here for this DDm. That’s my work. My work is not exclude or be a star in gay life. My work is so that kid who is in high school in 2020 can peacefully coexist AS IS. The work is not to become a star in the demographic.”
And don’t worry everyone, we got him new headphones.