- Reporters Desk
By Melina Paris Music Columnist
Vital Emcee is challenging the rapper image with his new album fag, in which he comes out publicly as a gay man.
Vital’s “Intro” on fag hits hard. In it, late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, foretold his fate in an audio recording he left to be played should he ever be assassinated. Milk’s audio then fades, transitioning into factual newscasts on gays being beaten or killed. This leads into hate speech recordings of people openly and cruelly expressing their contempt for gay people.
Originally from Garden Grove, he now lives in Australia. fag stands for Free of All Guilt. The album is about Vital’s hard examination of society’s views on homosexuality. There are some lighter tracks on the record too. One thing not to be denied is that fag is very real.
He can rap extremely fast. Growing up listening to rap in the early ‘90s, he was more influenced by the West Coast rappers: Tupac, Snoop Dogg and DJ Quick. People tell him that he sounds like Tupac. He says he can’t help that.
When Bone Thugs and Harmony made their debut, Vital studied and wrote down their lyrics saying even if he could not make out the words he would write down what the syllables sounded like. Now as a rapper with his third release, Vital wants to fine tune and brand himself with his sound.
Vital’s delivery can be, in the best way, over the top sometimes. His lyrics are thrilling; producing visions of religious iconography, ancient times, the cosmos, or the end of times. His gift is in bringing all that together with the culture of present day life while provoking thought.
“It takes a lot more these days to impress me within the hip-hop genre. Gay, straight, all that aside I walk around with tattoos but I don’t have any hip-hop tattoos. People may fault me for that, but I don’t care. I’m just trying to do me and I happen to like and have (tattoos of) Pink Floyd, Judas Priest, Elton John. I think it makes me better at what I do as a rapper and a lyricist.
As part of a brand ambassador group for the liquor company Chivas Regal, Vital has been touring cities in China since 2011. While in China last May, he fell in love with an Aussie and moved to Australia.
During this time he was still coming to terms with fag. Years before, his producer pushed him to come out, but he needed to be ready and seriously consider he wanted to say. Travelling helped him find the confidence. Given the uncomfortable nature of doing this project, he realized that it had to be provocative.
“It actually scares me how real I’m about to keep it.” Vital said. “I’m trying to put it in front of people’s eyes as best as I can. I’m still making it (the album) free and accessible too.”
One song that grabs attention is “Hate Crime,” which is about a young gay man who commits suicide.
“Even though I’m rapping over somebody else’s beat, that was my purpose,” Vital said. “It had that vibe, and every time I heard it, I just heard a tragic story over it.”
On “State of the Union,” Vital uses the Elton John sample from “Ghetto Gospel.” The sample is also in the posthumous Tupac Shakur song which Eminem also recorded and produced. Vital feels people can judge him on his skill, straight or gay. He wanted to get that “Ghetto Gospel” beat he loves and wanted to do it his own way.
Vital’s describes himself as a lone wolf in the cave. “I’m a lone wolf and I just had to attack it,” he said. “This is my job, for myself. Let the chips fall where they may.”
Vital explains that for someone with mainstream sensibilities, this mixtape makes some heavy statements. The initial reaction might be that he is trying to capitalize on gayness without being gay. A few years ago rapper, Lil B, came out with a record called, I’m Gay, but he is straight. Vital said he went one higher, using a derogatory term.
He is not trying to force gay rights, he just expects the stereotype to be broken. To do that he plays into stereotypes by doing certain things that rappers are not supposed to get away with, like wearing lipstick on his album cover. The difference for Vital is that he is an artist who happens to be gay. He has always been theatrical and that is his impetus for shaking things up in hip-hop.
“It’s where I come from,” Vital said. “I know how rap music is, what hip-hop is like and I’m still choosing to do this. fag stands for ‘Free of All Guilt’, because I’m finally making peace with it. That was the hardest thing to make peace with within this genre, especially one as ignorant and misogynistic as rap can be. Now people are more socially conscious and open minded, like Macklemore. This couldn’t have happened in the ‘90s.”
Vital is working on a new website, which should be up within weeks. This mixtape is for hip-hop fans, those are Vital’s roots. He wants to bridge the distance in music between pop sensibilities and aggressive street sensibilities. He wants people who think hip hop is trash to find an aesthetic beauty in it and to be part of the catalyst that sets the change.
“I have been silent for so long,” Vital said. “This album is going to be my volcano about to erupt.”