Hip-hop is having its coming-out party. From July 16-18 in New York City, the Peace Out East festival will feature more than 40 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) artists, all vying for a voice within the growing gay hip-hop community. Peace Out started in Oakland, Calif., in 2001, but its trek east--which is expected to attract hundreds--is significant. "New York is the birthplace of hip-hop and the modern LGBT rights movement," says Dutchboy, a co- organizer from Brooklyn. "The time is right to showcase the pioneering work of 'homo-hop' artists."
They're very much aware of how contradictory the whole thing sounds, given hip-hop and rap's intolerance for alternative lifestyles. People "think it's gonna be this flamboyant, whiny guy getting on the microphone or some drag queen," says Tori Fixx, an artist and producer from Minneapolis. "You're going to be shocked, educated--yet you will never be alienated." Rappers talk openly about being stigmatized in their rhymes. Tim'm West, an educator, writer and M.C. from Oakland, raps: "Found myself, found hip-hop, but he was locked up in a closet/Trying to hide from spittin' real topics." But the festival is as much about activism as the acts. "I can be really powerful and have a voice when I'm behind a mike," says Wisconsin M.C. God-Des. "I do hip-hop and I'm gay."