It's tough to be a teenager, to be African American, and to be gay. Imagine being all three. Spoken word artist Kenneth Morrison dedicates this poem to his friend Devon, who committed suicide at age 13.
I interviewed Jesse O in a quaint Manhattan Sushi bar. Over a lunch of Salmon Rolls and Sapporo Beer, I got to know this young man who GayHipHop.com has named the ‘Artist to Watch in 2006’ … and who’s also gearing up to perform at the Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival.
“So … are you excited about performing at Jersey City Pride?” I asked.
Aptly themed, Somewhere Over the Hudson, the sixth annual Pride event defines the city geographically, and joins festivals from around the globe in their push for equal rights for all, and a world where dreams that one dares to dream really can come true.
“Oh, definitely”, he responds.
Born Jesse Owusu Afriyie in Ghana, West Africa, (but raised in the Bronx, NY) the singer, song-writer, producer, dancer and choreographer smiled confidently and said, “We’re comin’ to rock it!”
Jesse O’s debut, Exposure, which OutMusic nominated for Outstanding Debut Recording Artist 2006, is the result of years of introspection, bringing him to the mental place where he could produce such an edgy CD. Exploring life, love, and most importantly, sexuality, Jesse hopes to reach the hearts of those who feel their lives don’t have a voice in music. And with songs like ‘My Brotha’—which tackles the issue of safer sex between men—I think he just might be right. His infectious ballad, 'I Think I’m Falling in Love', gave me the warm, fuzzy, old-school vibe, and reminded me of Lionel Ritchie and even Babyface.
He sits taller when we talk about the positive response his music has gotten thus far.
“Though I don’t want to be known as the ‘gay’ artist …because I want my music to speak for itself … I don’t understand how any gay artist could not be ‘out’, and still be an artist. My music comes from an honest place, and it is my activism. I also feel there is a higher-power working through me, allowing me to make not only gay fans but straight fans as well. Because the music is good, it opens their minds up to the whole gay thing, the homosexual thing … ‘til it’s not such a big deal anymore.”