Rapper Milan Christopher: Hip-hop culture is changing for gay people

Rapper Milan Christopher: Hip-hop culture is changing for gay people

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Milan Christopher made history when he joined “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood” for its second season, which premiered in September. The rapper and producer from Chicago is the first openly gay man in the “Love & Hip Hop” franchise.

The Hollywood iteration features eight main cast members, including Ray J, Brandy’s little brother and sex-tape partner with Kim Kardashian; Omarion from the early-aughts boy-band B2K; and Soulja Boy. It airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on VH1.

Christopher’s relationship with fellow season-two castmate Miles “Siir Brock” Brock put a gay couple front and center in the hip-hop world. Although the show stressed the relationship, and the couple has since separated, Christopher credits “Love & Hip Hop” with opening doors in his music career. His debut EP, tentatively titled “Final Fantasy,” will drop in January.

Christopher visited PGN’s office this month to talk reality TV, music and being labeled “the gay rapper.”

PGN: Was filming a reality show the experience you expected?

MC: When I was shooting it, it was cool. But right now, based on how things have turned in my relationship, it’s not what I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to be married by now.

PGN: How did the show affect your relationship with Miles?

MC: The majority of the people who knew me and Miles thought we were just friends. The show was able to expose our relationship to the world. Then we became these public gay guys in hip-hop. I think that’s where our relationship went downhill. He lied about so much about who he was, like about the fact that he was on the down-low and I was the first guy that he ever messed around with. He also lied about his best friend being his ex-girlfriend. I had just been bamboozled by this person who was creating a more masculine figure for me to like him. In the meantime, I’m working hard and because of me, we get put on the show. It was very shocking to find out that everything about him was false. But it was also a good thing. I think, without the show, I would’ve never found out. I probably would’ve married him. We’re done filming now. At the reunion, I kind of addressed some of the things [we had problems with].

PGN: There are rumors you’re dating Jussie Smollett, who plays one of the sons on “Empire.” Any truth to them?

MC: No, Jussie Smollet and me are not dating. I think what happened was we ended up at several parties around the Halloween weekend when I was in New York. We’re both gay men and we were ending up in the same places because we have a limited amount of things that we can go to during that time. We hung out in the same space. If it was VIP, we would both be in VIP. I think that’s where [the rumors] came from. We’re not dating. I’m single.

PGN: What went into writing your latest single, “When I Go”?

MC: “When I Go” is a song about breaking up and being able to move forward. Before you go, you’re going to take every emotion that you brought to this relationship. A lot of times, we go into relationships and if it doesn’t work out, we let people keep parts of us and we start all over. That’s not where I’m at. I’m not leaving all of my stuff with someone who doesn’t deserve it. It’s one of those things where I’m moving on, I’m taking all my stuff and I’m going to be just as strong as I was when I met you. I’m going to be even stronger now. It’s one of those life lessons.

PGN: What can people expect from the EP you’re releasing in January?

MC: The album is going to be five songs that you haven’t heard. It’s going to encompass a lot of things. It won’t necessarily be like “Fuq Iz Yu Thinkin’,” a hard-core song, but it won’t necessarily be like “When I Go” either. It’ll be a mixture of both. It’ll be an infused sound.

PGN: What got you into music?

MC: After my little brother passed away [from a gun accident at a friend’s home], I wanted to get involved in stuff that was not negative. I lived on the South Side of Chicago, and we had a lot of gangs around. I joined this group called the Chicago Children’s Choir, which sang opera music. One of my friends in the choir was also in this more hood-dance group. This is going to sound bad, but with the choir I felt I could be gay and more effeminate, and with the dance group I could be a little bit more macho, but still be gay. I was able to find myself and be everything that a gay man is: masculine and feminine. I’ve always loved hip-hop music. When I was dancing, we would only dance to hip-hop music. When Kanye West came from Chicago, I loved everything about him. Kanye made me want to do what I do now because he was so dope.

PGN: How do you think hip-hop relates to gay men?

MC: Right now, it’s not something that is accepted when people find out. In the hip-hop culture, especially, if someone is even rumored to be gay, people stop buying their albums or they get dropped from labels. I’ve always wanted to rap. I’ve always wanted to produce more hard-core sounds. But because of my sexuality, my first manager wanted me to just do pop music because he felt like I would be more accepted. I have been forced into that pop and dance box based off of my sexuality. I’m trying to force myself outside of that box. I don’t feel like my sexuality should even be talked about. I should just be an artist. They don’t say, “the straight rapper.” Why do I have to be “the gay rapper”? Why is that part of my introduction? I definitely think that my sexuality has made people treat me differently or make people think I should do things differently as far as music is concerned. Because I’m gay, people feel like I’m only supposed to rap a certain type of way. There are gay people in all facets of life and we’re not just pushovers because we’re gay.

PGN: Is the hip-hop culture changing for LGBT people?

MC: I think the climate is changing. With shows like “Empire,” and people like Caitlyn Jenner and Michael Sam exposing our lives to the public, it’s giving people who wouldn’t normally have this conversation the opportunity to formulate a different opinion, rather than what they’re force-fed or what they heard.

PGN: You appeared on “Out in Hip Hop,” another VH1 show. What was that discussion like?

MC: My favorite part of the discussion was when the pastor came on. He was Skyped-in. He was basically talking about how he offers counseling to gay men and gay women as if it was some sort of sickness. Karamo Brown [who appeared on “The Real World: Philadelphia,” the first season of the MTV show to feature two openly gay cast members] and I addressed him and let him know we’re not sick. This is who I am. This is the way I was born. I don’t need you to counsel me out of a mind frame. That was important to me because people really look at homosexuals as if they are some weirdos who need treatment. Especially in the black community, they really think the person needs counseling or they had to be molested or something had to happen to make this person a gay guy.

PGN: How is it different to be a black gay man versus a white gay man?

MC: It’s hard enough to be a black man, honestly. Being a black man, in general, you have all these forces putting you in a certain box. As a black gay man, now the black men in that box are putting you in another box, so it’s a lot. But I feel like you have to live your truth and be honest with yourself and everybody around you. The white gay culture has been moving and shaking for years, since the ’60s in San Francisco and New York and different places. During those times, racism was prevalent. Of course, the black gay people couldn’t do the same things that the white gay people were doing. First of all, they were black, so they weren’t even respected at all. The movements all happened at different times. In the black community and in hip-hop culture, [being gay] is still not respected. We’re just starting the conversation. We have a lot to get past before we get to the same level. Eventually, we’ll catch up.

PGN: What are you hoping to accomplish in the next few years?

MC: I want to be on a mainstream level like my Caucasian counterpart Sam Smith, who’s an openly gay man and uber-successful. In the next years, I want to give the LGBT community and kids a blueprint of someone they can look up to who looks like them and acts like them. Television likes to only put a certain type of black gay man on television. They’re very flamboyant like the Derek J’s, the [Miss] Lawrences and the RuPauls. They very rarely show someone like me. But the majority of the gay guys I know who are out, they look and act like me.

PGN: Will you be on season three of “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood”?

MC: If it’s worth my while, I’ll be back. In general, the platform has definitely opened doors for people. It’s an amazing platform for the next couple who may be LGBT and want to come on a reality TV show, not just “Love & Hip Hop.” I think it was a good move, but it’s very stressful, to say the least. 

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