ATLANTA — When DJ Mister Cee — one of hip-hop’s pioneering DJs and a New York City radio personality — confessed in a tearful interview to having same-sex encounters with transvestite prostitutes, one of most vulnerable moments came when he worried if his admission might hurt him: “Am I still going to be looked at the same way?”
While it’s too soon to survey the long-term impact, the short-term answer appears to be, in some ways, yes. Though he briefly quit his gig at Hot 97, he’s returned to the airwaves, and in the hip-hop world, he’s gotten key support — which may be surprising, given that the community has often been branded homophobic due to anti-gay lyrics recited by some of its biggest stars.
“Far too often, hip-hop has often been pegged as the two-step forward, five-step backward sort of culture,” said Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, leader of The Roots. “We’ll be progressive on one thing then ... backward about something else. Whatever Mister Cee does with his personal life, more power to him. He shouldn’t be ashamed of that. We got to grow up eventually.”
Mister Cee has been a key player in the rap community. He was formerly Big Daddy Kane’s DJ and a producer on The Notorious B.I.G.’s groundbreaking 1994 debut, “Ready to Die.”
He’s come under scrutiny over the last two years after being arrested in connection with soliciting prostitutes. The most recent charge occurred following an arrest in Brooklyn, N.Y., in May. After that incident, Mister Cee denied trying to solicit sex from a male, and said an undercover female police officer approached him.
But he resigned from his position at the radio station this month after audio of an encounter with a drag queen surfaced online.
The next day, Mister Cee went back on the air for a 30-minute interview on Hot 97 with station program director Ebro Darden. He said he received oral sex from transvestite males. However, he also denied being gay or bisexual.
Singer-rapper CeeLo Green said Mister Cee’s situation could ultimately help someone else dealing with similar issues.
“You never know what someone is going through,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m glad he was honest. It may help someone out there dealing with the same issues. We all have our own issues. I hope he gets the help he needs.”
Ultimately, Mister Cee did decide not to quit his job at the station and to go to therapy after Darden persuaded him to stay put.
Jermaine Hall, editor-in-chief at Vibe Magazine, said he admired Darden for encouraging Mister Cee to not quit his job.
“I thought it was a big thing by Ebro,” said Hall. “No one should lose a job and fear whether they can provide for their family based on their sexual orientation.”
Mister Cee has teamed up with the AIDS Health Foundation for a “new sexual revolution” campaign. In a 4-minute public service announcement, he encourages others to open up about their sexuality and use protection.
But while Mister Cee has been viewed as brave, some wonder how his revelation will change homophobia in the hip-hop community — because he never said he’s gay.
“It can only help [change] homophobia when someone openly declares they are homosexual,” said Green. “You can either be peculiar, different, strange, or unique. All these many different things. What I do respect is that the situation was handled with an awful lot of humanity.”