It was sort of always a dream of mine,” admits young emcee Dino Foxx. “I’ve been a spoken-word poet for years, but to be able to actually rap — that was just something that I always secretly wanted to do.”
Despite what you’ve heard, dreams still do come true in San Antonio, and hip-hop theater proponents the Push Pens are living proof. Comprising former House of Blues concert promoter Dino Foxx and his partner, longtime San Anto emcee Cros, the Push Pens are currently completing tracks for their first album and a hip-hop opera titled “Barstool Poets Project: Last Call for Truth.” After wowing the audience at the Jump-Start Performance Company’s recent Performance Party, the duo will present another excerpt of the show next month at the Guadalupe Theater. Foxx is a Jump-Start company member, and the goal is to produce the show there in the near future, under the direction of Steve Bailey.
“The way that I was introduced to Jump-Start was because of hip-hop,” says Cros. “I got a phone call saying they were looking for an education person to teach kids how to rap, how to create a rap song. So I owe my hip-hop background to my connection with Jump-Start, and I stayed on with their education program. It wasn’t until this last year, where I’ve really come in and really wanted to get my hands dirty and try different things and learn theater. It was cool when `Foxx` said he wanted to rap. I make the beats and run all the recordings and he helps out, showing me what I need to be doing as a stage performer, as an actor; it just kind of builds.”
Over the years, Cros has produced a solid catalogue of work as a solo artist and with such groups as Konstant Output, Paint By Numbers. On wax, his work as a Push Pen is his strongest to date, anchored by serious production and an inspired flow. Themes range from relationships and loss to family drama, but what sets this project apart is the presence of Foxx — an openly gay man who sounds like he’s been rapping his whole life.
“I’m not the only brown, queer rapper that’s out there,” says Foxx. “I recognize that our voices and our stories are very different. The ones that I have worked with are coming at it from a very different angle, and I’m not looking to kick the door off the closet. My closet door has always been open, and I’m welcoming people to come in, and be a part of my life. To not shock people into listening to what I have to say, to more so tell a story and to tell people what could possibly happen if you just take a moment to have a beer with somebody — to talk to them, and to listen to them without judgment, and to open your heart to accept everything that person’s going to give you.”
Even so, Cros says Foxx’s lyrics are unexpected in this context.
“I will admit to you, though, and I told him this, too, that it is shocking to me when he raps about something that is totally just taboo in the hip-hop culture,” Cros says. “When he’s talking about seeing a guy, in a club, and how he feels about that — when I first hear it, it’s like ‘What?! What’s going on here?’ It’s like this blast of cold water, but then you’re like ‘All right, let’s keep on going.’ I mean, ’cause, you know, love is love. You feel that way. I feel that way. We just run with it.”
In hip-hop, attacking someone’s masculinity is still the most common way to dismiss them. Take Kanye West, who in 2005 spoke out against homophobia in hip-hop, and today can be heard declaring himself “no homo” on Jay-Z’s “Run This Town.” But within the past year LGBT emcees including Cuba’s Las Krudas, Detroit’s Invincible, and New York native Skim, have all made memorable stops in San Antonio, suggesting that at least in the Alamo City, some heads are ready to get past the hate.
“I think what the biggest challenge is, and the thing that’s the hardest for people to wrap their mind around, is that it’s a straight rapper and a gay rapper working together” says Cros. “There is a homosexual rap movement that goes on. They’re very popular and successful, and they have careers thriving right now, but it’s isolated. Only people that know about them and only people that accept that go to see them. What we’re trying to do here is really just bridge these two communities. If we can pull some of those people from each community over to the other side and just bring it all together, then I think we’d be successful.” •