Why You Should Know Sgt. Sass

Philly's gay rap duo joins a queer music showcase just in time for Pride

“Every verse I spit is a picture painted. My words never fade, they can’t be duplicated,” raps emcee DeShawn over the industrial soundtrack “Dig It” by Skinny Puppy. DeShawn is one-half of a local gay rap duo Sgt. Sass that also includes DaQuan. The homegrown rappers play live June 11 (10 p.m.) at Tritone as part of a queer music showcase with Nicky Click, Rainbow Destroyer, and CJ and the Dolls.

Sgt. Sass blends unapologetic hip hop with underground, experimental beats on their latest project Art Fggt/Fggt Art which is inspired by gay icons like Andy Warhol, James Baldwin and Keith Haring. As they get ready to hit the stage locally, DeShawn talked to us about what it’s like being gay black rappers in Philly, and how they plan to turn it out for Pride weekend.

What can we expect from your set?

A high energy set with realistic rhymes and pulsing beats. A good time for sure!

How long have you been performing together?

We’ve been performing as Sgt. Sass for four-and-a-half years.

How did you guys first partner creatively?

He and I met at the Art Institute of Philadelphia in the early 2000s. We also lived together for a short time after that.

How many songs have you written as Sgt. Sass?

I had to open my iTunes to get a more accurate count. We’ve written more than 40 songs that appear on two mixtapes, one EP and a handful of guest features. Also, we have half of an album written and recorded for a 2012 release. We have a good number of remixes by other artists under our belt, as well.

What reactions to you get from audiences who find out you’re openly gay rappers?

Reactions are usually mixed for me. Some people automatically think I sing or a dance when they find out I’m a performer. Oh, stereotypes. Others typically want me to rap on the spot when they find out. I guess that’s their way of judging my skill or seeing what kind of content my rhymes are about.

What are some of the issues that inspire your music?

Inspiration for songs comes from everyday life experiences – emotions, whether they’re aggressive or in high spirits. We’re also firm believers in rapping about realness. You’ll never hear us rap about things that aren’t untrue or have not happened.

What’s Philly’s music scene like for gay performers?

The artists we surround ourselves with are amazing, gay or not. There are a number of queer music artists that we love and call our friends in the Philadelphia community, as well as artists that do not identify as gay or queer. For Sgt. Sass, that works for us. As the saying goes, “We get in where we fit in.”

Who have you performed with?

We’ve played with a bunch of great performers. One of my favorite shows was opening for Matt & Kim and the Death Set a few summers ago.

Where else can we hear and see you?

You can download our entire discography from 2007 until now on our website. You can catch us on June 17 at Kung Fu Necktie for the monthly party “The Ball,” and on June 25 at *Public Assembly in Brooklyn.

*The event is produced by Earl Dax, a former promoter from Philly – and a UPenn grad – who now works with such acts as Justin Bond, Karen Finley, Taylor Mac and Julie Atlas Muz, among many others, in New York City.