At the Caribou Coffee on North Halsted Street, queer rapper Big Dipper pulls out his mobile phone and shows me a photo from a recent performance at Touché. “That’s me onstage, wearing a harness and a bear hat with a picture of someone’s art of an asshole behind me,” he says proudly. “It went over really well.”
Big Dipper, who withholds his real name so as not to spoil any illusions, meets me across the street from Hydrate, where he is rehearsing for Sprung, a night of queer hip-hop happening Tuesday 17. After a sweat-filled rehearsal that includes bumping and grinding with his well-toned dancers, belting out lyrics like, “I need something thick and wet and rough and juicy, a five-course meal to make my ass a loosey-goosey,” and figuring out whether or not there should be hanging dicks as part of the background decor, he’s finally ready to talk.
The self-described out, Jewish bear-cub rapper is on a roll. His debut video, Drip Drop, is a tongue-in-cheek woodland fantasia that samples “Little April Shower” from Bambi and has received more than 75,000 hits on YouTube (plus mentions in both New York Magazine’s blog and the Huffington Post). Produced by Dan Foley of performance-art trio DAAN, it debuted in December and signaled the arrival of a new voice in the heteronormative world of hip-hop, a bear-cub rapper who sings about his “cravings for crotch meat” which he’ll satisfy while wearing his “birthday suit.” His arrival coincides with a recent explosion of queer artistry in Chicago, where a diverse coterie of young performers is breaking out in bars like Parlour, Beauty Bar and Berlin.
Raised in Evanston, the 27-year-old rapper recalls early influences as diverse as Kris Kross, “because they were 13 and I was 13,” he says, and also Eminem, Kanye and Jay-Z plus artists with queer sensibilities like Nicki Minaj, Cazwell and Aussie sensation Iggy Azalea. “She’s high fashion and stiletto heels and rapping about her pussy, and to me there’s something gay about that,” he says. Big Dipper went to Ithaca College in New York and returned to Chicago in 2007, where he immersed himself in the city’s storefront theater scene, performed in two improv troupes, worked at a nonprofit, directed shows and taught.
Initially too shy to have a go at a career in hip-hop, Big Dipper had an epiphany, and like all good ones it happened in the backseat of a car. “My roommate was driving us somewhere, and that Bambi song popped into my head,” he says. “I wrote a little hook and it was all just a joke. I wrote two verses to it and my buddy lost his mind. I contacted Dan Foley and was like, I want to be a rapper, can we make a song together? He was down.”
The video for Drip Drop took nearly a year from inception to completion, and since that time he’s become a ferocious stage act incorporating sexy-as-hell male and female dancers who thrust and gyrate to his own choreography, which augments his deliciously naughty wordplay. Not that you should get any ideas. “I’m a very respectful and shy person in real life,” he says. “It’s great to have the opportunity to rap about fisting. You’re expressing a part of you that you don’t get to put out into the world every day.”
Meanwhile, he’s working on a mix-tape or “project” and a five-track EP of original material while continuing to book live gigs. “I had all of these bears, who are part of this Sydney Harbor Festival in Australia, trying to get me to come out there,” he says. “I was like, ‘If you pay for me to come, I’ll come…on your chest, on your face.’ ” Sounds like the lyrics to his next song.
Big Dipper headlines Sprung Tuesday 17 at Hydrate.