USUALLY when niggas are looking at you in a club, they got beef. At this place, they want your beef," says the club reviews section of prominent New York hip hop magazine, Stress. The writer goes on to praise the quality of the DJing and the club's atmosphere.
That Stress review will cause controversy, but a couple of years ago, it would never even have been written. Not because there were no gay rap clubs - the clubs have existed for over a decade - but because the hip hop scene simply wouldn't acknowledge the fact that some of New York's macho, gold-tooth-and-baggy-jean-clad b-boys were actually shagging each other. Attitudes are changing. The banjee boys - as gay hip hop heads call themselves - are making their presence felt throughout the rap scene. It's making some people uncomfortable.
Few in the hip hop scene will deny it exists. But hardly anyone does more than suggest that perhaps, somewhere, something queer might be going on.
BUT it is going on, in clubs like U&Me at The Octagon in South West Manhattan, where, according to flyers, "Homo homeboys rock the flyest gear". It draws over 1,300 customers every Friday. Downstairs, commercial house is the order of the day, but a good few hundred partygoers stay upstairs, where nothing but hip hop finds its way on to the turntables. The mainly black clubbers at U&Me sport outsize fishing hats, Fubu, Hilfiger and plenty of gold as they throw their hands up to Busta's 'Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See'.
There's a good atmosphere here, with more smiles in evidence than at your normal NYC hip hop joint - and a lot less aggravation. As they pose and style on the dancefloor, the crowd here sees no conflict between their sexual preferences and the macho posturing of rap, although a few are uneasy at the sight of the Mixmag photographer. "These photos ain't for no gay magazine, right?" enquires one gold-toothed clubber nervously.
Gay Hip Hop continue