Queer Traphouse rapper Damez’ new video “Up Down” is a party and club ready track meant as an homage to his favorite movie, Ice Cube’s directorial debut The Players Club. Damez says, “I think this video shows me like you’ve probably never seen me before. I’m back with choreography – there are some dope looks of course, but there are also some unexpected surprises! There’s really something for everyone to enjoy.”
“Up Down” is the latest visual release from Damez’ Coverboy EP, released last June for Pride and Black Music Month.
The visual is a nod to Atlanta’s strip club culture, opening with Damez pulling up to Magic City while one of Dollar Bill’s infamous quotes from The Players Club sets the scene: “Stripping business started in Africa / Long time ago / Long, long time ago…/ and he saw all these ‘bootiful’ black women [men too] / Walking around / Singing / Dancing / Twerking / in the nude / ‘Bucked Nakeds!’ / You could see their ‘public’ hairs / I too went from club to club / to seek out these creatures / watching them perform in the nude…”
The beat drops as he makes his entrance where he’s met by dancers and more eye candy before breaking into choreography.
“I told him the most beautiful words you ever wanna hear in our profession. Baby, I looked at that trick dead in the eye, and told him fuck that pay me. That’s why I get 40%.”
With lyrics such as “Make that shit clap on the couch / Make that shit clap on a trick / Make that shit clap on the flo’ / Make that shit clap on the d**k,” the song and accompanying music video are an “ass shaking tutorial” and a salute to the “twerkers,” the dancers, the strippers, and the patrons who love and support them.
Featuring men and women in various degrees of undress, Damez is giving all his LGBT fans something to drool over. Even inserting himself into the twerking dancers, ass up and face down– ‘Up Town” is for everyone –straight, gay, and straight up freak.
Long before he was starring in his own polyamorous, gender fluid strip club fantasies, he was just a gay kid dealing with the day-to-day microcosm of society’s worse aspects that we call high school. But in that forum he was lucky to have someone that had his back and protected him from some of the worse aspects a gay kid can go through and that was his older brother, who was also his best friend and confidante who supported everything he did. Damez said that like many of us he too felt the need to suppress his sexuality to make himself and other people feel comfortable. “Luckily, I had my older brother. There were a lot of people that were LGBT growing up that had it a lot harder than I did, whether it was because of their parents or friends.But because of my brother, I feel like I had it easier than most people.”
Which is why it was his loss was even more devastating.
He was a senior in college when his brother tragically died from gun violence, as a freshman at Jackson State University. Damez says it was “a pretty big deal and he was the inspiration behind me probably deciding to go full force with my music.”
Damez found purpose in songwriting. He was apprehensive about entering the music industry out-and-proud, due to the homophobic reputation attached to hip-hop, but ultimately decided to live authentically to “bridge the gap” and change perceptions of LGBT artists within the genre. “I was always into music as a child, I had my boom box where my brother had the video games and I had guitar. I would literally draw album covers and the track list and the liner notes. I was just obsessed with my dream and my brother he was always into sports and so he never really had a music dream but he knew how passionate I was and I know if he was still here today, I know he wouldn’t be surprised that I am still pursuing it. I often wish he was still alive to see it.”
Damez began to hit his stride when he was dibbed “The New Face of Atlanta’s Music Scene” by Out Magazine in their 2020 PRIDE cover story.
Damez according to Out is an advocate against police brutality and the injustices in the legal system, and has often expressed those sentiments in his music. (For starters, listen to the lyrics in his songs, “Supreme,” “Part II,” “Dopeboy,” “Introspection,” “Hold On,” and “Free”). “I feel as an artist, as Nina Simone once said, ‘It’s important to reflect the times,’ and I will always advocate for the advancement of my people, all of my people,” Damez adds, “in not just my music, but in everything I do.”
Damez adds, “Let me be very clear, even if I wasn’t LGBT, being Black alone is enough struggle to last all of us centuries and centuries of lifetimes.”
Atlanta is looked at as one of the gay capitals in our country, however, growing up in East Atlanta and predominantly in an African-American community, it wasn’t that easy. There were a lot of times where I felt like I needed to suppress or shrink myself in order to feel comfortable and make other people comfortable. Luckily, I had my older brother who made it a lot easier for me. There were a lot of people that were LGBT growing up that had it a lot harder than I did, whether it was because of their parents or friends. I feel like I had it easier than most people. I feel it’s definitely changing. Ten years ago when I was in high school, the world and society was much harder than it is now. People are coming around and I’m so excited about that.
Damez has recognized those before them going back to first 2020 single “Higher.” Initially recorded in 2018, the song was written after rappers he respected and “looked up to” in the industry expressed homophobic views, which he told the Gay Times, left him “as a Black man, and a fan of rap music, both disgusted and mortified. Being gay is in no way, shape or form equivalent to being weak. In fact, I believe my fellow gay Black men are some of the strongest people on the globe. The bigger message is that you can be whoever you want to be, and you will feel so free once you let go of the worries of other people’s thoughts and opinions.”
Peep this snippet from this summer’s interview with Rolling Out:
Since you represent the LGBT community, do you feel as an artist you are put in a box working with other artists? Do you feel sometimes other artists are hesitant to work with you?
Yes, I feel it’s a mixture of both, but I try to not let it discourage me.
How important was it for you to be on the cover of multiple magazines to tell your story?
Very important. Those magazines helped me share my story with the younger generation, especially Black LGBT youth. Being able to show them great representation and being able to have someone to look up to.
Damez expresses his concern with issues that affect the gay community and in particular the Black gay community especially around HIV and mental health. “They tie in together; mental health is definitely a huge thing that we don’t talk about as often. HIV is one of those things where you can get it and then it’s like you have it but mental health, black people especially typically don’t go to psychiatrist and get diagnosed with mental health illness. So, it’s one of those things where again you have to just be diligent and just keep yourself afloat and sometimes it’s hard to do but mental health is very important and it’s like we only get one brain, we only get one body, so we have to take care of it. We have to take care of our bodies; we have to take care of our mental health and it all ties into one.”
— Damez (@Damez) June 3, 2021
Part of that he says he is taking a break from social media. “For me, I try to definitely take a break from social media as much as I can. I think social media has a way of enticing our metal health in ways that just …the research can’t even really fully conclude certain things about social media because it is such a new entity in the past like decade or so that there hasn’t really been enough research but we have no idea of the impact it’s having or going to have. It’s all new so we’re like one big guinea pig. It’s honestly important, not just social media but just media in general. It’s just good to disconnect from technology for a while and just tap back into the things that are just naturally. Talking with your friends and loved ones and organically enjoy life and it just humbles me, it brings me back to earth. We are on the earth to live and have fun.”
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Damez pauses reflecting on how blessed he’s been with the feedback from people in general. He smiles. “I have gotten just like so much love. Love and just the opportunity especially from LGBT outlets and even non-LGBT outlets. People are really connecting with authenticity and people really love just something that they can relate to. I am Black and I am gay but I am also a human being. I am also a boy who just loves music and who loves to dance and loves to write and rap and sing and who has a dream and who has been through some pretty traumatic shit in life like losing my brother, there is plenty of people out there who have lost someone close to them that they can relate.”
Damez also has another project that he hopes people relate too, his docuseries, Go Hard (see the first episode above) which is being featured on the LGBT streaming service Revry. “They were interested in distributing Go Hard, which I started at the end of 2020. It’s an ongoing and I edit and produce it myself. I’m very proud of it because you get a behind the scenes look of my career and journey so far. You see behind the scenes of music videos and photoshoots. You see in the studio, interacting with friends, and you see how it all comes together. I put the episodes out on my YouTube channel. It’s been a minute since the last episode, so we were trying to figure out how we were going to go forward with it. Revry reached out and said they were interested in putting it on their television platform, which is a big deal. People can check out my content from their televisions. That’s exciting for me this year. They’re going to relaunch it and we have some new episodes coming out as well. With Revry I’ll be able to reach so many people and hopefully influence and empower more people, which is the overall goal.”
hey 2022 🥂✨ pic.twitter.com/cPw9hLWdjs
— Damez (@Damez) January 2, 2022
That and more music. Damez wants to put out at least two new projects a day especially now that Covid is winding down and he can do more than he was able the last two years. “Just expect more he says,” he says. “2022 is going to be my year, I’m claiming it!”
Check out the video to “Up Town” below.