You can always tell when someone is a true music lover. When they put the disc of their favorite artist in the cd player, they know exactly what number will give them the song they need for that point in their life. Whether its something to make them smile, bob their head, think about a time when things seemed better or even just that feel-good groove, they know where it is; and it manages to take them to the place they need at that time. No matter how many cds they have in their collection, there is no mistaken who will do what is needed at the time that it is needed the most.
Author Terrance Dean has managed to give us four discs containing the lyrics of his life complete with chapter titles that will remind you of some of your favorite songs and expressions. In his sophomore project "Hiding in Hiphop", we travel with him through a life that many can relate to but none can narrate the way that he does.
For months the book was talked about, blogged about and speculated about--yet many of those who seemed the most "knowledgeable" about the world that Dean was bringing to life felt cheated by not getting the dirt that many supposed "tell-alls" offer. Many felt the content didn't match the hype. For those who were looking to confirm their suspicions about the personal lives of some of the entertainment industry's most famous names and faces were greatly disappointed, however, one thing that was consistent throughout was what you would expect of a true memoir: the author's personal search for truth.
How many of us can imagine growing us as a child that by the age of four had to deal with being in the apartment with his mother while she was being raped only to have a gun put to his head afterwards, threatened with death. Can you relate to finding out your mother has full-blown AIDS and to not only lose her but two siblings to the disease as well? How many can keep their sanity as a teenager after being molested and left to answer why did it have to happen to you? Dean experienced all of this and more. He writes: "As a teenager, everything for me was trial and error. I watched adults and did what they did or I read books on a subject to learn more. I hated that I didn't have a father to explain to me the things I was going through... Since I had no real direction, I tried to figure out things on my own."
Before the molestation, Dean had no desire to be with someone of the same sex. Afterwards he found himself curious, leading him into the world that was known as the "DL". For some the main question they ask is why not just be gay? Why the lies and double life? Much of it had to do with being a man in the black community in a professional environment, especially the entertainment world. Dean explains it this way: "It's hard as hell to be an educated, smart, and attractive gay black man in the black community. We don't openly discuss it nor do we tell everyone. The white gay community tends to be more accepting and tolerant of gays in the business."
Being raised in the church, Dean struggled with what he felt and what he had learned was right and wrong in the eyes of God. "Many nights I cried, praying to God, asking and pleading with Him to take away my sinful homosexual thoughts," he writes. "Man, I wanted to be straight. I wanted to live my life as a heterosexual man with a wife and kids, but I couldn't shake my urges for men. I knew this would be my burden for life." At one point he even wishes for a pill that could take away his feelings, but no such remedy existed. Later he would consider pills as a literal way of ending his pain and his life. The conflict was just that real.
From `track' to `track' we see how he searched for love in the wrong places, hoping to find something that could be real in the world of lies he was carefully creating for himself and those around him. In full disclosure, Dean wasn't always the victim. His actions hurt others, something he readily admits. One of the most agonizing events seem to be when he cheats on one of his girlfriends with her own cousin. Trifling, yes, but he became so convicted by his betrayal that he ended both relationships--something that wasn't easy on either front, but something he felt had to be done.
As far as celebrities are concerned, his encounters do include those who are known as prominent figures in various facets of entertainment; but the book is not about them really at all. If anything their importance is only in the fact that they, too, found themselves in the careful dance between the worlds of self and self-preservation.
He describes it this way: "Hip Hop is a male-dominated culture with lots of machismo, testosterone, and ego. The more hetero a person is, the more accepted he is... It is an environment filled with hardcore young men overcoming a life of struggle and obstacles to make it to the top as the ultimate hustler. However, when Hip hop is mentioned what doesn't come to mind is gay men."
With maturity and the beginnings of what I call self-love, the author makes the decision to want to be just who he is. It was something that he went back and forth on, but the time had come when he wanted to live his truth for no one but himself. What he couldn't have expected was the love and support that came with the decision, and with that came a new mission for him in dealing with the industry that he so loved.
"Hiding in Hiphop" is a tell-all, but not the kind that you may have come to expect. It tells us that with adversity and trials we have really two choices. You can allow it to consume you entirely, wallowing in your own pity and lot in life; or you can do what Terrance Dean has done: use your life experiences to become a more refined human being that has learned from the past and now helps others to heal themselves by doing the same. These are reminders that like our favorite songs should be put on repeat for us to remember when things seem to be at their worse.
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About the reviewer
Cyrus Webb (Cyrus_Webb)
I am the President of Conversations Book Club, host of Conversations LIVE Radio and the Take Time To Read Literacy Campaign. Information can be found at www.conversationsmag.com.
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