MC KGB (Kevin G. Brooks) was a black gay rapper, with AIDS; he lived in
Oakland until the time of his death in April of 1996. After his diagnosis
in the late 80's, KGB went onto disability after having worked for many years
for the AAA. He started DJ-ing at the Pendulum in the Castro, as well as
making mix tapes of dance/R&B tunes. He also started volunteering with the
National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, specifically, as an outreach worker
with the BAHSES Program.|
MC KGB started to write rhymes as a combination of community outreach and artistic expression. He put together a crew consisting of Stacey P. and Jealousy and Madam X; the latter two being drag queens who were also working with BAHSES. KGB concieved of what he called: a "Rap Opera." Entitled: "Rap City, A Safer Time In Sex Town" - this work consisted of raps, poems, monologues etc. and was staged in San Francisco in 1992. His work was also used in a groundbreaking interactive safer sex game, the award winning "BROTHERS." Not long after this, KGB opted for amputations of both his legs, at the knees, which had become gangrenous from KS lesions.
I had met him in 1990, since I had also worked for the National Task Force on AIDS Prevention, based here in New York. (This was a time when the Task Force was doing creative and respected work in AIDS prevention for gay men of color - but that's another story.) At that time, I had seen excerpts of the opera as it was still being created. Since I saw the immediate relevance of his work, I offered my help in any way in terms of production and recording. It was not until a year after his amputations that the circumstances fell into place.
In summer of 1994, I was brought to the Bay Area by Steve Feeback, a former employee of the Task Force, who had initiated the "BROTHERS" program. At that time, the goal was to professionally produce two songs: "RUB-A-DUB RAP" and "PARADISE" for a CD ROM version of "BROTHERS." I was able to convince KGB that we should also, at least, record all of his work with a sync track with the prospect of later finishing the tracks - potentially, posthumously.
Thus here we are; I'm his "artistic executor." KGB was somewhat estranged from his family; his legal executor basically has given me carte blanche with his work. I have had some limited access to "business" folks, this has been frustrating. Basically, when they hear it, they say: "WOW!" but the follow-thru has been diminishing returns to say the least. KGB and I knew what we were up against. It was never his mission to "get a contract;" he simply wanted to "give back." My intentions are more that of an archivist/griot; it's not that I'm a big hip-hop head either. I simply knew that this work was important and that maybe it's significance would be recognized "down the road."
While the rhymes are largely about safer sex, AIDS and homophobia, I find it limiting to hear them solely as educational/topical work. This was "keepin' it real" for KGB. He wasn't trying to be anything for anyone else - this was his life, his "hood" - he was a black fag with AIDS; and his desire was that no other black fags would end up with the disease. He also spoke to the larger black community, having been inspired by Marlon Riggs' landmark work "TONGUES UNTIED."
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