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Actor and rapper Deadlee is using his art to turn stereotypes on their ears.
The Los Angeles resident is a self-proclaimed “homo-cholo” – referring to the fact that he's gay and a "cholo," a term used to refer to Mexican-Americans who identify with gang culture.
Deadlee grew up in in Denver, Colorado, and at age 21 moved to L.A., where he started working as a counselor for homeless homosexual teens, many of whom had been kicked out of their homes after their families found out they were gay.
“I saw kids as young as 12 who’d been kicked out of their homes. These kids were out there on their own. They were getting beaten up, but they were inspiring to me. They helped me find my music,” Deadlee told Fox News Latino.
Deadlee, whose given name is Joseph Thomas Lee, is known for lyrics that tackle subjects such as race, class, sexuality and police brutality. Three years ago when got married, he changed his name to LeMar, a combination of Lee and Martinez, his partner's last name.
Although Deadlee dresses like a cholo – khahki pants, sleeveless tank top, flannel shirt, bandana and lots of tats, he has never been affiliated with a gang. He says it’s more of a stylistic choice.
“After I came out to my family and friends, I started hanging out in West Hollywood – the mecca for gays. I would regularly get thrown out of clubs as security guards believed I was in a gang,” he told FNL. “I’d see all these white guys have bandanas on. It was clearly because I’m Latino.”
“One you're gay in the Latino community, often the conversation stops right there," he said
Deadlee got his start when he met an influential music producer named Goo.
"I was working off a ticket doing community service, I met a music producer. His name was Goo, and he was a mentor to me. He told me to find my voice and be authentic,” Deadlee says.
“He knew I liked hip-hop, so we started making music, we worked together for a couple of years. And we came up with my first album '7 Deadlee Sins,' and it was my most authentic. I used a bunch of gay-centric samples from like the movies 'Cruisin’' and 'Paris is Burning.' He called it gangsta-licious.”
Despite some success with “7 Deadlee Sins,” released in 2002, and then “Assault with a Deadlee Weapon” in 2006, the rapper says he’s never been invited to take the stage at Los Angeles Gay Pride. He says he was told his music is too hard core – a combination of rap, thrasher rock and in-your-face songs that take on violence, race, sexuality and racial profiling.
He’s known as an outspoken advocate for out gay rappers, once accusing musicians Eminem, DMX and 50 Cent of being homophobic.
Five years ago, Deadlee started taking up acting. He says he was really bad in the beginning, starting with bit parts in B movies, and in then in 2011 a featured role in the film, “Rampart,” which starred Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster and Sigourney Weaver.
Today, he says he’s developing a web program about a gay rapper, and he recently completed filming a TV pilot about a black, gay skateboarder. “I realized that I couldn’t sit around and wait for someone else to write my story. I had to do that,” he told FNL.
Deadlee says he’s a new generation of gay men, a homo-thug, who’s confident and comfortable being Latino, gay and very macho – all rolled up in one.