One of the Kids

Sat. June 8, 2002 12:00 AM
by Feature Column

New York-—Adam Joseph sits on a white-crackle painted barstool in a French provincial-like bistro on the corner of Broadway and Bleeker Street. With textured wallpaper, small wooden chairs, bright lighting and floral-printed pillows, the atmosphere is subdued and cozy. This leaves the 25-year-old nightlife-living party boy/recording artist/songwriter/producer, accustomed to the darkly lit crowded New York house music-thumping underground, a bit out of his element. "I've never been here before," he shares while sipping cola through a straw. Though Joseph is a frequent face seen at Mr. Black, the garden-floored East Village nightclub next door, it's just past 9:30 p.m.-—too early for the club to be hopping and therefore too early for him to be out. He's usually never in the neighborhood before the bistro closes for the night. "I've always wondered what it was like," he adds, ordering chicken wings and celebrating their arrival with, "Chicken wings! Yay!"

It's been three years since Joseph graduated from a Boston College, released his debut independent CD, How I Seem to Be, and moved to New York, allowing his album to gain momentum while he collected his citywide street cred. Showcasing soulful R&B with universal themes of love and life underpinned by premises of same sex attraction, How garnered three OUTmusic award nominations in 2004. "Flow with my Soul," a powerful piece off the album, took the lead on the indie film Slutty Summer's soundtrack that same year. Fast forward to now, How continues making marks as "Flow's" video currently ranks in the top-10 on Logo's favored music video list as well as with its inclusion in Sony's recently released LGBT artist compilation, Revolutions. The video for "Your Mine," another song off How, is set for a midsummer release.

Rarely does music from an independent album remain culturally significant three years after its launch, but Joseph just shrugs and smiles, "It's new to you if you've never heard it before." But he's probably being modest. The staying power of Joseph's debut could easily be attributed to quality of work. Writing music since he was 14-years-old, attending a high school for the performing arts and living all over the world, Joseph has acquired the fundamental know-how and life experience many his age are still struggling to attain. "Flow," especially, contains such well-written lyrics with well-placed mixers and interludes, the aural experience is equivalent to that of a release backed by the resources and financial support of a major label.

"I started writing raps," Joseph says of his teenage music-making endeavors. "I wanted to be a rapper for a while. Then, I realized I could sing. So I figured I should just sing instead of rap."

Loud live music at the bistro forced our interview down the street to Leela Lounge, where conversation turned toward Joseph's "gayer" professional objectives: the release and subsequent video of "Faggotty Attention," a dance track inspired by friend and colleague, "Gay Pimp" Jonny McGovern. Unlike the easy open-ended soul-flowing R&B of How I Seem to Be, Joseph turns 360 in "Faggotty." In kind with the song's lyrics, the video depicts him skipping, dancing and limp-wrist flailing as he propositions a straight guy with "you've never had it so tight." The song also appears in this year's indie film Four Letter Word. "And I'm in the movie too," Joseph says, "performing [the song] for a second—yeah!"

But in a year when dropping the F word leads to national scandal, rehabilitative sensitivity training, public service announcements and non-renewal of contract options, could glorifying "Faggotty Attention" in this context yield social repercussions? Joseph doesn't believe so.

"I don't want people to take me seriously," he says, and deems his "faggot"-flaunting acceptable by comparing it to the familiar internal usage of racial slurs within ethnic groups. "I'm a faggot," he adds. "I think it's great ... People are so scared of letting it all out … [The song] is a celebration … Get over it and get into it."

Easy entry into our final stop for the evening at Mr. Black made it evident that those keen to the NYC scene are all friends of Joseph. My prior arrangements to get us on the guest list were for naught, as the muscle-y Mohawk-ed security guard called Joseph "Sweetie" and greeted him with a kiss. The door attendant quickly ushered us in without referencing her clipboard.

Once inside and in his element, Joseph took over. Adding Jack Daniels to his cola, he quickly cased the room to greet every one in short of five minutes including the evening's hostess, Joseph's good friend and "Faggotty Attention" video model, Ericka Toure Aviance.

"It's like, you know, you hang out enough, you meet a lot of people," he jokes. "I just hang with the children."

Joseph defines "the children" simply as "the kids" and calls it his "dysfunctional family." "You got to get into the children," he says. Referencing the 1991 Documentary, Paris is Burning, Joseph loosely explains how the kids are part of a sub-community of clubbers under the LGBTQ umbrella, where everyone is "someone" and every appearance is legendary—case in point: an older frail-looking man standing at the bar who walked with a cane; a high-ranking member of the "House of Revlon," Joseph explains, who later emceed the evening in the DJ booth to much Mr. Black-attending fanfare.

"She fell off a roof," Joseph says of his cane usage. How? "Someone pushed her, girl," Joseph continues half-jokingly/half-serious. "We don't talk about it."

As the night lead on with equal parts glamour and transgression, Joseph continued to bring it rock star-style leaving no song un-danced to, no drink un-drunk and no party favor un-offered--and the interviewing must have grew tired for him. Joseph instructed me to take "no more pictures," inspiring me to remind him of something he said earlier in the evening: "When you live a life this faggotty, it's hard to censor yourself."

Joseph just smirked in a way that could be perfectly associated with a line in "Flow with my Soul" when he sings, "You can step up to me or you can get up and go." He then smiled and, drink in hand, returned to the children on the dance floor leaving me to make my choice.


How I seem to Be is available on CDBaby.com. www.adamjosephmusic.com.