Big Dipper

  • by Jim Gladstone
  • Tuesday July 21, 2015
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Big Dipper, worshipped by hunky sailors, in his latest<br>music video. photo: Big Dipper Jelly
Big Dipper, worshipped by hunky sailors, in his latest
music video. photo: Big Dipper Jelly

"Where drag queens were before RuPaul's show came on the air, that's where bears are now," says Big Dipper, the ursine Brooklyn-based rapper, who will fly into town to perform Sunday, July 26 at Beaux. "It's not really mainstream culture yet. Straight people are just starting to understand what a bear is."

"Even in the gay world," says Dipper â€"who prefers to keep his real name under wraps when promoting his rapsâ€" "despite the fact that there are young guys who call themselves bear cubs, I think there's still an idea among a lot of people that a bear is something that it's okay to end up as. You may be a twink now, but what will you look like when you're 55? All roads lead to bear. Take a look at the throwback Thursday photos on Facebook: There are a lot of bears and daddies who were twinks until their metabolism slowed down."

The bear essentials are on eye-popping view in 's music videos, including his latest, the summery jam "Vibin'" in which the Dip sports a day-glo merman (Ariel, not Ethel) tail and frolics on a beach with sailor-capped hunks.

While "Vibin'" is certainly amusing, the real not-to-be-missed Dipper clips are the raunchier "Meat Quotient," "Skank" and his 2011 debut, "Drip Drop" which transgressively samples "Little April Showers," a tune from Disney's Bambi.

For Dipper, the increased acceptance of bear culture, however slowly, has been a blessing.

"I didn't really grow into my body until I was 22," says the Chicago-born performer â€"now in his early 30sâ€" who studied to be a theater director at Ithaca College in upstate New York.

"I'd had a full beard on my face for six years," he said. "As soon as I could grow a beard, I didn't shave it. But at 22, my entire body seemed to sprout hair in one moment. It was like I woke up and I was covered. I was extremely self-conscious about my back and shoulders and neck. I would never wear a tank top.

"Before my first relationship in my late 20s, I was hooking up with people I really wasn't attracted to, chasing after a blond male model type that I thought I was supposed to like. But I moved back to Chicago when I was 26 to get involved in the theater scene there and ended up putting a cabaret act together with a couple friends â€"a woman in her 40s and a trained ballet dancer in his 30sâ€" and we did pieces about body-image and gender identity.

"We did our act in gay clubs," Dipper continues. "I started to realize that people were excited to see my body type on stage. I mean, I looked like a fucking plumber from Cincinnati with my big hairy belly dancing around in high heels. Guys would come up to me and hit on me. When someone called me a bear for the first time, and it meant they found me attractive, that was a big deal. I started to realize that everybody is somebody else's type."

 

Big Dipper's livin' the thick life. photo: David Hawe

In a Bear Country

In 2011, Dipper and some friends began to noodle around with recording a rap song. "There was no real intent behind it," he recalls. "We got stoned and were singing funny songs. We were singing the Bambi song and were like, 'What if we put a beat behind that?'

"My secret dream was always to be a rapper," Dipper says. "I grew up listening to hip hop and always liked to make shocking, playful raps for my friends. It actually started with Kriss Kross when I was nine or ten. I remember getting the cassette tape as a holiday gift and jumping around on my bed wearing my clothes backwards like they did. Another of my early favorites â€"the first CD I ever boughtâ€" was Skee-Lo, who rapped 'I wish I was a little bit taller.' I've always liked hip hop that had jokes in it, and now I see that Skee-Lo was even rapping about body type."

Dipper worked with buddies from Chicago's theater community to create the video for "Drip Drop."

"I thought it was really good," he recalls. "So I didn't want it to be seen by only 50 people. I stepped up my social media game, got on Twitter and started sending it out to gay press. It got picked up by Huffington Post and went viral, partly because it was funny. But also because I think there was a need for someone like me in the world."

Big Dipper!

There was also unexpected backlash.

"I was let go from one of my high school drama teaching jobs after the video came out. Some parents saw it and thought it was inappropriate for me to be teaching kids."

His firing was a major impetus for Dipper's relocation to Brooklyn, where, within two quick years of recording and public appearances as Dipper, he was able to drop other jobs voluntarily and be a full time performer.

Dipper says he's experienced very little resistance to being a white rapper.

"There have always been people of color at the core of hip hop, but by the time I was growing up in the 1990s, rap and hip hop were mainstream. That was the music I was listening to as a kid.

"The thing that's interesting about hip hop though," he continues, "is that even as it's become mainstream, its also always had very local sub-communities. There's a very specific hip hop scene in Tokyo, in Madagascar, in India, in Russia."

And now in bear country.

"Authenticity matters in hip hop, and the way I do it is authentic to me," said Dipper. "I'm funny and I'm bawdy, with a touch of burlesque. That's me, that's my background. I don't try to convey someone else's experience by snatching someone else's story or style. I'm a white person from the suburbs. I'm gay. I'm Jewish. I'm big. I'm covered with hair. And hip hop is my favorite kind of music."

 

Big Dipper performs at Beaux Sunday, July 26 at the Dore Alley after-party, with 'RuPaul's Drag Race' contestant Milk Queen, DJs Becky Knox and Ernie Cote; show at 11pm. $5 (no cover before 9pm). 2344 Market St. www.beauxsf.com

 



Big Dipper's YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/user/bigdippermusic