There’s something slightly queer about DMX’s “Where the Hood At” video: Instead of girls shaking their asses, burly dudes rub their bare chests up against each other, wrestle, and try to hide their boners in baggy pants. Despite the lyrics’ overt homophobia (“How you gonna explain fuckin’ a man/Even if we squashed the beef I ain’t touchin’ ya hand”), watching the video really strikes a chord of gay yearning in me.
Over the years, homoeroticism has probably ghostwritten more rap shit than Jay-Z and Mad Skillz combined, as the logical by-product of a cultural investment in the dick that runs deeper than vaginas (see Saafir’s “Worship the D”). But in mainstream hip-hop, actually being gay is relegated to life either “on the DL” or as a spectator/dick-rider. Which may be why the making-gay of DMX’s musical signifiers happens on Xiu Xiu’s Fabulous Muscles, enabled by a white suburbanite for whom spectatorship is existential.
DMX raps about angrily ejaculating into the eyes of guys who like guys while Xiu Xiu’s Jaime Stewart sings about lovingly sucking off guys like DMX (whose muscles are indisputably fabulous). But the more danceable songs from their respective catalogs converge in a mutual nod to the dick-fetishizing language of Gary Glitter shout-alongs. The organizing principle behind the three, maybe four, upbeat tracks on Fabulous Muscles is the same “easy drum-machine clatter + synth sounds inspired by or pilfered from pre-programmed Casio accompaniment = anthem” formula favored by Swizz Beats in his pre-lawsuit heyday. Ranging from carnival-ized angst (“Crank Heart”) to a tale of alienation and fraternal molestation set to a variation on the X Files theme (“Brian the Vampire”), Xiu Xiu’s jam-your-jock-in-me jams add nuance to the idiom like the deformities on their latest title track’s penis.