I was one of those people who stayed up all night, until 7AM, to tune into HOT 97 to hear the infamous Mister Cee interviews with station manager Ebro Darden. The first morning sit down came after Cee’s name has been splashed on the front page of NYC papers when he was arrested for soliciting oral sex from a prostitute, a man dressed as a woman. Cee admitted he had a thing for strippers and hookers, but swore up and down it was a woman in his car. He said, much like Marion Barry, the D.C. Mayor infamously caught on video smoking a crack pipe, ‘the bitch set me up.’ In retrospect, GQ writer Zach Baron, precisely sums up the listening experience as:
Cee stammered out equivocations … while a city of profoundly confused people listened in their cars and office buildings and headphones, wondering how the Hot 97 morning show had become a live broadcast of some unfathomable form of public therapy or performance art.
The second interview, five months later, occurred shortly after another man dressed as a woman—but still obviously a woman-- secretly videotaped their negotiations for payment for oral sex, then uploaded the tape to the YouTube. Cee’s voice is distinct and recognizable after being on the radio for practically forever. Everybody knew it was him.
In the first awkward interview, he denied he was gay. In the second, he came cleaner. In this latest interview with GQ? He’s still elusive about “his type” but we get straighter answers. Someday we’ll get the whole truth, I guess. Until then, we have GQ’s “The Secret Life of Mister Cee: Hip Hop’s Most Beloved DJ” and five reasons—but not revelations— for reading:
1. You’ll Learn Why Mister Cee is Soooo Relevant
I’m not from NYC and I’m not that hardcore a hip-hop head anymore. I know of Mister Cee as “the DJ on Hot 97.” I knew he had backstory affiliations with Kane, Jay-Z, and Biggie, unarguably the best rappers Brooklyn has produced. But GQ gives the backstory:
He has been around history—sometimes as a DJ, other times as an engineer, an adviser, a sympathetic ear. There he is on turntables on Big Daddy Kane's 1988 debut, track nine—“Mister Cee's Master Plan”—or on tour in 1990, being accompanied by a hype man and sometime drug dealer calling himself Jay-Z. When a shy, overweight local kid from down the street in Bed-Stuy needed his demo tape re-recorded, he showed up at Cee's door,
2. He Doesn’t Remember When He First Got Into the “Other Thing”
The “other thing” as Cee calls it, is sex men who dress like women. But it was sometime “around 2005, 2006.”
Though it is perhaps hard to believe him, he says it never occurred to him until he started doing it. It wasn't a long-held fantasy or a desire he'd held at bay for a while and then succumbed to. But soon he found himself on Christopher Street, a couple of blocks from the Hot 97 offices, nearly every weekend, “out there—like, really out there.”
He never really asked himself why he was doing it and still can't entirely explain why he was drawn to this specific, highly particular thing… “The best way I can explain it is that I was so knee-deep into doing it that it became a part of me,” he says.
3. He Became Addicted to Soda(?!) After His 2010 Arrest
Drank so much soda he almost lost his sight. “I would buy two-liter Fanta Orange, two-liter Sprite, two-liter root beer—and I live by myself—just guzzling them. That's how I was getting through my pain, fucking going to sleep and drinking soda. And I'm not even a soda drinker. I drunk so much soda to the point where my diabetes—my sugar level went so high, I started getting blind.”
4. The Police Covered For Him… At First
He even lied to the cops, who took care of him the first couple of times he was arrested—“Once you walk in the station, all it takes is one black officer to recognize you”—but whose patience ran out when the arrests continued to mount: “When I got arrested in 2011—this is just my theory—that came out from the D.A.'s office. That leaked from the D.A. That didn't leak from a precinct. You know, after a while, I'm making deals with the D.A.: ‘I'm never going to do this again. I'm never going to do this again.’ And they're like, ‘Okay, all right. All right.’ And they let me slide the first couple of times. That third time, they was just like, ‘Yo…’ ”
5. More of Less, Hip-hop Has Supported Him Since He Sort of Came "Out"
Cee was desperately afraid of being an outcast in the industry he loved:
I was just afraid of what the perception was going to be about me and that people was still going to want to stand behind the Mister Cee brand,” he says. Promoters. People he worked with. And if they didn't, “how was I going to be able to continue to support and take care of the people that I care about?”
But surpisingly, his friends have been receptive and accepting:
Cee says Big Daddy Kane called just the other day to ask, only half-jokingly, “You ready to come back on the road?” Kane, Cee says, “is not the most expressive person when it comes to saying ‘I love you.’ And within the past two years, that's all he's been saying to me.” The past is being rewritten before his eyes.
In our booth at the restaurant, I ask if Biggie would've understood, had this happened twenty years ago. “Oh, I know that,” Cee says instantly. “I know Big stands next to me. I have no question in my mind.”
I ask him why he's so sure, and he says it's because they were friends, first, but also because hip-hop is such a transparent thing to those who've lived it: “You know who's phony, you know who's hypocritical, you know who's real.” Cee is real.
What did you think of the interview?