Elliott LaRue: Music, Sex, and Surviving Terrorism at Home and in His City

Elliott LaRue is a rare breed of performer whose message is his medium. While his music draws from hip hop and R&B heavy hitters, his lyrics eschew the cliché misogyny for a reimagined masculinity that is cognizant of women’s issues to the core. We spoke with LaRue about his upcoming one man show that revolves around surviving terrorism at home and in New York City, and we lobbed some pretty serious questions his way about feminism, violence against women, and social stereotypes about black male sexuality. Slutist loves a man who can go deep.

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Are you a feminist? If not why, and if so, how do you define that word?

I believe the word feminist has had a bad rap unfortunately. Much like Liberal, people with a vested interest in a contrasting ideology have made the word negative for a large segment of the country. It’s sad, because feminists fought for rights women who now decry them enjoy.

If Feminist means I am someone who believes a woman should have the right to be treated equally and actually have the tools necessary to truly pursue happiness – as our country says it believes everyone has the right to – absolutely I am a feminist. We can only advance as a society if women are truly involved and able to make decisions for themselves.

However, the face of feminism changed in the 80’s and it hurt their image and cause ultimately, aligning with groups who did not truly have their best interests at heart. Men were demonized and shut out from feeling like they were wanted at all. Change doesn’t come when we punish or fight each other or deny who we are as people. Dialogue is key to understanding and progress. You can’t hate men for liking women. You can hate their method of expression as it is lecherous or completely unwanted. I get that. You can’t say ALL men are like that because it’s not true. Generalizing about such incredibly rude behavior as all men denies the very good men out there. The fathers and brothers who would do anything for the women in their lives. Perspective must change.

I would call myself a humanist. We’re all people, we’re all equal. The only thing that separates us is testosterone and estrogen. That and the rules society taught us.

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What in your upbringing inspired you to feel strongly about women’s rights?

My mother Vickie was murdered when I was 5 months old. She was sexually assaulted and strangled on the streets of Ft. Worth, TX one afternoon returning from the dentist. They never found the killer. The pain of that loss nearly destroyed my family, but we fought for each other and we healed together.

I was fortunate to have a woman step up, love me and my father and she raised me as her son. My Mama Greta is one of the strongest people I have ever met. I never felt disconnected from her. She is amazing and saved my life. She is the glue that makes me whole, because I still felt a mother’s love. She is my mama as if she gave birth to me.

These are just two women who have shaped my life. My father was raised by a strong, independent, single mother and was the only boy with sisters who are all strong. My grandmother, Vickie’s mother, is an example of universal grace bringing you through fire and making you stronger than anyone or anything forged against you. Her remaining daughters, my aunts, are both graceful, beautiful and strong. My sister is my best friend and she’s cooler than me. My strongest bonds are with some of my female friends.

With women like this in my life, I listened to their concerns, their dreams, their goals and pain. I was taught women could do anything. It was never strange to me to see a strong woman. I love it!

I also know first hand how violence against women affects everyone. Everyone knows a woman who has been assaulted or harassed. Men don’t speak on it enough and I hope to change that. Not dwelling on the problem, but creating a solution so women can feel safe and men can learn the effects of our actions.

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Elliott with Elana Meta Jaroff at Tasha Blank’s The Get Down at Cielo NYC

Can you tell us about your new theatrical production and how you dig into these issues?

My project has evolved as it’s grown. It revolves around my song “In My City” and takes theater to new audiences incorporating a story into the club world. Music drives my spirit and acting fuels my fire. I wanted to combine both and touch an audience in a new way. For me, I’ve always enjoyed dancing and going out at night to enjoy people and spread love.

The video for “In My City” (which premieres in September and is directed by Aron Baxter) actually tells the story of a girl needing help after she has been sexually harassed. We see her approached by a male that she may know, but he is clearly not welcome. I am then called and I come help her before I have an underlying visual of trying to remedy the issue, so to speak, and trying to find the guy who did it.

I have been in New York for 15 years. In that time I have loved and lost many times. I was a survivor of the 9/11 attacks, running from the South Tower that morning. The story of that day is one we all share, and connect to because it shakes something to the core. I share my experience in a way that allows the audience to be in that energy, and come together in celebration of life and hope over tragedy. It’s a multimedia event with  combining many artistic disciplines and philosophies.

In the show, which I really want to call an experience, I address these topics by telling my story and creating an environment that celebrates and loves females.

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Photo credit: Anjelica Jardiel for Alizah’s Closet

What misconceptions do you think men you know have about the F-word, and do you ever discuss reproductive rights, rape culture, or slut-shaming with them?

Men are pretty ignorant to women’s issues I’ve found, unfortunately. I do talk to men about it. Quite a bit actually. I have very close friends in Texas and New York, and we talk about these political issues quite a bit. My fb is known for that actually haha!

Obviously, with women having over 600 laws about their bodies on the books, and men having none, they really are surprised by issues women raise. It’s like they can’t put themselves in a woman’s shoes. Truth is those shoes would hurt their feet anyway. I just try to educate where I have knowledge and spread truth and understanding and hope that something gets through.

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The way female sexuality is portrayed in a majority of mainstream media is still largely misogynistic and divorced from reality, but representations of black women’s sexuality are even worse. What do you think about the way black men’s sexuality is represented in pop culture?

We’re portrayed as players, and lustful. Only out to hit it and quit it. To be fair, a lot of black male artists in hip hop and now, unfortunately R&B, continue to push this image foolishly in mass numbers. It downplays connections between the sexes and is largely immature as a result of music companies continuing to push immature acts with nothing to say.

I am not that. I am a man. I love hard and full. I respect my hard times, and have been blessed with a life that gave me hope in spite of odds or losses. However, when I first went to NYU, people automatically thought I was a player and judged me right away. I didn’t get it.

I wash that stereotype away once you know me and my heart. Once I dance with you or laugh with you and then I don’t try to sleep with you, because that’s not what I’m after. Don’t get me wrong, I love sex. Hell, I’m a Scorpio, but I’m all about connecting with people and evolving. Sex is a beautiful language and energy. One that men and women alike do not fully understand and enjoy to its full potential. Sex is creation and art; when done beautifully, you can feel connected to the Universe. Brilliant.

Men are only barely finding their feminine side as women seem to be embracing their masculine side. There is strength that is untapped in the feminine side. Men barely know their own bodies, so it’s no wonder most women feel unsatisfied after 3 minutes of sex as most men only last that long. Men don’t know they have more to offer and experience. They can become multi-orgasmic and experience pleasure higher than they imagined. I have a great time. They just need to be educated or open to giving pleasure.

I love flirting and being open to real pleasure. I would love to encourage that for more men. I believe it will free so many of us. All of us. I want us all to celebrate life together. We’re much more alike than we are different.

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Elliott’s campaign for his upcoming show can be found here.