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Rapper Multiple Man owes a certain lady friend for at least some of his rise to local notoriety. She has blond wavy hair, a luscious red mouth, and stands about 3 feet tall. And she blows up in the back.
The doll that has become an integral part of Multiple Man’s stage show was bought at a D.C. adult store in 2000. “I was looking for porn one day, and I found her,” he says. “It was a professional purchase. I’ve never used her for personal use, despite what some might say.”
Multiple Man, aka 30-something Kasimir Bovell, revealed his plastic woman to the public during a gig at the Spot in 2000. At the time, he remembers being frustrated with the repetitive acts that crowded the stage. “I was listening to everybody, and the first nigga came out: ‘I’m the hardest nigga in my hood—good night!’” says the Petworth rapper. “Then the next nigga comes out: ‘I’m harder than him. I’m the hardest nigga in my hood, and I’ll shoot you in the face—good night!’”
Multiple Man came out dragging the doll in one hand, a traffic cone in the other. “I got up there,” he says, “and [people in the audience] were like, ‘What the fuck is this?’” Launching into his performance, Multiple Man held the cone to his crotch, like a big orange dick. Then he used it to simulate sex with the inflatable doll. Multiple Man now sees this moment as a watershed in his career.
“There are two kinds of D.C. rappers,” he explains. “Eighty percent are wife-beater-wearin’ niggas talking about ‘I-ma shoot you, I-ma kill you.’” And then there are rappers like Multiple Man, who “come with some creativity.” Having invented the doll bit, Multiple Man went on to incorporate it into most of his future acts. The use of crazyass props beyond the usual liquor bottles and weed paraphernalia became his signature, his way of showing a different side of D.C. rap.
Of course, sex toys alone cannot carry a career—Multiple Man also has crafted an extensive arsenal of songs. His two albums, 2002’s The Multiverse and 2004’s The Multiplexxx, are filled with delightful Son of Blowfly–style filth smacked with enough eccentricity to separate the songwriter from his peers. “Celebrity Fuck Match,” a track on The Multiplexxx, would be blandly freaky if it discussed boning Beyoncé, but instead it sexualizes Oprah. “2 Heads,” from his upcoming Multitudes, is a Big Love song dedicated to a very special lady…and her best friend. Multiple Man believes strongly in good lyrics: “I gotta show you that I got wordplay and I’m a crazy muthafucka,” he says, “not just that I’m a crazy muthafucka.”
Multiple Man has actually been a ward of St. Elizabeths mental hospital. But he thinks his brain works fine—better than average, in fact—it’s just that “sometimes,” he says, “the person I am, and the way the world is, don’t match.”
At a recent performance at the Velvet Lounge, audience members seemed to be in on the joke, eagerly eying the doll that sat slumped over in a corner.
Multiple Man made them wait for it, though. He opened with “Metro Line,” a description of life on the train that has “two raggedy dykes kissin’/And dirty bums pissin’,” and “The Nation’s Capitol,” in which he proclaims “D.C.” stands for “dirty and cruddy” and “dope and crack.” But when he switches from local boosterism to raunchier fare, like the sequel to audience fave “Bang That Ass”—a crowd-pleaser called “Still Wanna Bang Dat Ass”—the doll comes into play. He makes her straddle him, eats her out, smacks her on her ass, then gets his autoerotic asphyxiation on and chokes her a little bit. Finally, he pretends to cum on her back and collapses onto the poor thing in a spent heap.
“I think I actually got a nut,” he says.
Multiple Man was introduced to hip-hop at the age of 11, in Tulsa, Okla., where he spent eight years of his childhood. “Around that time, everybody was breakin’,” he says. “I’d pull a windmill here, a backspin there.” But in 1988, Multiple Man left behind the favorable reputation he’d built with his childhood group, the T-Town Breakers, and moved to the District. “Rappin’ was just starting to get cool there,” he says, “and then I had to come up here.”
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What he found was a city less than enthralled by hip-hop. “Not too many people were fuckin’ with rap,” he says. “People were smackin’ congas—rap was some bama shit.” Multiple Man, who takes his name from the X-Men comic book character, says that while D.C. residents began listening to rap in the late ’80s, they weren’t interested in creating the music until around 2000. “I hung with a circle of rap friends,” he says, “but if you rapped, it was like you were a traitor to the city.”
In 1999, Multiple Man attempted to take himself out. He was hospitalized in St. Elizabeths briefly for evaluation. “I tried to knock myself off—took 60-some Tylenol, which can cause hepatotoxicity and brain damage,” he says. “That’s the most punkass shit I’ve ever done in my life.” But the experience wasn’t all bad: Multiple Man was pleased to discover that “they feed your ass good” in the psych ward. And he walked away with the perfect cover art for The Multiverse: a photograph of him, with his hands gripping the sides of his head, sitting in front of St. E’s front gates.
Multiple Man thinks that because D.C. rappers are late to the party, there’s a lot of mediocre product in the city. The old complaint goes that many D.C. rappers are just less-interesting knockoffs of Scarface and Tupac. The Multiverse was his attempt to cloud conventional wisdom about D.C.’s gangster rap scene. Tracks included the first incarnation of “Bang That Ass,” the jerk-off theme song “Choke My Chicken,” and the thick-chick anthem “Phat Young Girl,” which was used by plus-sized porn star Lady Nanaja in a girl-on-girl scene in Fat Young Girls.
Andrew Elwell, better known as poet, MC, and frequent hip-hop show host Captain Caveman, says that what separates Multiple Man from the pack is that he never follows the crowd. “He has energy on stage, he’s coming with a message, and he can rap his ass off.”
The Multiverse also featured a fair bit of science-speak, reflecting Multiple Man’s decision in 2002 to enroll at Howard University for a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, following in his father’s footsteps. “On [The Multiverse], I was talking about alimentary canals and nimbostratus clouds,” he says.
“He’ll be talking about everyday things and then just throws it in there,” says Porche’ 9-11, a longtime Multiple Man friend and collaborator. “It’s like, Wow, I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds good. ”
Yet for his second release, Multiple Man cut out most references to human anatomy and weather systems. “I can admit, between The Multiverse and Multiplexxx of dumbing it down….The literacy rate in D.C. is 20 percent.” Multiple Man thinks D.C. isn’t ready yet for weird, dense rappers. Put an MF Doom or Kool Keith record on the stereo at Northeast’s Azeeze Bates apartments, where his girlfriend stays, and “niggas’ll use it for target practice,” he says.
Last year, Multiple Man felt comfortable enough with his place in the rap world—and his ability to make such critical pronouncements—to start reviewing local, independent hip-hop groups. The Multiple Report, which he e-mails to a select group every month or so, features his own special rating system. Five skulls, the top score, is accompanied by the explainer: “BIDALOOOOO!!! That’s Classic Shit Right Here, Joe!!” “Bid-a-looooo” is Multiple Man’s trademark battle cry, which he calls an “optic blast,” and the highest form of praise. At the lower end of the spectrum there is one-and-a-half skulls (“Young!!!…What the Fuck Was U Thinkin’, Young!!??”); one skull (“This is Some Real Bama Ass Shit, Slim!!!”); and the dreaded half-skull (“U Should Be Smacked 4 This Bama Ass Shit!!!”).
The language is harsh, but Multiple Man insists that people need strong, honest critiques from someone inside the scene if the city is ever to capture the attention of listeners outside of the region. “Folks are already sleepin’ on us—we gotta give them a reason to wake up,” he says. “Idaho might come first and rap about potatoes…doing things with French fries.”
Multiple Man sometimes pisses people off—but never because of a rating itself. A recipient of one of the lowest ratings the Report ever handed out called the critic to yell at him because the album critique contained what he felt was a low blow. “I kinda went overboard,” Multiple Man concedes.
“I said, ‘I can’t see his own mother coming to see him perform.’ He called me and said his mother was killed by the government. He didn’t mind the review, but it was that I mentioned his mother. I knew he was divorced, so I even put that I could see why his wife left him—he didn’t mind that, just mentioning his mom.
“So I apologized,” Multiple Man says. “But the review still stands.”
The upcoming Multitudes, which Multiple Man hopes to drop sometime next year, hasn’t been reviewed yet, but the rapper imagines the Multiple Report will mark it with no less than four, and likely five skulls, just as his other releases have been scored. He’s already recorded several tracks for the release but, as he’s struggled with toning down cerebral lyrics in the past, he’s now toying with another idea.
“I was thinking about cleaning my shit up,” he says. “I got stepkids now.”
The thought is still simmering on the back burner, though. Multiple Man has too many projects planned that require him to work blue. He intends to release a Christmas album where he’ll take traditional holiday songs and “smear dirt on ’em,” as well as an all-sex project titled Multiple Orgasms.
Besides, going G-rated would mean he’d have to abandon the latest addition to his stage show—a booty-shaking little person. “I found the midget on MySpace,” he says. “We got to kickin’ it….I said, ‘I’ll punish your little midget ass’—like that.” Multiple Man says the woman was intrigued by one of his promo pics—she thought a shot of him in a hockey mask, holding a big knife over a big plate of ground beef, was “sexy”—and agreed to dance at one of his shows.
“I was like, cool,” he says. “Muthafuckas already know I bring out a doll, but I brought out a dancing midget.” CP