Jamaica’s music scene graces listeners with infectious riddims and social commentary, but its lyrical content can also be homophobic. Now, dancehall’s first openly gay solo artist Demaro hopes his music can break stigmas in the Caribbean toward the LGBTQ community.
The 34-year-old’s midtempo debut single “Mi Readi” features his tender, uplifting baritone over a swaying fusion of soca, hip-hop, Afrobeat and dancehall. The accompanying music video — directed by Tony Valles and premiering exclusively on Billboard below — captures the chiseled singer/songwriter, along with a few bystanders, dancing and vibing on the streets of New York City and inside a laundromat with Jamaican drag performer Jahlove Serrano.
“I want people to listen to my music with an open mind and know that I’m a gay artist who’s been through some struggles, but I’m still here not giving up,” said Demaro, who wrote “Mi Readi” in 45 minutes. “I’m ready to take over.”
Demaro Brown grew up in Westmoreland, a rural area of western Jamaica near Negril. Raised the third of four children by a single mother, he recognized his truth early on but remained closeted because Jamaica didn’t have rights protecting homosexuality.
On one occasion, Demaro was stabbed by someone random in his leg but managed to escape. He got a visa when he turned 22 and relocated to New York to escape his surroundings. “I’ve been told that I would go to hell,” Demaro said. “In Jamaica, you just cannot be a gay man down there at all. That’s a no-no. Even now, you have to be on the DL. We still had our way of getting around, but you had to be discreet in the streets.
“I just knew that I wanted more, and Jamaica never had much to offer me,” Demaro continues. “I never had much help in Jamaica navigating myself and knowing that I had these feelings. There was no one there that I could talk to about what I was feeling.”
Once Demaro relocated to New York, he landed opportunities to style and design for Francis Henry and collaborate with celebrity stylist June Ambrose. Even with some minor successes, Demaro fell on hard times, became homeless and battled depression.
Demaro has gone to therapy for the last two years to overcome his past and come to terms with his sexuality. Those sessions birthed the newcomer’s active workout regimen, healthy lifestyle and musical career.
“It’s good to talk to someone about what’s going on with you,” said Demaro, who came out to his immediate family last year. “I just started writing and expressing myself. A lot of things weren’t right with me, and therapy reminded me of my value as a human. It was like starting my life all over again.”
Demaro’s debut EP, Good Vibes Only, is tentatively set for a spring 2020 release around Pride Month. He opened for teen Island Records signee Kidd Kenn. Excited for his upcoming project, the performer certainly has one specific audience in mind.
“I want younger gay men, especially in Jamaica, to keep on fighting,” Demaro said. “Don’t give up. You’re beautiful and going to be OK. Don’t give up on yourself. We’ve all gone through bad times, but young men must keep pushing.”
Watch Demaro’s “Mi Readi” video below: