Have you ever wondered what the lives of some celebrities – especially closeted gay and bisexual ones – are like behind closed doors, where the frenzied media and their fans cannot get to them? Mogul, the debut novel by Terrance Dean, tells an eye-opening (albeit fictional) story just like that set in the world of the hip hop music industry, where homophobia is prominent and street credibility means practically everything.
According to Mogul, the vast majority of the hip hop industry is full of gay and bisexual men, most of whom all know each other – much like ordinary gay people, then – except they are all on the down-low. But is the hip hop world ready for its first openly gay producer? Aaron Tremble, a.k.a. ‘Big A.T.’ (originally so nicknamed because he was predicted to ‘make it big’, not for any other reason), is about to tackle that question head-on after years of struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and trying to hide it from anyone else who is not in the ‘down-low family’.
Big A.T. seemingly has it all: his own successful record label with big-name artists under him, numerous endorsements, millions of dollars, a luxury VIP lifestyle, a network of supportive brothers and right-hand women who initially helped him get to where he is, and he’s in a pretty perfect relationship with the amazing (and apparently well-endowed, just so you know) ‘Tickman’. On top of that, he even has the beautiful Jasmine on the side (but at the front for the media and fans), but she is the only of his close loved ones who does not know of his deep secret.
He wants to tell Jasmine the truth but is worried about the consequences of what that would do to his career. However, a sneaky paparazzo does it for him first, and Big A.T.’s life is thrown into turmoil. Now he must make a life-changing decision: bow down to Jasmine’s demands but still risk her and the paparazzi exposing him, or take the plunge and fully come out first? Either choice could still potentially ruin his hard-earned life and the musical empire he has built for himself.
While it is a touching and intriguing coming-out tale, the story is dragged out by telling almost the entirety of Big A.T.’s 25-year-long life, yet at the same time most of it is rushed to fit into one volume of just under three hundred pages. It feels as though too much space is given to talking about his music and the celebrity life, with less left to detail Big A.T.’s personal life and coming out. One cannot turn a blind eye to the novel’s slightly far-fetched depictions of hip hop’s underground life, yet it does make us wonder whether some of these things (for example, gay sex parties and passing around fame-hungry sex slaves) really do happen. Or at least think: ‘what if that were actually true?’
There are occasional sex scenes – both gay and straight and intricately described – which are probably the main highlights in what is otherwise a mostly unexciting story. Also, a warning: if you are not familiar with American lingo, this novel will be understandably difficult and maybe annoying to read. At least it gives us the optimistic hope that one day in the future, an LGBT person established in the hip hop community might be able to come out.