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Heather Hunter - Sex Star Seeks Sexy Rap Career

October 6, 2005

Heather Hunter is sitting across from me on a loveseat in her publicist’s office. We’re just down the hall from Blo Records, a record label she and her manager of twenty years initiated to unleash The Unexpected, Hunter’s debut as an MC.

Despite two decades under her belt in the entertainment industry, notably in adult films, this sister looks quite good. Her porcelain-perfect frame belies a vulnerability which initially had me curious: how someone so petite can cast such a large presence?

“I work hard and I plan to go all the way to the top,” she says frankly. Two years in the making, The Unexpected, 18-tracks of sex-sational beats, is now in stores. But let’s face it: who would expect Hunter to rap about anything else but sex? So what’s with the title?

“What people may not expect is how serious I am about this,” she says, leaning in for emphasis. “I really want people to take me seriously. Being retired from the adult industry nearly thirteen years ago, I think I’ve done enough in the mainstream business (she has appeared rap videos, and the movie He Got Game) and I want to be accepted as an equal, as an artist. I’m going for my respect whether they give it to me or not.”

Respect isn’t usually granted to adult stars, former or not, but Hunter seems to be bucking the convention. She was the first African-American woman to be inducted into the Adult Film Hall of Fame and has been referenced in songs by LL Cool J, Lil’ Kim, and Snoop Dogg, and she has also collaborated with Tupac. Hunter is an icon whose life (and body) has been clearly shaped, revered and honored by hip hop.

Born in 1969 in the boogie-down Bronx, Heather, one of five children, ended up living Bedstuy, Fort Greene, and Harlem. “We moved around a lot. I come from divorced parents, and struck out on my own as teenager.” A fan of New Edition, “I was definitely a “Candy Girl,” she muses - young Heather ran the streets and mingled with hip hop contemporaries such as Kurtis Blow, Teddy Ted, Special K, and DJ Red Alert. “Hip Hop has always been around me, I don’t know why I wasn’t rhyming a long time ago,” she says.

Besides hanging out at Harlem’s legendary Latin Quarter watching Public Enemy perform, and singing with a short-lived group called Sweetness, Hunter also ran with graf crews in Brooklyn. After being busted, she experienced an artistic change of heart. “It turned out to be blessing,” she says. “I was put into a class for teens taught by the late Keith Haring, and I know it helped me become the artist I am today.” Haring inspired her to paint on canvas, a talent she’s honed over the years. Actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner and singer Ginuwine both own works by her.

Around the late-1980s, at the age of 19 Hunter entered public consciousness with her first adult film, Heather, which was a tremendous hit. She reportedly made dozens of films and retired in 1992. A year after her future was about to be transformed with an “unexpected” challenge to spit rhymes with hip hop artist/producer Akinyele.

“I used to host BET: The Peep Show, my show on pay-per-view, and I was interviewing Akinyele,” Hunter recalls. “He asked me if I knew how to rhyme. I said 'give me something.' He did and I flowed it back, and he said, 'Come on, we gonna go on the road and make some money,'” she laughs.

But why hip hop? Why not sing? “It’s funny. When it comes to singing I like house [music]. That was my passion. (Hunter charted a single, “I Want It All Night Long,” in 1993, on Tommy Boy). When it comes to hip hop, I said, ‘Wow, this feels good.’ I just got hungry for it - to be around people and to learn how to rhyme. And that’s how it all came about.”

That was twelve years ago, seven years of which Hunter has been perfecting her skills in the studio with producers like Scott Storch, DJ Premier, Phantom of the Beat and Aaron "Freedom" Lyles, the team behind The Unexpected. “I think people underestimate just how hard rhyming is. It took me seven years to master it. I can only get better,” Hunter says.

Next year Hunter plans to release a book (Insatiable Desires), which she calls an urban Boogie Nights. Why not an autobiography? “I have a code of silence. I have a loyalty to my friend’s privacy,” she explains. “I want to write one, but I respect people’s lives, and I think that has to account for something within the human character.” She also plans to exhibit her art in a project she calls “Art Core.” All in all, Hunter seeks to be a Queen of All Media.

But she cannot do it by herself. “I need help. Folks who want to see me develop, I need their support,” she says, looking me dead in the eye. “I need my fans’ support to make this transition.”

In the end, Heather Hunter neither rejects nor fully embraces her past as adult star, but it is clear she is not ashamed of the industry that made her a household name. In fact it has helped her get this far, but clearly she has a new incarnation. “I want to have a chance to change and evolve, and not be pigeon-holed as an adult star and that’s it.”

Watch Heather Hunter's music video, "So Serious."

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