Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Homophobia In Hip Hop

Man, cats don't know what it's gonna be/
Fucking with a nigga like me, D-to-the-M-to-the-X/
Last I heard, ya'll niggas was havin sex, with the same sex/
I show no love, to homo thugs/
Empty out, reloaded and throw more slugs/
How you gonna explain fucking a man?/
Even if we squashed the beef, I ain't touching ya hand.

DMX - Where The Hood At (2003)

On May 9th 2012, President Obama confirmed his belief that same sex couples should be able to get married. Though this is seen as a risky political move, Obama has received some unlikely support from Jay Z: 

"I've always thought it as something (the ban on gay marriage) that was still holding the country back. What people do in their own homes is their business and you can choose to love whoever you love. That's their business. It's no different than discriminating against blacks. It's discrimination plain and simple." (Jay Z)

Such a bold statement from a hip hop heavyweight is at odds with a genre of music that has traditionally attacked and avoided homosexual relationships, particularly between men. Wu Tang member Raekwon described his disgust towards gay culture in a 2009 radio interview: 

"My mouth is too small to suck a d*ck," Raekwon added. "How the f*ck do you convert over to do some sh*t like that? How do motherf*ckers get into that sh*t? The males? The females, they gonna do what they do. I ain't gonna front, I can't stand f*cking h*mos. That sh*t is just f*cking disgusting. They can never holla at me. Get the f*ck away from me, immediately."  (Raekwon)

Such views, unfortunately, are prevalent within the hip hop community. The DMX lyrics quoted above were taken from 2003 album Grand Champ, a record that debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 200, and the song itself was released as a single. Around 2004 Harlem native Cam'ron popularised the phrase 'No Homo' to justify the use of 'suspect' phrases while asserting that the speaker is a heterosexual. Though these events were nearly ten years ago, the attitudes expressed can still be found in much of the fan base of mainstream hip hop. In 2011, XXL Freshman Lil B received death threats when he announced a new LP titled I'm Gay. The record sold terribly, though that could be down to  factors such as the project being available for free for a short while and lukewarm critical response, rather than outright homophobia (Lil B is straight, though has pledged his support for GLAAD).

The picture however, could be slowly changing. Popular figures such as Kanye West have publicly spoken out about their previous homophobia, and how they now accept the gay community. N.O.R.E confirmed in 2009 that he is aware he has worked with gay rappers, and he has no real issue with this, while rappers such as Eminem, Juelz Santana, Game and Tyga have either defended the homosexual community, or apologised for homophobic slurs/musical content.

Perhaps the most heartening response, however, is from rap newcomer A$AP Rocky. Discussing his previous homophobia, he confirmed to Pitchfork that he now has a different outlook: 

"I'm going to be honest with you-- I used to be homophobic, but that's f*cked up. I had to look in the mirror and say, "All the designers I'm wearing are gay." I hear stories about all these industry motherf*ckers who are gay, and I don't know if it's true or not, but that sh*t don't matter. It's so immature." (A$AP Rocky)

A statement like this gives rise to the hope that the new generation of rappers is becoming more tolerant and accepting, something that ideally will be reflected in the new music being produced. It is elder hip hop statesmen such as Jay Z, however, that have a responsibility to lead the way in changing attitudes. His support of Obama's policy is a strong start.

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