As a casual listener of Hip-Hop since the late ‘90’s, a few things have resonated with me. Way back then, homosexual artists were either non-existent, totally closeted and/or intimidated. Then there appeared staunch anti-gay resolves in many artists’ public personas and lyrics, such as early Eminem, Ja Rule, DMX and Common. And artists widely believed to be gay, like Da Brat and Missy Elliot, have remained closeted.
But why is homophobia more frowned upon in Hip Hop culture than, say, in the Rock culture? Kathy Y. Wilson, former CityBeat columnist, associate editor of Cincinnati Magazine and author of Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White, says that homophobia in Hip Hop stems from the black community.
“You have to look at homophobia in the black community as it relates to homophobia in the black church,” she says.
According to Wilson, homosexuality in the black community is the last taboo while many whites have the privilege to play out their pathologies in public. She says in the black church, gays are more of an open secret rather than openly gay.
“Whether or not (certain rappers) were die-hard Southern Baptists, the larger socialization is a trickle-down theory. The black church in the black community holds sway over what is permissible,” Wilson says.
But many artists are guilty of muddling the rainbow-hued water more. In 2007, Ja Rule stated in Complex magazine that the assimilation of homosexuals into mainstream dating shows was a problem in America, stating, “If that’s not fucking up America, I don’t what is.”
Days later, he retracted his statement, said publicly that some of his family members were gay and that he was not in any way homophobic.
Others artists have done the homophobic tango, reneging on perceived anti-gay comments with counter interviews and performances. After being widely criticized by gay advocacy groups like the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for his homophobic lyrics on his debut album, rapper Eminem performed a duet with openly-gay artist Elton John at the 2001 Grammy Awards.
What does this mean? Does anti-homosexual sentiment actually exist in Hip Hop culture, or it is simply a posture put on by artists?
Do those ladling out the most vitriolic slurs against the gay community have homosexual tendencies?
In the song “Where the Hood At?” from the 2003 album, Grand Champ, DMX takes the opportunity to dredge up a barrage of less-than-artful clichs about gay men and gay sex while sounding like he’s completely aroused throughout the track.
The first and third verses — along with the chorus — are riddled with what appears to be homocentric double entendre, such as the decidedly humorous “you better bust that if you gon’ pull that,” a line that conjures up images of automatic weapons and phalluses alike.
Other lines also serve as eyebrow raisers, such as “Man, I give ya’ll niggaz the business for fuckin’ with me,” which could almost be an invitation for anal sex. The equally intriguing “I beat my dick and bust off in ya eye so you can see me comin’ ” is again puzzling. Is DMX saying that he hates gays so much he wants to mastur bate in front of them? It’s almost as if his logic tells him that you can cure homosexuality with homosexuality.
Openly gay rappers are now more widely visible, showing love for their homo thugs in the rap community while countering the old logic. Deadlee, a Los Angeles-based gay rapper, is one of the few to openly confront homophobia in the rap community.
Deadlee’s assault comes from two fronts: his tough, poignant flows and his power-thug appearance. And his rough exterior isn’t any less rough by his being gay.
According to Deadlee, the homophobic message from the Hip Hop community can be damaging to gay children.
“You almost need someone from the Hip Hop generation to come out and make it easier for kids,” he says.
In addition to being a rapper, Deadlee is also a fervent activist. He organized and headlined the Homorevolution Tour in 2007, an assembly of gay Rap artists that toured 10 U.S. cities on a crusade to counter anti-gay sentiment in the Rap world.
“There is an audience out there (for gay Hip Hop),” Deadlee says.
Meanwhile on the East Coast, KIN — a Brooklyn based lesbian duo — is also cultivating homo Hip Hop for wide audiences. KIN says that while being a female and/or lesbian can often be a detriment in Hip-Hop, talent is the deciding factor of success and respect. Nor and IQ say they widely ignore homophobic slanders from those they feel aren’t relevant.
“People respect real people,” says Nor. “The audience that we have and the feedback that we have been getting is not just from the gay community. We have just as many straight, bi, whatever fans. They’re gonna respect people that keep it real.”
Both Nor and IQ are realists about what they do and who they are. They aren’t encumbered by the gay moniker even though it marginalizes them.
“At the end of the day, someone’s always going to not like you. We want to make it easier for people that do,” IQ says.
Brooklyn-based Hip Hop duo KIN
PHOTO: STICK PICS 2008