Let me just begin by pointing out that as much as I respect Russell Simmons, he really annoys me when it comes to his Hip-Hop culture commentary, for reasons that I’ll point out later. In the meantime, just as I recently wrote a post about the objectification of women in media, this class has also got me tripping on the definitions of gender identification and sexuality. Homosexuality in particular has been a hot button topic recently, with all the New York hype surrounding gay marriage and this past month’s focus on it by Hip-Hop media. It all points to a larger theme of acceptance and a changing world.
But has the world really changed? Or has it moreso come full circle? Well, that depends on how biblical you are. Some of you may feel that this all just means that people and lifestyles are just blending more and sooner or later, differences won’t be discriminatory agents. Some of you feel like this is just a return to Soddom & Gammora – like times and is a sign of Revelations that Jesus is indeed coming. I’m more concerned with what it all means for Hip-Hop, and how I’ve played a part or been affected.
This is no doubt a business dominated by and heavily influenced by homosexual males, be they closeted or out, be it in the executive aspect or through the fashion aspect that creates the trends and signifies status. Anyone on the outside can just look and see how rappers have spent ages idealizing and romanticizing the designs of famous gay European fashionistas to be indicative of wealth and coolness. It’s even more significant to be able to say that you rub elbows with said designers. You can also look and see the evolution of style that has occurred from the baggy look to the hipster movement and see tangents of culture blending. And anyone on the inside who has spent enough time in the offices and on sets can tell you that a good majority of the decision-makers in this industry are at the very least, questionable. let us not forget the ever-looming speculation concerning rappers themselves.
The question then becomes, why should we care? Or why do we care? Perhaps it matters because this, like most challenges to the normal and historical social order of Hip-Hop is disruptive to what we’re used to and forces us to have to adjust. Just like any other minority as in when women began to become more prominent, or when Eminem made us have to embrace White rappers the same way as the brown faces that we’re used to, homosexuality presents a new challenge. The thing with homosexuality is however, that in this male arena, it kind of stands as the antithesis of the culture itself. Created from the improvisation inspired by poverty shared by young kids in the Bronx, Hip-Hop developed as the voice of a generation in the aftermath of the aggressive Black Power movement and the wild disco era. There were pieces of both of those coming together expressing a mutual sentiment against inequality and a desire to just be indulgent and free. This was fueled by male braggadocio and the self-esteem issues prominent in minority life. Of course this movement was taking place around the same time as gay rights pushes and the rise of drag and flamboyant subcultures. Yet the 2 worlds, tho often next door to each other, seldom intertwined.
And that brings up another issue; for so long, and mostly due to gays themselves, the idea that flamboyancy is one in the same with being homosexual has been the way gayness has been characterized for males. This threat to the traditional male behavior and gender role is a direct threat to the very hetero machismo that Hip-Hop culture was built on. Why would there have been reason for the 2 worlds to cooperate harmoniously?
I read the latest issue of XXL magazine where this was being covered, and was surprised that they took a more sociological look at the whole thing. Besides the Beanie Sigel quotes, which were the most humorous and honest parts of the article, I found this quote by a professor to be the most poignant “For Hip-Hop, it’s not really an actual conversation about same sex, and it’s always these rhetorical tropes or some sort of public posturing or progressive support for same-sex marriage”. This is super true. The so-called evolution that rap has experienced is more of a political correctness when asked about it, but not in the music itself.
And this is based on the point made by the professor that as long as it’s not a conversation about sex or sexuality, then gays are more of a thing to be accepted than a group of people. But if it was truly a matter of what goes on in someone’s bedroom, as NORE tried to narrow it down to, then there would be a lot less homophobia in the world. We all know that with that presence of flamboyancy, it’s always more than just a private matter. The lifestyles and stereotypical socialization of gays, particularly gay males, kind of puts their sexuality in everyone’s faces.
There’s so much surface posturing in Hip-Hop when it comes to this, like Russell Simmons (Who’s been accused of being one of those closeted execs time and time again) who says stuff like homophobia is exaggerated in Hip-Hop because Hip-Hop is more accepting than any other culture and that poets have always been the most tolerant. This is utter bullshit and just good talk. It’s waaaaay too early for that kind of statement. Rap hasn’t changed that much to the point where you can make bold statements like that. Not with all the anti-gay punchlines and derogatory language on the radio. And when you’re being hit with that kind of suggestion that hard from a consistent source, it’s never just words. Sure, there may be a larger sense of coolness with lesbian and bisexual female activity, but certainly NOT for gay dudes.
As somebody who’s never used the word faggot and knows plenty of gay folk, I understand how the performance versus real life aspect takes place. Then again, you have to wonder why it’s okay for me to be cool and friendly with gay people in my regular day-to-day life, but when it comes to my raps, there’s a good amount of lines that point at being a gay dude as the worst thing that one can be. Naturally, this arises from that conflict that I mentioned earlier of the macho hetero basis of Hip-Hop with the effeminate basis of stereotypical male homosexuality. In a competitive field such as rap the natural thing to do is to strip a competitor of their status. You belittle them of those things which they value the most…This includes wealth, skill, and most strikingly, manhood. And if a man who acts feminine represents a loss of manhood, then implying that someone is gay is a severe offense. The other thing is that within the urban community, there’s the damaging rise of the down-low epidemic. And for it’s very dishonest nature and contribution to mistrust between males and females and breaking of families, it garners serious contempt. As it should.
There’s a lot of stuff about gay culture that I just don’t get and can’t rock with, such as the adopting of opposite gender identity and characteristics. I also have little respect for those who don’t just come out and pretend to be straight.
None of this is an excuse tho. And if my otherwise evolved mind is able to understand homosexuality in real life (even tho, I don’t fully understand it per se), it should reflect a bit more in my songs. I’ve come quite far in the last few years, I think there’s room for growth. Evaluate me after these next 2 projects of mine drop.