Hip hop homophobia or potential for progression?

By Oscar Davies

 

Oscar Davies explores the issue of homophobia in 2014’s hip hop industry, and how it can be reflected on campus.

AS in other sectors of society, homophobia still exists in the hip hop music industry. Whilst Frank Ocean’s ‘coming out’ was certainly a step forward in 2013, Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg) praised him but then noted: “He’s a singer. It’s acceptable in the singing world, but in the rap world I don’t know if it will ever be acceptable because rap is so masculine.”

This boils down to the problematic assumption that ‘gay’ equals ‘feminine’: have you ever seen those hyper-muscular men walking around Soho? I don’t think anyone could call them ‘feminine’, although the majority are probably gay.

This concept of rap being exclusively ‘masculine’ is also problematic in assuming that there is no place for female rappers in 2014. Whilst it is true that they are not the most traditionally ‘feminine’ of women, the recent success of artists such as Iggy Azalea, Angel Haze and Brooke Candy would suggest that perhaps rappers themselves are the ones who have the problem with homosexuality and femininity, rather than the public, who clearly buy their albums and, as a result, facilitate their success.

Chris Brown’s recent homophobic slur, ironically, brings the issue of gays and women into a striking parallel with the allegations of domestic abuse he has faced in the past against Rihanna: “I’m not into this gay shit, I’m into boxing.” Both Chris Brown and Snoop Lion’s words have exposed their fear of ‘the other’ in the industry, be it women or homosexuals, making them pseudo-masculine, at best.

Lion defends himself by stating his open-mindedness. “I don’t have a problem with gay people. I got some gay homies.” Very good, Snoop, but to me, this is precisely the same thing as saying “I’m not racist, I have some black friends!” – it by no means excuses him from prejudice.

However, the hip hop industry’s views on homosexuality are not all doom and gloom. Macklemore’s video for Same Love portrays his uncle’s same-sex relationship, showing a more tolerant and, dare I say it, progressive attitude towards homosexuality. Yet, the truth’s still cut through as he states, “If I was gay, I would think hip hop hates me.” This precludes Eminem’s most recent song Rap God, which is about breaking “a mother******* table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half”. Whilst this could certainly be interpreted as homophobic, he justifies it by saying that it is “more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole.”

Not only is the usage of gay as a derogatory term common in rap, but it also seems to be widely used at King’s. I have spoken to many of our students who use the word ‘gay’ as an insult both in speech and online (notably by posting the viral meme ‘Ha! Gayyyy!’). According to recent research by Stonewall, 84% of homosexual teenagers said they were upset by gay being used as an insult. Although you may have ‘gay homies’ like Snoop Dogg who are cool with it, I doubt deep down that this is the case.

Despite my peers assuring me that this insult is completely dissociated from homosexuals and is by no means homophobic, the hard truth is that the word ‘gay’ will never not be associated with homosexuals, therefore putting the people who identify themselves in this category on the back foot and liable to be insulted, both in the rap industry and on campus.

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