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Is hip-hop music inherently homophobic?

DEBATE: Is hip-hop music homophobic?

Two London 360 reporters go head to head in a debate about homophobia.


"NO IT ISN'T!"
FOZIA NASIR

Though hip hop is predominantly codified as male and heterosexual, to believe that its sentiments are primarily concerned with lauding ‘hoes’ and degrading ‘homos’ is to undermine the true essence of the genre.

Hip-hop is a narrative that strives to take a critical stance on the realities of the world. Artists such as Common, Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique are all prime examples of modern day rappers who strive to adhere to this tenet, without the need to dumb down their lyrics with crude references.

In actuality, it is mainstream, popular rappers such as Gucci Mane who repeatedly riddle their words with the term ‘hoes’. In no way is he comparable to the true hip hop nature of say Immortal Technique.  

Regarding the idea that hip-hop is homophobic, I beg to differ. Editor of Rewind magazine, Hattie Collins points out that “statistically there are over a thousand rappers, there has to be a gay rapper.”

Despite the fact that we have yet to witness an openly gay hip hop artist, the positivity towards gay men from other hip-hop heads in the industry is certainly something that is not hindering this possibility.

At an interview with Hard Knock TV, Kanye West spoke with much praise for the gay community, highlighting that “the only gay people I know are some of the most incredible people on the planet.” Tim Westwood equally showed his support, saying on BBC 1Xtra that he had “no problem with artists being gay” and that it was “no one’s business.” 

As journalist Alex Macpherson outlines, “I get the impression that the hip hop community has been a lot more gay tolerant than people give it credit for.” There’s a story about a writer in the 90s who was the best friend of the late Biggie Smalls. This writer reminisced about one of Biggie’s gay friends bringing his boy friend to the “hood” as a way to come out. Biggie was said to have reacted well to this, stating that it was none of his business.

With Biggie’s best friend going on to become Lil Kim’s stylist and rapper Estelle highlighting the fact that “a good 50 percent” of her staff are gay on BBC 1Xtra’s No Homo: Hip Hop’s last Taboo, it seems that though the hip hop industry appears to be a strictly heterosexual male domain, below the surface, it is in fact an industry in which gay men are playing a key role.

If anything, it is the fan base who are not accepting of homosexuality in hip hop as opposed to the industry itself. Speaking to various hip hop fans regarding the subject most were reviled by the idea, stating that they would not buy a gay artists‘ album or have any high hopes for them.

It is this unyielding attitude from the public that needs to change, not the hip hop industry, which actually owes much of the behind-the-scenes graft down to the work of gay men.

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YES IT IS"
MALEENA PONE

“ ‘No homo’, is basically installed in my vocabulary. It isn’t about being gay, it’s about saying something gay.” This was American rapper Cameron in an interview he gave to the biggest hip hop radio station in the world, Hot 97 back in 2007.

The phrase then became a common term for hip hop fans and the general public alike when referring to their non-gay sexuality. It was a hip hop artist that created this term that is now used to reinforce heterosexuality, as if it was a pre-requisite of ‘no offence’ after an embarrassing moment in a conversation.

Only in hip-hop can mainstream artists freely gay-bash and use homophobic hype as a tool to gain fans and make mediocre music. The industry reinforces this by supporting the above activity and giving these artists platform to express their views.

The fans are only susceptible to such a deeply-engrained prejudice due to the ultra-masculine and homophobic climate they have experienced throughout the history of rap music.

In my opinion the industry doesn’t want to support a gay emcee and make videos that depict the reality of a homosexual lifestyle as it currently benefits far too much from selling sex and reinforcing female exploitation. The X-rated formula that works for some of the highest-paid artists such as Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent and Gucci Mane has become the blueprint to nearly all mainstream hip hop videos.

It’s become completely acceptable to see two girls getting it on in hot-tub with nothing but a bit of dental floss protecting their modesty in any of the music videos of the said artists. More disappointing however is how this has extended. This ‘hoe-ish’ behaviour has influenced the way modern female rappers such as Nicki Minaj use their sexuality to present themselves to the industry and the public.

The nature of the hip hop game becomes void when it’s no longer characterised by clever lyricism, it’s fight for equality and keeping it real. When it’s players start to degrade one another to gain record sales it becomes no different to any other commercial music industry.

It currently has its audience in a choke-hold, unable to loosen it’s grip on its portrayal of rappers from environments where they need to be hard, rough and masculine, so that they won’t be perceived as false or in touch with their feminine side or emotions. But if it was still about ‘keeping it real’ and giving a voice to the oppressed, true hip hop artists would play it straight by not distorting who they really are – even if that was gay.

*THE 'HEAD TO HEAD''COLUMN IS BY THE LONDON 360 REPORTERS
To find out more about what our reporters are up to go to www.communitychannel.org/london360
-WE ARE LONDON!

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