Written by: J. Stokes –January 31, 2017
The U.S. is constantly changing with each new year. As of January 20th this country has concluded a historic presidency, with Barack Hussein Obama being the first Black individual to ever occupy the White House. Moreover, marijuana, deemed a Schedule I drug, has been legalized in multiple states, including the District of Columbia. Even homosexuality is reportedly gaining more acceptance among Americans. Nevertheless, these various changes, though monumental, have been somewhat misleading. Despite the fact that President Obama left office with an approval rating of about 60 percent, his presidency reminded many that the U.S. has a long way to go with regards to race relations. Marijuana legalization has also stirred up some debate due to the negative reactions multiple individuals have had with marijuana edibles. And then there’s homosexuality…
While gay culture is being showcased more in mainstream media, there is still one area of media that has yet to be effected. That area is hip-hop (or rather, mainstream hip-hop). One must ask, “would hip-hop music/culture ever be accepting of an openly gay artist?” or rather “is there a place for openly gay hip-hop artists in the hip-hop community?” We are choosing to analyze this topic since homophobia in hip-hop has been talked about for quite some time. Rapper/singer Angel Haze, who identifies as gay, once stated, “Being gay in hip hop is still really stigmatized.
There are so many people in this world that are closet homosexuals.” When underscoring hip-hop music/culture and its history with distancing itself from homosexuality, we must also consider its roots. Maco L. Fanlel, author of Hip-Hop in Houston, has asserted that the urban spaces that hip-hop represents are spaces for Black masculine performance and protection from everything, past and present, that poses a threat to the Black male body. It is because of this this that virility, power over women, and certain heteronormative ideas or practices is important to hip-hop culture.
Keeping this in mind, one must ask how artists such as Young Thug, who is known for wearing dresses, is able to survive in the hip-hop world. Responses to this question may vary. It could be said that Young Thug is trying to be a fashion trendsetter, like hip-hop artist Kanye West, who has worn skirt-like apparel in previous years. Nevertheless, while there is some debate as to whether or not Young Thug is a gay artist, one thing is for certain; the content of his music is arguably hyper-masculine. An example of this can be seen in he and Travis Scott’s 2016 song entitled “Pick Up the Phone.” During Young Thug’s verse, he raps:
Mama told me I’m her brightest star
Mama told me don’t hate on the law
Because everybody got a job
Because everybody wanna be a star (real s**t, real s**t)
Please believe every mother f**ker around here wan’ be a part
She gon’ do anything in her power to be with ya’ boy.
Line the last line of Young Thug’s verse he asserts that a woman/women will do anything to be with him. Young Thug comes to this conclusion since he considers himself to be a star, confirmed by his mother, who others revere. Taking this matter a step further, in the music video for “Pick Up the Phone” Young Thug is accompanied by two naked women who caress him throughout the duration of his rap verse. If this doesn’t scream hyper-masculinity, we don’t know what does!
Let’s rewind to a previous point…
Earlier we questioned whether or not hip-hop music/culture would be accepting of an openly gay artist. Well, there has been one that made their way to mainstream radio stations. That individual is Young M.A. The 24-year-old openly gay female hip-hop artist, known for songs such as “Ooouuu,” hasn’t shied away from her sexuality or interest in other women. This was made apparent in a Snapchat video that surfaced last year, where Young M.A. is seen cuddling with model Tori Brixx. However, her acceptance of being openly gay doesn’t stop there. When asked once if she was okay with being an inspiration to other gay individuals, Young M.A. didn’t mind saying “yes.”
Nevertheless, it should be understood that Young M.A., though openly gay, seems to exhibit behaviors common in many mainstream male hip-hop artists. What we mean is that Young M.A. has showcased hyper-masculine behaviors that she identifies as a woman. An example of this can be seen in her 2016 song “Ooouuu,” when she states:
If that’s your chick, then why she textin’ me?
Why she keep calling my phone speaking sexually?
Every time I’m out, why she stressin’ me?
You call her Stephanie? I call her Headphanie (Oooouuu)
I don’t open doors for a whore
I just want the neck, nothin’ more
Shawty, make it clap, make it applaud!
When you tired of your man, give me a call.
As one can see, Young M.A. views interested female partners as sexual objects. Young M.A. also speaks of taking another man’s woman, insinuating that she can do a better job at giving said woman an adequate sexual experience. In a sense, within the song “Ooouuu” Young M.A. ascends into the male hip-hop artist role, thus displaying power over women and virility (didn’t we mention these terms earlier?). Fanlel has also stated that hip-hop tends to embrace lesbian love, especially since many are sexually stimulated by the sight of two women pleasuring each other. Aaaaaaaaaaand, cue the music:
While we understand the above song is most likely classified as R&B, hip-hop artist Young Dro has been known for quoting the line “my girl gotta’ girlfriend” on multiple occasions including his 2006 radio hit “Shoulder Lean.”
So what’s the takeaway?
As you can see there is a complicated relationship between homosexuality and hip-hop. On one end, being openly gay can hinder one’s career since hip-hop has been known for being homophobic in the past and present (maybe not as much in the present). On the other end, those who identify as gay or cross-dress are allowed to continue their behaviors just so long as a certain hyper-masculine persona is maintained. Therefore, it is somewhat unlikely that an openly gay hip-hop artist that challenges these norms would be accepted, as far as mainstream channels. Hypothetically speaking, though, if hip-hop were to promote a non-hyper-masculine openly gay artist, whether male or female, the impacts could be major. Over the past three decades, hip-hop culture has become influential in every American’s journey. Among musical genres, hip-hop seems to have a great influence on pop culture.
From the word “cray” to having people wipe dirt off their shoulders, hip-hop music, or rather hip-hop culture, is a unique entity capable of shaping many lives. There have been hip-hop artists that have spoken up about the ever-changing sociopolitical climate, such as Kendrick Lamar and J Cole. We can even take things back to songs like Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power.” These artists and their music have thus caused many to change their ways of thinking, as well as attitudes concerning certain topics. Despite hip-hop’s influential nature, however, it seems homosexuality, other than coy or flirtatious lesbianism, has an uphill battle to fight when it comes to its influence on hip-hop.
**Do you think there will ever be a place for openly gay hip-hop artists who do not exhibit hyper-masculine behaviors? Do you think that there could ever be a gay female hip-hop artist that does not view other women as objects? Please let us know your thoughts? This was a hefty blog post, designed for hefty responses!