You probably remember a great commentary on Hip-Hop from WIB contributor and podcast host Chase March on redefinition of masculinity in Hip-Hop. It is definately worth a read if you haven’t already; it’s very thought provoking. Anyway, a few days ago a article discussing a similar subject matter cropped up and as soon as I read it I knew it was worth sharing. It talks about the modern tendency for more feminine Hip-Hop stars, and the open mindedness and acceptance of which homosexuality is approached with as a consequence.

This article was originally featured on and reproduced with the kind permission of The London Vandal. If you aren’t yet aware of it, it is one of the freshest blogs I frequent, with articles on street culture, graffiti, etc. Definately one to add to your bookmarks. Click here to visit.
Peace, ~lork.

Man, if you’re gay we can be friends. If you’re straight, we can be friends…I really don’t give a fuck and I don’t think anyone should care about what another man’s preference is…As long as you’re a great person and, y’know, you don’t bother me and make me uncomfortable, then let’s be friends, dude.

[Hip-hop] needs to stop being so close-minded because that will just cause the genre to fail. Look at pop. Pop doesn’t discriminate against people. Look at Lady Gaga, y’know what I mean? Who the fuck makes the rules for hip-hop? Who the fuck dictates who’s cool and who’s not?” – A$AP Rocky (via Spinner)

The role Rakim Mayers – known to most as A$AP Rocky – plays in his raps is not a particularly new one. The cool guy, the tough guy, the cocky motherfucker, and so on. His off-wax persona is perhaps more intriguing. In interview’s he’s admitted he’s “not a tough guy”, and twice now he’s announced that he’s got no problem with homosexuals (though smartly keepin’ it hood by bookending one quote with a “let’s smoke my nigga”). Maybe Mayers just knows his audience.

“Continue Reading After The Jump”

While the response from hip-hop outlets has been mixed, other, traditionally indie-focused blogs like Pitchfork have hyped him up to the nth degree. Though unafraid to champion ign’ant shit like Waka Flocka Flame, they won’t always turn a gloss over misogynist and homophobic lyrics – see the recent furore over Tyler The Creator’s liberal use of “faggot”. In the wake of Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’, the financial benefits of a more inclusive style are obvious, and Mayers does have Sony backing him to the tune of 3 million dollars. This isn’t even the first time a famous rapper has expressed tolerance of homosexuals – Kanye West and more surprisingly, Fat Joe (“If you’re gay, rep your set”) have both temporarily highlighted the ongoing debate about homosexuality in hip-hop. You’d see then what you’re seeing now – journalists from XXL to the Guardian asking whether we’re finally about to witness an end to hip-hop’s traditionally hostile attitude to the LGBT community. It’s not enough to cite the open-mindedness of a handful of rappers as evidence of more widespread change. But, if you take a closer look, there’s been not so much a shift as a gradual erosion of intolerance.

First off: the exotic otherness of hip-hop is no longer it’s primary appeal. In the 80′s, rap music provided a transgressive thrill – it was a look into a parallel universe, aggressive, rebellious. Rap could afford to be hostile and exclusive, even if it technically excluded a large chunk of it’s fanbase (they were still buying records). Big Daddy Kane was explicity “anti-faggot”, and even more politically minded acts like Brand Nubian weren’t “down with the gays”. But these non-PC lyrics weren’t a problem, they were often part of the appeal. It’s not like the 80′s were a tolerant time anyway, with the lack of understanding around AIDS spawning more disdain for the homosexual community.

But as rap continued to swallow more of the mainstream market share, it’s superstars had to become less provincial. From Eminem through to Yeezy, both of whom paved the way for introspective softie Drake – rap’s big names became less confrontational, and more relatable. And yes, more feminine. Even gangsta rap, which is controversial and rebellious by it’s nature, felt the effects of this shift. Audiences became less concerned with the percieved ‘realness’ or street-cred of their favourite microphone thug. Rappers became genuine fashionistas. Right now the biggest gangsta rapper is Rick Ro$$ – a former correctional officer who responded to claims of his elaborate crime lord persona being fabricated with a genius move. He turned everything up to 11. More girls, more money, luxurious beats,impossibly lavish scenes, Bugattis and Maybachs strewn about like dirty socks. The result was Teflon Don, his best album, which works precisely because it no longer matters that we believe the hypermasculine, streetwise, big-dick womanizer image to have foundation in reality. It just has to sound cool.

Second point: Rap, and music as a whole is fragmented. The answer to A$AP Rocky’s question “Who the fuck dictates who’s cool and who’s not?”, is everyone, and no-one. Even as popular rap becomes more tolerant, it’s also dissolving into smaller movements. Of course, the best example of this is the internet’s favourite wierdo, Lil’ B. Despite DMX’s disapproval, the Based God named his album “I’m Gay”, framing it as a call for more inclusiveness in rap, and many journalists took the bait. He’s also called himself a “pretty bitch” and appeared dressed as a princess on a mixtape cover. And while he’s not openly gay himself, and it’s easy enough to ignore him if you want to, Lil’ B has, at the very least, proven that you can create a scene around yourself, do whatever the fuck you want and still be successful (he’s not even a great rapper!). The barriers to entry are lower than ever, so if you’re smart enough to target fans who don’t want to have to turn a blind eye to homophobic (or misogynist, or liberal, etc…) lyrics, there’s not much to stop you. Sure, Beanie Sigel might not like it, and the flipside, of course, is that smaller scenes allow for a return to provincial perspectives where homophobia can thrive – but that’s just a reflection of the simple fact that some people are still homophobic.

Result: The status quo of the macho rapper is losing it’s importance. Take the ‘no homo’ movement, a sign of the widespread insecurity in hip-hop of men with regards to sexuality, right? Well, yes and no. It’s been argued that, in it’s own twisted way, it’s a tool allowing for the expansion of the perceived boundaries of masculinity, in a way that wouldn’t see outright rejection from the hip-hop community. Yeah sometimes it got really fucking ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Cam’ron), and it was fundamentally still homophobic, but it could also allow for expression of ideas which would otherwise be repressed by the fear of appearing feminine. Now that the ‘no homo’ fad has died down, those expanded notions of masculinity have remained, leaving less room for homophobia. Rappers and fans understand that “Where The Hood At?” would be just as much of a banger without those bars aimed at “homo thugs”. Artists might not be embracing homosexuals in their lyrics (even in an indirect ‘Born This Way’ style), but rap is so prominent now that all it has to do now is not explicitly exclude in order to include. And with the hypermasculine imagery loosening its choke hold on hip-hop, there’s not really a good reason to exclude the LGBT community in your lyrics.

The Big Question: Is hip-hop at large ready for an openly gay rapper? Probably. There’s several popular styles of rap that don’t rely on a massively masculine image that could be adopted by a gay artist. The harmless weed-clouded rhymes of Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Rocky’s hedonistic, clothes and money swag-rap, or Drake-esque contemplative rap n’ B. It might not be easy, and they might not be the next Lil’ Wayne (who, incidentally, publicly kissed Baby on the mouth with little reaction from anyone, save a handful of teenage boys on Youtube) but even the indie rock scene isn’t as tolerant as you’d expect – that’s just society, man.


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