Will Hip-Hop Ever Get Over Its Homophobia?

Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday (that isn't a national holiday) Rocks Off will have some of them here discussing issues relevant to their culture.

Will Hip-Hop Ever Get Over Its Homophobia?
Photo illustration by John Seaborn Gray

Homosexuality in hip-hop is a polarizing talking point. So much so, in fact, that several people asked to participate in this week's discussion elected to pass. The rest of them were in New York for the VH1's Hip Hop Honors. More on that tomorrow. This Week's Panel: Yung Redd, Paul Wall, Nash White, Thurogood Wordsmith and Candi Redd Not Invited: Michigan rapper Trick Trick, who said of the possibility of gays not liking his album: "I don't want your faggot money anyway. I don't like it [homosexuality]. Carry that shit somewhere else." This Week's Prompt: D.C. rapper Wale was the subject of a bunch of news bits about a week or so ago for signing on to perform at a Black Pride parade, only he (or his people) decided to cancel when they found out the parade wasn't solely a Black Pride parade, but a Gay Black Pride parade.Now, hat tip to Wale, because he ultimately ended up doing the show, but it brings up a few interesting discussion points, namely whether or not the hip-hop community at large will ever support an openly gay artist? Can this ever happen? Or is rap so soaked in machismo that it'd be impossible to separate the two? The way it is right now, you'd stand a better chance of making a comeback if you slept with a few 15-year-olds than if you admitted to being gay. And isn't this especially ironic considering that hip-hop, particularly in its earlier days, has been utilized as a platform to ignite civil and social change? Yung Redd: I don't think hip hop will embrace an openly gay artist because rap is currently based on street credit and how people view our musical character. This is something that won't go away anytime soon, I'm sorry to say. Paul Wall: Well, if all details are full and true, they should have disclosed that it was a "gay pride" event. It's just like when I do concerts they'll tell us, "It's a children's event so make it a clean show"; "It's an early event so be there early"; "It's a hood event so come strapped"; "It's an exclusive show so only bring three people"; etc. I've done shows before at a "gay" club, but that's something they need to be up front about when you get booked. Especially because it's something some people might have a problem with. And even more especially if its a "gay pride" event because a lot of media and/or homophobes will try and spin it out of proportion that he's now gay. About a gay rapper in hip-hop, yeah it's definitely possible for a gay rapper to make it. I don't see why not. All you need is a fan base. Every artist has there own specific fan base they should go after. Even I have my particular fan base I cater too. The problem is people always want more. I go after my fan base, but if I drive too far out my lane then my fans feel alienated and I become out of place. As an artist you have to stay in your lane. So if you're a gangster rapper, backpack rapper, pop rapper, sing/song rapper, strip club rapper, parking lot rapper, battle rapper, or gay rapper, there's no difference, just stay in your lane. Pop rappers aren't gonna have the same fan base as gangster rappers. Neither are gay rappers. But one thing I should make clear is, being gay shouldn't be your gimmick. If that's who you are, then so be it.   Nash White: I've heard of a couple openly gay rappers. Naturally, the rap industry isn't going to embrace a dude rapping about wanting dick right away. Mainstream rap is geared to exactly what it's named after, the mainstream. Most people who listen to rap, be it underground or mainstream, are not gay in my opinion. Thus, a straight man wouldn't be caught dead bumping a song that glorifies loving cock from another man's perspective. Concerning Wale, I love his music, I like him as an artist, but I have no idea what surrounded his decision to nearly drop out of the concert. Or if it was even his. If he had publicly stated that he hated gays, this would be different. But in his case, I'll give him a pass and say it really doesn't matter, because I don't chill with the guy at all in person and couldn't tell you what really happened. But in any case, what I think will happen in the near future is this: One of our big name star rappers who [has] always been well respected and held up a flawless catalogue will crash the headlines with the announcement of [himself] coming out of the closet. I don't know who it may be, but I'm quite sure this is bound to happen sooner or later. Now, it's up to the rap community to either be mature about it and embrace that artist for their skill, because obviously being gay wouldn't suddenly make them suck at rap, or for them to completely shun the artist and make coming out the worst move of his/her career. On another note, we will probably see a successful lesbian rapper before we see a successful gay dude rapper. Because, I mean, who doesn't like lesbians? Candi Redd: The reason an openly gay artist who has homosexuality in their lyrics will never be accepted in the hip-hop community on a national scale is because there is not a record label that is willing to give it a national push. For one, it is not lucrative enough. Record labels don't give a damn about an artist or their feelings. They are all about making money because it is a numbers game with them. By limiting [themselves] (The Gay Artist) only to sell records to gay people, they would never go platinum. And even if it were possible for them to go platinum, record labels wouldn't want the negative connotation that will come with it. They get enough bad reviews with the sexually explicit lyrics from heterosexual artist. Then on top of everything, I don't know about y'all but I damn sure wouldn't want my child listening to that bullshit. Thurogood Wordsmith: Hip-hop has been one of the most powerful platforms for social change, equality, and self expression in the last 30 years, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing. As hip-hop grows, so will it's tolerance for new perspectives. I doubt there will ever be a comfortable spot in hip-hop for gay artists, but I am willing to bet that we will one day see an openly gay MC find mainstream success. When you think about it, your favorite artist could be gay. Yes, yours. One of the most influential heavy-metal bands of all time was fronted by a gay man. I find it hilarious that thousands of straight young men fueled by testosterone would fill arenas dressed in S&M gear to pay homage to their fearless leader, Rob Halford. Over 20 years after Judas Priest pioneered heavy metal music, Rob Halford came out of the closet. That would be like Melle Mel coming out of the closet. Well, come to think of it, he wore all that S&M stuff too. I don't even want to think about it. Bottom line, I believe that there will be an artist in my lifetime that will break down that barrier and change the game forever. He may need a few closet doors to open before him but, it could happen... one day. Gratuitous Rap Round Table Affiliates Promotion

  • Download Candi Redd's bubbly new single, "Money On My Mind," (feat. Kat St. John), right here.
  • Guerilla Foco Clan just released their latest LP, This Is For The Nightlife, sampling DJ Screw and the Beach Boys. Full review coming later. Check it out here in the meantime.
  • Follow Yung Redd on Twitter at @therealyungredd.
  • Listen to Thurogood on his MySpace page.
  • Buy Paul Wall's latest single, "I'm On Patron." It's available on iTunes now. Hear it on Youtube right here.

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