In a ringing endorsement for civil equality, the Supreme Court yesterday (June 26) ruled that gay marriage is a national right and that individual states no longer have the ability to ban gay men and lesbian women from matrimony. With that decision came sweeping support from many, but there are still pockets of society which have more conservative beliefs, arguing that gay marriage is not conducive to procreation and that it is forbidden in many religious texts.
While certainly not illustrative of the culture as a whole, Hip-Hop’s position on homosexuality has been dismissive at best and down right abusive at worst. The hetero male perspective in Rap music has always been the default position, making homosexuality not only something openly rejected but also something freely discussed as being vile. However, recent events seem to foreshadow a thawing out of those sentiments.
In the last few years alone, major strides in the visibility of gay artists within the culture have been made. Two members of the Odd Future collective, Syd the Kid and Frank Ocean, have both identified themselves as being members of the queer community but, technically, the two are R&B/Soul artists, not cut-and-dry rappers. When will Hip-Hop have a highly visible openly gay MC?
As this concise timeline on Nerve.com shows, homophobia has, unfortunately, been all too present in Rap lyrics, its ugly head rearing back to the days of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who used the word “fag” twice in “The Message.” Since that 1982 song, gay slurs and have been prevalent in the culture even up to present day. A quick search for the word “fag” on genius.com yields a seemingly limitless list of results from countless MCs.
However, as the timeline also shows, there have been some small but important steps toward the acceptance of homosexuality in the culture. In 2001, Eminem, who has been under attack for lyrics deemed homophobic for years, performed with Elton John, who is openly gay, at the Grammy Awards. The moment raised awareness about Hip-Hop’s relationship with the LGBTQ community on music’s biggest stage.
In 2011, DMC, Rap pioneer and co-founder of Run-DMC, released a powerful PSA blasting homophobia in Hip-Hop and issuing a call to action to his peers to join him in support of equal rights.
Also, in 2012, Macklemore, the year’s most commercially successful and acclaimed MC, surged to the forefront of activism with the powerful video for “Same Love,” which depicted several gay couples getting married. That movement culminated at the 2013 Grammy Awards, where 33 same sex couples wed during the performance of the song.
While those and other strides in eliminating homophobia in Hip-Hop are not to be dismissed, the culture is still one of the last realms where it is acceptable to openly use derogatory slurs both in the music and the community. One look at the AFH Facebook page yields anti-gay vitriol daily. And, again, there is still no openly gay, successful, popular, and respected MC.
Now that highest court in the land has established a landmark new civil right for same-sex couples and transformed the narrative around gay rights, when will Hip-Hop follow suit?