Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

Hova Speaks, Will Hip-Hop Follow (Again)?: Will Jay-Z’s Support of Gay Marriage Help Hip-Hop Become Less Homophobic?

Although it was a forgettable song (well, forgettable sans for Pharrell’s hook) on an even more forgettable album, the video for “Excuse Me Miss” remains underrated in regards to how much of an influence it had on pop culture.

There’s a scene in it that shows Jay-Z typing on a very cumbersome and very cool looking device that was far too big to be a Motorola two-way and far two small to be a laptop. This mysterious device was the first T-Mobile Sidekick, and it’s inherent coolness combined with the coolness of Jay-Z using one made it the “it” electronic device of the year. I bought one a week after seeing the video. (And, because of T-Mobile’s draconian termination fee and contracts, I hold the dubious distinction of being the only person on Earth to own a Sidekick in 2002 and in 2009)

If you remember, at that time cell phones were getting smaller and smaller — a point parodied in this hilarious SNL skit. The Sidekick was the first phone to start the shift back to big  — leading to today’s behemoths — and Jay-Z deserves (at least) partial credit for spearheading that trend.

I’m bringing this up because, regardless of how you feel about Jay-Z the artist/former drug dealer/freemason/”business, man” you can’t deny the fact that he’s wielded a major influence on Black culture in the last 15 years. If the Sidekick story isn’t proof enough for you, think about this: Remember how cats used to spend hundreds of dollars on throwback sports jerseys; rocking them to night clubs, weddings, proms, and funerals and sh*t? Jay-Z managed to pretty much dead that trend with half of a bar .

“I don’t rock jerseys, I’m 30 plus…”


Now, unless you’ve been hiding in James Harden’s beard over the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard that Jay-Z came out in support of same-sex marriage. I’m not going to spend today breaking down the apparent hypocrisy and lack of sincerity of someone who has repeatedly used the word “faggot” in his work denouncing people who oppose gay marriage. Whether this is a political move to impress (and keep) his high society friends is not my concern.

What I am concerned about, though, is whether Hov has the type of pull to change the attitude of what is arguably the only billion-dollar entity in the world where it’s not just ok to be violently homophobic, it’s encouraged: Hip-Hop. (And yes, today, in 2012, Hip-Hop/Rap is more violently and vehemently homophobic than any other major “thing” you can possibly name. Nothing else beats us it right now.)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hova isn’t the first prominent Hip-Hop artist to start the homophobia is bad train. Both KRS-One and Chuck D have spoken out against it, and Drake’s entire career seems to be a pro-gay PSA. Eminem’s Grammy performance with Elton John still remains the awkwardest five minutes of TV I’ve ever seen.

Also, Jay’s protege has done more to spearhead this current era of skinny-jeaned Hip-Hop androgyny we live in than any other person, and the most popular female rapper ever has cultivated a persona that’s somehow asexual, bisexual, and hyperheterosexual all at the same time.

Basically, while I won’t go as far as to say that hip-hop was already becoming more gay friendly before Jay-Z’s statement, it does seem like it’s been progressively less antagonistic towards homosexuality. Will Jay-Z’s considerable voice and presence be enough to help hip-hop evolve past accepted homophobia? I don’t know. I do know that the fact that I’m somehow still tied into my T-Mobile contract means I wouldn’t bet against it happening.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Meisarebel

    I dunno… I think it MAY have some effect, but there will still be those who claim that “real hip hop” is gutter, for the streets, talking about the struggle, whatever, and will probably still be homophobic. It will be interesting to see how the game evolves though, especially with hip hop becoming less about violence and fking the po-lease, and more about expressing your feelings. I.E. Marvin’s Room. Hey… It’s happening…

  • Amos Banks

    Speaking up in support of gay marriage is one thing. How about taking the stage with, signing and/or promoting an openly gay hip hop artist?

  • So I can care less if Jay say it, it’s too political when Jay say it – Pusha T

    Of zero relevance.

  • AfroPetite

    I doubt the deep seeded homophobia within the hip-hop community will be swayed much due to his statement. First he’s all “anti-bish”and now he doesn’t care about what homosexuals do behind their little closet doors. Yea, I don’t really see droves of the hip-hop community jumping on either bandwagon he’s steering but kudos to him for his efforts :-)

  • I personally don’t think that Hip-Hop will grow to embrace Homosexuality anytime soon.

    I do however think that Jay’s comments will open the door for discussions on Homosexuality in Hip-Hop and could even open the doors to mainstream exposure for rappers like Solomon and Bry’Nt.

  • Nope. He didn’t say it in a song. All of your references were from songs. But you’re talking about a statement that was made. Just sayin

  • Ice Cube also said he was okay with gay marriage http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/05/ice_cube_says_hes_cool_with_gay_marriage.html *kanye shrug*

  • Thai

    “…and Drake’s entire career seems to be a pro-gay PSA. ” I almost spit out my dam coconut water.

    This ninja had Cristal almost bankrupt (exaggeration) with one gesture in his ‘Show Me What You Got” vid. But thats champagne we talkin. Gay rights…that is a really hard call to make. (off topic) BUT he could have ppl concerned with also important stuff such as you know like edumacation and business ownership and community involvement. Jay-Z can wield that type of power so i dunno (wishful thinkin). I feel either way everything will work out for the gays.

  • Marshal

    I remember when Hip Hip-Rap was based on either Music/Dance or speaking about Black Life in the Inner City/Projects/Hood. Today’s Hip Hop-Rap is full of exaggeration about $,$$$,$$$ an Artist DOESN’T HAVE yet, Cars they Rent for videos, Mansions they Also Lease for videos, the # of women they allegedly slept with who are supposed to be on the same sexual level as any Porn Star, and other misguided aspects of what Being Black is supposed to be (shooting to settle beef instead of talking towards solutions or Fighting with Fist [like Men], Stop Snitching [unless a Person’s Loved One is the Victim], etc).

    Times are changing, and Rap can’t stay popular by alienating everybody, including their clientele and fans. While I personally don’t view Jay as My Role Model, he HAS Evolved and Grown as a Man and as a Brand. When you deal with Powerful People who also dabble in Politics, you operate and Live by Their Rules.

  • 90sgagirl

    Reminds me of The Boondocks Gangstalicious episode when Riley catches his fav rapper kissing another dude and says ewww Y’all NInJAs is G@Y!”Random, but out of curiosity will Queen Latifah, Missy, and now Raven (twitter rumor) announce themselves or do they have to?

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