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”)

Ira Smolens

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • 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…

    • Meisarebel

      Wait a cotton picking minute… Am I first?! With a real arse response as opposed to just saying “first!”?!

      What. The. Fk?!

      • nillalatte

        Congratulations. LOL *hands Meisarebal 2 cookies: 1 for actually being first and the other for actually commenting on the post.*

        • Royale W. Cheese

          SMH stall of these cookies being handed out lately. Steve Harvey would not be pleased.

          • Meisarebel

            You’re just jealous. I’ve been after her cookies for the longest time. I’m only now finally seeing some just rewards.

    • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

      “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…”

      I hope not. Thanks to Aubrey, this will become one more trend in hip hop that I will sit out.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      ” 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…”

      perhaps the changes hip-hop makes will be largely regional, at least at first. it seems like the midwest is where are the “progressive” hiphop is being made today

  • 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?

    • Meisarebel

      Baby steps.

      If I’m not mistaken, not too long ago Kanye himself said the opposite of hip hop is gay. Shrug.

      However, Eminem DID share the stage with perhaps the gayest performer out there. So…

      • 90sgagirl

        Eminem and Elton white ‘tho

        • Meisarebel

          So? For as homophobic as we like to believe the “black community” is, let’s not pretend that there is not a very large white community out there that is anti-gay.

          Either way, I brought it up because I don’t think any rapper has made a bigger impact on the gay community as Eminem has. I don’t recall them protesting against Jay Z, or DMX (granted his lyrics are awfully gay). So if Eminem can eventually perform and hug Elton, then hey.

          And I say all that, whilst acknowledging that I’m indifferent to gay support.

    • Thai

      “How about taking the stage with, signing and/or promoting an openly gay hip hop artist?”

      So true! There is also a sense of non-chalance about it. Like “they can do what ever cuz it dont faze me”. It’s like a half-assed thing. *kanye shrug*

      • AfroPetite

        Cosign

        I don’t think gay rights (or most rights for that matter) concern people until it is closer to home. Let Solange’s son come out as being homosexual and I could totally see Jay being at the forefront of anti-bullying and gay rights advocacy.

    • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

      “How about taking the stage with, signing and/or promoting an openly gay hip hop artist?”

      I’d be surprised if he had not already inadvertently done this.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “How about taking the stage with, signing and/or promoting an openly gay hip hop artist?”

      male or female?

      • http://pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

        Pretty sure a male gay artist would make a bigger impact. Not sure how I feel about that, but in a male-dominated culture such as hip-hop (where two girls kissing is seen as sexy and two males… not so much), a gay male hip-hop artist would make a greater dent, most definitely.

    • Royale W. Cheese

      Da Brat is about as openly gay as hip-hop has gotten. Any new openly ay artist would probably be a butch lesbian, since hip-hop is so masculine.

      • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

        Da brat is gay?? LOL If I find out one more GD person is gay…

        • http://challyshares.tumblr.com Nei Jae

          Wait, you didnt know? How could you not know. At one point she tried to girl it up a bit (circa What Do You Like), but it didnt last.

  • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

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

    Of zero relevance.

    • http://voodoochile88.tumblr.com/ Craig and Dem

      And the church said Amen

    • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com/ Perverted Alchemist

      Exactamundo!!!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      so a statement said by one of the most influential people in the country has zero relevance?

      • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

        Yes. Everyone is aware Jay-Z is a rapping politician. It’s not going to change anything and he’s not going to make any moves to make sure any segment of the gay community feels safe/more included in hip hop. Even his wife who’s choreography and videos are ripped off from gay men doesn’t even explicitly acknowledge her gay male fanbase and it would actually be advantageous for her to do so.

        • http://pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

          “Even his wife who’s choreography and videos are ripped off from gay men doesn’t even explicitly acknowledge her gay male fanbase and it would actually be advantageous for her to do so.”

          I’m curious. Advantageous in what way? Her stans are already firmly in her corner as firm can get, so if she openly acknowledged her gay male fanbase that would be advantageous because they’d… love her more than they already do?

          • Breezy

            Exactly…its like stating the obvious.

            *enters in “SINGLE LADIES” video that ole boy re-did in her honor*

          • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

            LOL, it’d be like acknowledging the sky for being blue. That could be part of the reason Jay-Z came out on this at all.

          • http://panamaenrique.wordpress.com Malik

            Gay magazine endorsements and maybe someone teaching her to get her own style like her baby sis…

  • 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 :-)

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      baby steps and shit

  • http://Flavors.me/brran1 brran1

    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.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/fiveisthenumber fiveisthenumber

      a rapper with an apostrophe in the middle of his name needs no exposure…gay or not…

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        “a rapper with an apostrophe in the middle of his name needs no exposure…gay or not…”

        LOL

      • http://pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

        LMFAO

        Yeah, I’m errant apostrophe racist.

        • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

          LOL!

      • http://www.ebay.com/itm/Floral-Snapback-by-Leroy-Jenkins-As-Seen-On-Jay-Z-Jay-Z-Snapback-Pre-Order-/320926600114?pt=US_Hats&var=&hash=item4ab8b74bb2 Jay-Z Snapback

        FAIL!

        It’s a hyphen.

    • http://twitter.com/itztrizz617 Tristan

      Kanye tried to open the door to this conversation years ago…the hip hop community called him gay and shut the door right back

      • http://flavors.me/brran1 brran1

        This is very true. But I personally think that people (within and not in the rap game) value Jay’s opinion over Ye’s. Ye’s a musical genius but his antics have made many give him a serious side eye.

        • whostolethesoul

          True, and when the young Jedi realizes the power he has over the master and the multitudes…he’ll get the respect and attention he craves so desperately

      • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

        BOL! When did that happen?

  • http://five27.com OJ Smith

    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

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      good point

    • http://pinchmycheekie.wordpress.com Cheekie

      Oooh, that’s totally a good point. A song would definitely make a huger impact.

      • MJoy

        +1.5

  • http://www.iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

    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*

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      would it be cynical to chalk it up to another guy just not wanting to offend his new, hollywood friends?

  • 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.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “I feel either way everything will work out for the gays.”

      me too, actually. i admire their spirit and spunk and shit

      (If I said things like “pause,” I would say pause after what I just said. i don’t though, so I wont)

  • 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.

    • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

      He is a “grown up” now. I’m guessing he’s getting different types of questions asked of him than, say, a Meek Mills. Was he simply asked his position on gay marriage or did he hold a press conference or something? He’s not a conservative anyway; further alienating gay people is of no benefit to him whatsoever.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “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], et”

      rap has always been about bragging, though. it’s just that now rappers brag about different stuff

  • 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?

    • Latonya

      I thought that Queen Latifah all ready had come out the closet with those pictures with her and her lover.

      • http://www.iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

        Queen Latifah is the grand marshal of a gay pride event this weekend. We’ll see if she makes any announcements

        • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

          I was wondering if she ever officially came out and said she was gay…did Missy ever come out?

          • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

            “I was wondering if she ever officially came out and said she was gay…did Missy ever come out?”

            i dont think so

          • Breezy

            @WIP: No… not that she needs too. The girl is as flaming as Queen Latifah in “Chicago”.

      • https://twitter.com/#!/fiveisthenumber fiveisthenumber

        When was the last time that heffa rapped? She ‘on count!

        *about to listen to “The Pros” and “Wrath of My Madness”*

      • http://wildcougarconfessions.com Wild Cougar

        But does anyone actually care if female rappers are gay? Really. I mean other than lesbians who will see it as affirming. Its almost the same as a male ballet dancer coming out of the closet. Big whoop.

        • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

          Nope, I mentioned this down thread. Modern hip-hop is quite pro lesb!ian.

          • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com The Fiendish Doctor Wu

            One of the Azealia’s is openly bi-sexual right?

        • whostolethesoul

          exactly! the women are expected to be hard or oversexualized. Just saying a “gay rapper” won’t be a huge concern (we know they exist), the issue will be when Jay is faced with “doin’ a collabo” w/a ATL Derek J-type rapper in 6in heels. It would have to be w/someone who’s already Ultra~ in their own right or allow the song to blow up first.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          “But does anyone actually care if female rappers are gay?”

          good point