|In December 2008's Attitude magazine, respected UK LGBT journalist Johann Hari asks some searching questions in the world of American hip-hop.
I should stress that I am focusing primarily on the United States. Our own Polynesian hip-hop seems to be neutral to supportive on LGBT issues, probably because of the roles that fa'afafine and their sisters play in Pacific Island communities.
What produces the homophobia of figures like DMX, Eminem, Masse, Busta Rhymes and Ice Cube? According to Terrence Dean, the rhetoric may have something to do with economic deprivation, severe family dysfunction... and closetry. There are 'down low' closeted African-American men who have sex with men, who feature prominently in this musical genre. Dean tried to masquerade as such a duplicitous figure, and recounts the psychological toll it took in marginalising himself from permanent relationships with black gay men.
To highlight the absurdity of this, Terence then recounts his experience of a receptive sexual partner who denied that this meant that the latter man was gay. But eventually, Terrence saw through the contradiction of mouthing the homophobic lyrics when he -and other 'down low' black men who had sex with men- were what those lyrics professed to despise. Closeted hip-hop artists often have a lover in their entourage, but do not actively profess affection toward their male partners.
He made the perceptive comment that residual fundamentalism also affects matters. When one is oppressed, anger, frustration and oppression is visited on perceptibly powerless 'others'- women or gay men.
Moreover, fierce African-American queens didn't make it easy, triggering initial anxiety attacks in the case of Dean. However, there's now openly gay hip-hop artists, and they're getting back in the faces of their homophobic straight counterparts, through defiantly asserting their sexuality and refusing to accept the straight industry's attitude problems. Many of the gay hip-hop artists profess that they admire the guts and bravado of Salt N Pepper and other female performers in the genre.
It's a divide and conquer strategy. Rather than being an authentic genre of resistance to racism and urban poverty, rich white record owners are the ones promoting misogynist and homophobic lyrics in gangsta rap. But there is hope- straight hip-hop megastar Kanye West has called for homophobia to be stamped out, due to the fact that one of his male cousins recently came out to him, and like many Polynesian and Maori hip-hop artists here, at the core, it's all about aiga/whanau/family.
Johann Hari: "The Strange Truth Behind Hip-Hop Homophobia" Attitude/Johannhari.com:
http://www.johannhari.com/archive/article.php?id=1414 Craig Young - 16th December 2008