Four of a Kind Presents: Homophobia in Hip Hop
Hip Hop thrives off of competition; the thrill of out doing someone in their own art has caused for a lot of innovation in the rap community, however because of competition amongst rappers grows more intense, male rappers have had to find new ways to out do or “school” their opponents. These methods started out as dissing skills then changed to feminizing their opponents, which later evolved to using homophobic terms to degrade their adversaries. Because of this, homophobia became more and more normalized in the rap community. Throughout the years hip hop artists have used homophobic slurs and phrases to dismiss and or downgrade their competition without ever receiving backlash for their words. However, in this new age of consciousness among youth, artists have had to become a lot more conscious and careful with their word selections. One example of this is when Offset received a lot of criticism in January for his homophobic verse in the song “Boss Life”. Offset’s verse “I don’t vibe with queers” uses queer in a derogatory way, kind of referring to queer people as dusty in a way. Because of this new wave of consciousness, rap artists have had to be accountable for their words whether they want to be or not.
Growing up in the Black and Latino community (which was heavily influenced by rap culture) Homophobia was a grill men wore on their teeth to maintain their street cred. Idolizing men like Eminem who proudly says the word faggot in many of his songs, homophobic verses and words were normalized throughout my childhood. As I’ve gotten older the amount of accountability that men have to have for their homophobic verses and words has grown dramatically over the years. With this new regime of gay allies in consumers in the new age of rap, many rappers (predominantly male) have resorted to using what I call the “one foot in one foot out method”. This is the method where they (Homophobic rappers) will rap or say something homophobic and ride with it ,but when confronted will try and switch up the whole vibe of their commentary and make it seem like the accuser is overreacting (being dramatic or making the accusant uncomfortable). This method doesn’t end here. Often times in the second wave these people will make you feel like you’re in the wrong for going out of your way for “making problems out of nothing” (but you’re actually standing up for yourself and others). These type of arguments are almost never considerate of the feelings of the accuser and literally erase the historical, social, and political struggles people who claim these identities go through. The fact the Offset was irritated that people in the LGBTQ community read queer in his song as derogatory was completely inconsiderate only because there is a trauma this community has with the word that he will NEVER BE ABLE TO RESONATE WITH. Side note! There is a common and unspoken derogatory meaning attached to this word that the rap community is well aware of. The third wave is playing dumb, that acting of not knowing that queer has a historical derogatory meaning which also comes in a condescending tone. Basically when Offset quoted the dictionary as if we already don’t know the meaning. If you’re lucky enough get past the first, second, and third wave of this battle, passive aggressive, and ignorant apologies are guaranteed to follow. Offset for example after being accused made an apology which was actually funny to read. He started by pointing out that he is a gangsta so he doesn’t comment on sexuality (so in order to be hood or gangsta you have to not care or not comment on sexuality?) . He used the famous “i’m not homophobic I have gay friends who love fashion” excuse,which is an old and sad excuse only because even though you are friends with queer people and lets say they happened to be okay with the song, they don’t represent the entire queer population on this earth. (Also could be seen as tokenizing the gay friends you do have). Finally to further dig himself down the hole he said that he was SORRY IF ANYONE GOT OFFENDED. By apologizing for us being offended he is removing accountability from himself and not apologizing for the actual verse (basically sorry you’re queer and got offended or sucks to suck) Making it in caps so that we got his annoyed and dismissive tone making us the accusers feel like a problematic nusense. Ultimately this method is played out and losing it’s edge….. Do better.
This January Offset was called out for rapping the lyrics, “I cannot vibe with queers.” When people were quick to call him out for the use of these lyrics he put out an apology which can be read in the picture below.
This homophobic incident is not the first to occur in Hip-Hop history. Many rappers in Hip-Hop are expected to maintain the “hype-fantasy image,” which is the masses idea of Hip-Hop as heterosexual along with hypersexualized, black, male, and urban. This sets up many rappers to perform like this to maintain this image, and heterosexuality is included in this image. Homophobia has been occuring in Hip Hop for decades, it can be seen in the lyrics of N.W.A.’s frontman Eazy E’s rap about a transgender woman on Straight Outta Compton’s “Nobody Move.” He raps, “She took her panties down and the bitch had a dick!…What I thought was a bitch was nothing but a man.” The use of homophobic terminology is engrained in many songs in Hip-Hop even though sexuality is less taboo and talked about more often today. When Frank Ocean came out Lil Wayne came out with the lyrics “No Frank Ocean, I’m straight.” Though there is homophobia in Hip-Hop homophobia occurs throughout many areas of music, which is something we have to note when discussing homophobia within the genre. Many artists, who have come out as being in the LGBTQ+ community within Hip-Hop face a backlash, and the terminology that artists like Offset use adds to the stigma of queer artists in Hip-Hop. When rapper iLoveMakonnen came out as gay Offset said the support that iLoveMakonnen was getting was “The world being fucked up.” We need to make space for LGBTQ+ artists within Hip-Hop and break down the “hype-fantasy image.” We need to hold artists accountable for the words and terms they use in their lyrics, because these spread ideas throughout the music genre about what is and isn’t acceptable in Hip-Hop. Artists like Offset need to know that a half-assed apology will not cut it when it comes to homophobia.
With people becoming more and more aware of homosexuality in hip hop culture, or in culture in general, it is important to recognize the line put Offset of the rap group, Migos, in a situation that I’m sure most rappers would not want to be in. The line in particular is “Pinky ring crystal clear, 40k spent on a private Lear / 60k solitaire / I cannot vibe with queers”.
For many people, this line created a controversy as to why Offset would use the word queer without the thought that the term could be and is interpreted in many different ways, more specifically to describe people in the LGBT community. For Offset, this was just a word that he used in a line to describe how he feels towards paparazzi and those that stalk him. He points out that the definition of queer is to be strange or odd. He also apologizes for using the line and says that he does not dislike gay people and is sorry if he offended anyone.
I think that with Offset using the definition and not putting two and two together with the term and how its been used in society before is a mistake on his part. Offset, being a part of the hip hop culture and having influences of older generations of hip hop, should know that homophobic slurs in rap are used 99% of the time. Whether it was intended or not, there was no reason to use that specific term for the line especially in today’s society and how much notoriety he gets as a successful artist in hip hop. I also feel that because he his such a big artist that it came back on him tenfold when using the term in a line that offends many people. I think that if people were to know that this is the type of rapper he was in the first place, it would not be as big as a deal as it is today. For example, Eminem and Tyler the Creator, are both rappers who started off using homophobic lyrics in their music and people have become used to hearing those kinds of lyrics from them. This is not to say that it is right to use those kinds of lyrics at all but that the standard is already set once a rapper creates their platform in that way.
As there continues to be a growing public acceptance within the LGBTQ community, there has been much more criticism in regards to lyrical content in recent Hip-Hop. This is in regards to homophobia. Just last month, rapper Offset (Migos), took heat for his lyrics on YFN Lucci’s single, “Boss Life”. On this single he raps, “I cannot vibe with queers”. In his defense, he denies any homophobic intentions. He even took the liberty to post his apologies through social media.
In one of his apologies, Offset refers to himself as a “Gangsta” saying “I don’t even speak on sexuality”. He also adds that he intended to make fun of people that want to post about him and stalk him. I’m not sure how that makes it acceptable to refer to them as queers but okay. Also, I find it hard to believe Offset in regards to him speaking on sexuality since this isn’t the first time a member from Migos has had to deal with criticism over homophobia.
In February of 2017, Migos took heat for their comments about Makonnen opening up about his sexuality. First they questioned support for Makonnen and started implying the world is not right and it is fucked up. They also undermined the authenticity of his music since Makonnen was involved with trapping and selling molly. So if Makonnen is gay, why should his past be devalued now since he’s gay? Maybe it’s because “hip-hop is a straight industry” (Kalamka and West, 4).
The issue here with Migos is that they’re held to such a high standard. Right now they’re arguably the most popular group in hip-hop and/or music in general. When you’re constantly in the spotlight, anything you do or say is put into perspective. For them to say anything derogatory towards gays is unacceptable, however, could they have gotten away with it in the past?
The reason I ask that question is because of rappers like Eminem. If you’re familiar with Eminem, especially the album The Marshall Mathers LP, you know his lyrics are very homophobic. Here’s an example of his homophobic slurs in the song “Criminal”.
“My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/That’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez/Or a homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest/Pants or dress, hate fags? The answer’s yes/Homophobic? Nah, you’re just heterophobic”.
Could you imagine how anyone would respond to lyrics like this in this time period? Offset said he doesn’t vibe with queers, meanwhile, Eminem is openly attacking gays, referring to them as fags and stabbing them. Despite his derogatory lyrics in The Marshall Mathers LP, it sold nearly 11 million units in the US, making it the highest selling album by a solo rapper. How is this possible? I think it goes back to the public’s acceptance within the LGBTQ community. It’s obvious how the public was less sensitive to homophobic lyrics. However, we’re also talking about music that was released nearly 20 years ago. A LOT has changed since then. So with the backlash Migos has taken over their homophobic comments, there is no debating how much more sensitive we have grown to lyrical content in comparison to rappers like Eminem.
Here is the link to the article about the controversy of Offset’s lyrics: https://genius.com/a/offset-faces-criticism-over-homophobic-lyrics-on-his-yfn-lucci-collab-boss-life