Faces of Homophobia
Perhaps the greatest insult one man could give another is by degrading his manhood, and, as Michael Dyson says, “to assume that he’s less than a man and to assign him to the very derogatory terms that one usually associates with women.” From California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dissing his opponents as “economic girlie men” to rappers insulting each other as “bitch niggas”, this double-edged insult not only disrespects women, but also supports a stereotypical view of masculinity. Homophobia is often based on a sense of insecurity about one’s own masculinity an insecurity heightened by the limited ways in which men and boys can express themselves through traditional notions of masculinity. In Hip-hop, homophobia, homoeroticism and hypermasculinity often go hand in hand. The images of thugged out, hypermasculine men of color, usually posing shirtless, greased up and muscular, often decorate the covers of albums put out by Hip-hop artists. While these images might not have been created as explicitly homoerotic, the theme of hypermasculinity shown serves to bond men together, often at the expense of women, gays and men who do not meet strict gender-based roles and expectations. Ever since its origin, Hip-hop has been, and continues to be a haven for artists with homophobic narratives and ideals.
Hip-hop rose to prominence for its creative use of language and rhymes, and with that prominence came the prevalent themes of the fear of gays and being gay. One who is engaged in Hip-hop culture and listens to Hip-hop music is often not surprised by the slang term that combines the creative usage of language and rhymes and the tremendous insecurities about sexuality this slang term being “no homo.” The “no homo” phenomenon is an old Hip-hop concept, but it is still new for younger people who listen to old Hip-hop. The phrase “no homo” which traces back to another phrase “ayo pause” is a defense mechanism utilized by young men who are not only afraid of being gay or looking stereotypically gay, they are also afraid that the words they speak might sound linguistically “gay.” “No homo” was first popularized by New York’s Dipset Crew, led by the rapper named Camron. Camron was known for cleverness with words and for often wearing pink articles of clothing. In one of his lyrics Camron raps, “put it out, let the streets talk no promo, a real man shouldn’t have to say no homo.” In an interview with the Hot 97 radio station, Camron explains that the phrase “no homo” is so important that it is installed in his everyday vocabulary, and that he uses it in most walks of life; he believes that the phrase has nothing to do with gay people and more to do with saying something that can be misinterpreted as one being gay. Hip-hop is built on a super-macho image of Blacks and Latinos which makes “men” feel the need to state “no homo” to reinforce and assert their masculinity.
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Eminem, arguably one of the greatest Hip-hop artists of all time, has had many instances of homophobic lyrics and ideals that have followed him throughout his career. In his song named Marshall Mathers which was released in 2000, Eminem raps, “Plus I put fear in faggots who spray Faygo Root Beer and call themselves clowns ’cause they look queer.” In another song named Criminal, released in the same year, Eminem sings,” My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge that’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a faggot or lez. Homophobic? Nah, you’re just heterophobic staring at my jeans, watching my genitals bulging. You’ll never get a hold of ’em.” A favorite conceit of homophobes is the belief that every gay person wants to have sex with them. Eminem’s lyrics in these songs show a strong preoccupation with homosexuality that creates a bizarrely hostile and defensive stance on homosexuality and what he believes homosexuals do around him. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Eminem explains that the environment he grew up in used the gay slur constantly to and around him, and it was especially used in the rap battles he would have. Eminem, like many hip-hop artists that output mildly homophobic content, Eminem maintains that he is not homophobic, however, if he continues to create homophobic lyrics like the ones previously stated, there are many children who will listen to them and begin to believe that homophobia and the stigmatization of homosexual people is okay.
The popular rapper, Tyler, the Creator, is an artist best known for his controversial lyrics and content. In May of 2011, Tyler released his critically acclaimed album titled Goblin. Critics praised Goblin for its unorthodox sound and provocative lyricism. However, the album was not without warranted controversy. On his album, Tyler uses the word “fag” at a grand total of 213 times and blatantly uses the word “faggot” nine times. On the song Yonkers that was on his album Goblin, Tyler sings, “I’ll crash that fucking airplane that that f*ggot nigga B.o.B is in.” It is the song that skyrocketed Tyler to fame and gave the public insight on his presence in the Hip-hop community; the fact that this song is the song most enjoyed the public also gives insight on the public consciousness and the collective views of gay people and the usage of gay slurs. In response to the backlash that he faced from his album, Tyler stated “I’m not homophobic. I just think ‘faggot’ hits and hurts people.” Tyler remains insistent that people should not become offended by the usage of the word, because his “gay fans” don’t mind his offensive and degrading language; however, using the word faggot and fag nine and 203 times respectively on one album, makes it hard to disassociate Tyler from his art and juvenile ideologies. He has repeatedly compared his usage of gay slurs to the black colloquial usage of the n-word, which is fair, if the person using the gay slur is gay them self.
Recently deceased Hip-hop artist XXXTentacion is one of the more prevelant faces of homophobia in Hip-hop. In his 2016 interview with LA-based podcast titled No Jumper, XXXtentacion, X for short, goes into detail about his multiple stints in prison. In one of his stories about his time in prison, X describes how he almost killed a gay man he suspected of looking at him too long when he was naked, with no tangible evidence for this except the fact that the man might have been gay. In the interview X questions, “Do you think I should tell the story about that faggot I beat up” directed towards his friend and former jail mate Ski Mask The Slump God. When describing the event, X does so with nonchalance and lack of awareness of the fact that what he did was wrong. He describes the occurance as if he is talking about a rabid animal instead of a human being, all whilst using gay slurs a few more times. Like many rappers who have said and done homophobic things, before the interview ends, X is quick to quip that “I am not homophobic. If a homosexual man is around me, I won’t act like a fucking prick.” Ever since his death, XXXTentacion’s music has spent time on top of the Billboard charts, which is a direct reaction to the artist’s demise. For many other artist, this would be a fitting memorial for their work, however, it is a crushing loss for women, X having been accused of abusing his former girlfriend, as well as members of the LGBT community.
Earlier this year, when Migos rapper Offset offended the LGBT community by rapping “I cannot vibe with queers” on his track with fellow rap artist YBN Lucci, he was met with public outrage. Offset apologized stating that he had no knowledge about the association of queer and gay people and that he used the word “queer” in a way that was meant to connotate “odd” or “weird.” His wife, Cardi B, defended him on Twitter stating that, “He literally told me he didn’t know that was a word for gays,” Cardi also scolded people who opposed the lyric for being offended rather than taking it as an opportunity to educate Offset.