More than any other popular musical form, hip-hop is perhaps the most consistently (and often apologetically) misogynistic and homophobic genre in all contemporary pop music. This is something that Lady Gaga speaks about in the video clip above, taken from an interview with host Touré from on On The Record, that will broadcast later tonight (Monday, Nov 23rd at 9pm) on Fuse TV. Of course, this is not exactly breaking news to anyone who listens to popular rap, but it is nonetheless refreshing to hear a high profile person address homophobia in popular rap music. This is something that encompasses recurring anti-gay lyrics in songs and also the whole "No Homo" obsession, popular within hip-hop circles for several years now, whereby the words "NO HOMO" are instantly said aloud by a person right after they utter something that might possibly be construed as "gay sounding." This two word statement absolves them from the ultimate crime (of being perceived as "homo"). This "No Homo" subcultural movement even spawned its own fashion line that includes the "No Homo" baseball cap (pictured).
In her interview, Lady Gaga, as always, is very supportive and defensive of her large gay following. When pressed by Toure as to which high profile homophobic hip-hopper she is referring to, she won't say. Truth is that it could be a great many rappers out there. But more than likely it is 50 Cent who she is referring to, since recently on the Angie Martinez radio show Fitty in a mocking derogatory tone referred to the scheduled Lady Gaga and Kanye West Fame Kills tour as the "gay tour." (the tour got cancelled due to Kayne's VMA outburst combined with lackluster advance ticket sales). This is the same rapper who in Spin magazine a few years back opined, "In hip-hop, there’s certain standards of things you can’t do. Being gay isn't cool -- it's not what the music is based on." Of course, many, including anyone within the so-called "homo-hop" subgenre of hip-hop, would argue that such a notion is nonsense. But, despite the growing numbers of queer rap artists, this hip-hop subgenre remains mostly a totally separate (and underground) world, and one that does not generally crossover into popular rap. Simply put, while most of the rest of popular culture has at least superficially embraced gays, it looks like it is still a ways off before popular hip-hop will accept its first openly gay rap star.
Homophobia in rap is clearly nothing new. It seems like it has always been part and parcel of the genre. It is just that it only periodically gets media attention. One early publicized incident of homophobia in hip-hop occurred 20 years ago when popular rapper Heavy D famously rapped on the Heavy D & The Boys' Big Tyme album track "More Bounce" the lines, "Check it now hip hip hooray'n, check what I am sayin You'll be happy like a faggot in jail." Back in 1989 when this song was released, and after the album reached No. 1 on Billboard's black-music chart, it caused quite a stir with gay rights groups. Even more controversial a few years later was Brand Nubian's 1992 single "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down" with the violent offensive lyrics, "fuck up a faggot. Don’t understand their ways I ain’t down with gays." The controversy led to later versions of the song, off their Elektra album In God We Trust released the following year, having the offensive verse omitted.
Homophobic lyrics are easy to find in hip-hop's history. But perhaps one that always sticks in my mind is the radio version single of the Dr Dre (featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg) song "Fuck Wit Dre Day" (off The Chronic) whereby the label edited out the "N" word but not the "D" word, as in when Snoop raps as a diss, "Yo' mama ......I heard she was a Frisco dyke." But perhaps the (almost) most homophobic of all was the 1986 debut album by the Beastie Boys who reportedly originally wanted to title the album Don't Be A Faggot.
Luckily for the three talented but immature young Beasties, who so famously metamorphosized from being teenage, loud, and snotty smack talking misogynist rappers into politically correct concerned citizens of Planet Earth, Russell Simmons at their label (Def Jam) intervened and refused to release an album with that title. Instead the album was titled Licensed to Ill.