Being Gay in Hip-Hop
R&B singer Frank Ocean made headlines this past July when he announced on his Tumblr page that his first love was a man. Ocean, best known for being a member of the hip-hop group Odd Future, stunned fans with this announcement of his bi-sexuality and has become the poster boy for gay rights in the hip-hop community. Rap and Hip-hop, despite having routes in the typically gay-friendly disco culture, has become increasingly misogynistic, with rappers, such as Eminem, routinely using the word “faggot” in their lyrics. While the culture of hip-hop may generally still be homophobic, there seems to be a trend developing since Ocean’s coming-out. Let’s start with Ocean’s own group, Odd Future, a seemingly perfect microcosm of the struggle that has been going on in the hip-hop community for years. On the one hand, two members of the group (including Ocean) have come out as either gay or bisexual, the other being DJ/singer Syd the Kid. Syd, who came out formally in their song “Cocaine,” explained in an interview with LA Weekly (found here):
"I decided to do it because I wish I had someone like that [an openly gay female artist] while I was coming up. People write on my Tumblr just thanking me for making the video, saying that I really inspire them, and they want to be like me. But I wasn't always this way, this comfortable with myself, and I remember what that was like. So I figure, fuck it. Everyday people aren't given this opportunity and I realize that.”
The most interesting thing about the group is one of its most prominent figures, rapper Tyler the Creator, whose notoriously homophobic lyrics have had critics questioning the validity of the group’s relationship and stance on gay rights. In his debut solo album, Goblin, Tyler uttered “faggot” 231 times. Tyler himself has come out saying that Ocean told him that he was bisexual years ago, but that he decided not to change his aggressive lyrical style for artistic reasons.
Following President Obama’s endorsement of gay rights, many hip-hop heavy hitters have come out in support of gay rights, such as Snoop Dogg who said: “People are learning how to live and get along more, and accept people for who they are and not bash them or hurt them because they’re different.” Jay-Z also came out in support of gay rights, stating: “I’ve always thought it as something that was still holding the country back.” Up-and-coming Seattle rapper, Macklemore, whose video for “Same Love” portrays two gay men from childhood to death, has come out avidly in support of gay rights. Macklemore, who is known for being socially conscious, pens lyrics such as, “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me” and “Call each other faggots behind the keys of a message board/a word rooted in hate yet our genre still ignores it.” Check out this Rolling Stone interview with Macklemore here. So many big-name artists coming out in support of gay rights, is it right to expect a change in the industry?
It seems that way. With more and more artists coming out and more artists showing their support, it appears that homophobia in the hip-hop industry is on the decline. While it definitely won’t be immediate, it seems to be heading in the right direction and Ocean may just turn out to be hip-hop’s Freddie Mercury.