Hip “Pop” is Drag: Butches, Femmes, & Homothugs
Things have changed. The beloved hip hop of the eighties has gone on to inspire a new generation of music, affectionately calling itself by the iconic genre’s name, but truly a musical genus with more differences than similarities. As catchy beats and excessive materialism continue to trump raw freestyles and social activism, it’s only fit that I call this new version of hip-hop by a more appropriate name. Hip “pop” is a blend of all that I love from its original New York mother and perhaps all that I despise from its mainstream sperm donor, pop culture. Using extreme images from mainstream society’s imagination, hip pop’s relationship with homosexuality continues to be one that fosters intense stereotypes, in the same manner that it wrongly reflects various racial populations.
Unsurprisingly, homophobia seems to be reaching new heights in correlation with the music's rise on the Billboard charts. By NO means do I expect Jay-Z to be the equivalent of Audre Lorde over an auto-tune beat, but I do have a problem with hypocrisy and selling mistruths for a quicker dollar.
The truth is that many rappers engage in homosexuality, whether rarely in the public eye or behind closed doors. I actually differ with most mainstream beliefs that lesbian, gay, and bisexual citizens should have to “announce” their homosexuality to society. Ordinary people and rappers alike are not under any obligation to share their romantic lives with us. However, let us not be counter-progressive or hypocrites. I cannot condone “gay bashing” or denying homosexual relationships when there is documented proof that you’ve had them.
The random “no homo” drops between rhymes or magical amnesia that seems to beget lesbian, gay, and bisexual rappers when interviewing with mainstream media outlets remains an indicator of how fast these artists run full speed into heteronormativity. Understandably, there has been no mainstream success of “out” LGBT rappers, so perhaps these artists are doing what they know works: proclaiming their “innocence” of homosexuality to protect the success of their brands. Yet, this is a detriment to progress. Recognizing people have the choice of being a champion for a social issue that directly impacts them, not every rapper needs to be an activist, just don’t feed the mainstream homophobia machine. Be silent or be honest.
I’m not here to write an article version of Terrance Dean’s Hiding in Hip Hop. Nosy paparazzi and new media savvy fans already have done the service of airing out many homosexual artists. In addition, you can stop holding your breath because I hate the broken-record “down low” discussion that continues to resurface in Black and mainstream media outlets. If you’re familiar with my work, you know that I despise writers and journalists who push rhetoric that only touches the surface of sexuality discourse. I want to have a conversation that discusses why homosexuality, concealed or open, continues to have three faces in hip pop: butch, femme, and homothug.
Like a fierce show of drag queens, the branding of hip pop artists plays upon the extremes of our imaginations. Everything about hip pop artists is over the top, whether it be hyper-femininity, hyper-masculinity, or far-left gender queerness. Since few in the industry are encouraging open dialogue about homosexuality and acceptance, I find it interesting that the sexualities of lesbian, gay, and bisexual artists interact subliminally with the three stereotypes mentioned above.
Let me provide some examples.
It’s about to get hot in here…
Reputably a true hip “hop” artist, Queen Latifah’s early image spelled out “butch lesbian.” From her "U.N.I.T.Y." days to her superb “acting” as Cleo, the lesbian in Set It Off, Latifah’s sexuality has remained a hot topic of wonder by many of her fans. Over the years, she has transitioned from rocking a sporty, masculine style to being an easy breezy beautiful Cover Girl.
Hmmm, wonder what prompted that…