2011 will be remembered as a strange year from a Hip-Hop perspective. Some considered it a terrible year, where there was very little redeeming music from the young (or old emcees). Others will claim that it was a wholly transformative year, and that those aforementioned cronies are merely dinosaurs on the verge of extinction. But, perhaps it is time to call 2011 what it truly was: THE GAYEST YEAR IN HIP-HOP HISTORY.
No, no rapper publicly came out of the closet, so GLAAD and other groups will not have a lyrical champion just yet. There won’t be a great hope - on the levels of an Eminem-esque great, White hope - to get on the mic and shred your favorite rapper to smithereens as millions of gays quietly, joyously cheer...not yet.
Still, what happened in 2011 was overt. It was so close to gay, I am almost sure the gay community could taste it! It really took shape as the spring broke, in what seemed to be a late April Fool’s Joke. Mister Cee - the legendary DJ for Big Daddy Kane and The Notorious B.I.G. - was arrested for receiving oral sex from a man and purported cross-dresser. But, Cee never admitted to being gay. In fact, he tweeted that it was a “mistake.” (He would later plead guilty to loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense.) If Cee were gay, or maybe openly gay, surely he would have fessed up after this incident, but he didn’t.
While that was the doozie of the year, there were other not-so-overt ways that Hip-Hop showed more openness to homosexuality. Lil B, a rapper from the Cali, did the previously unthinkable, naming his album “I’m Gay.” Now, with a title such as I’m gay, coupled with the fact that the Bay-area rapper calls himself a “princess” and a “pretty b***h,” a voyeur would conclude that “this guy is gay for sure.” No. Lil B said that the title was a mere statement for how damn happy he was. His fellow rappers Pac Div even defended the move, citing The Flintstones who were known to “have a gay ol’ time.”
There were other hints that Hip-Hop was quickly backing away from the anti-gay, blatantly hateful stance of old. After being chided for using the F-word as slang, Tyler from Odd Future softened his stance saying, “I don’t f*cking hate gay people. I'm probably one of the least homophobic rappers in the world." In the same Spin magazine, Tyler appeared to have his hand on his homie’s "hind parts." (That’s Southern for booty.)
Hip-Hop – through the years – has been like many other testosterone-fueled movements - very homophobic. But, the mentality of the younger artists in particular is changing and, as any artsy mirror to reality, Hip-Hop reflects that shift in sexuality. Obviously, most of the artists like Cee or the "lipstick rapper," were looked upon and rebuked for their actions through social media. But other more trivial matters made it through the filter. Like Kanye West’s leather kilt. Or Lil Wayne’s jeggings. Cee-Lo dressed like Patti LaBelle in 2011. In his hardcore way, Ray-J threatened to have Fabolous gang raped by a crew of gay thugs. The comments are no longer unanimous on social networks and message boards, and people now spar over philosophy as it pertains to these statements that look and feel gay.
But this trend isn’t really new.
It’s a slow, creeping shift, like the tectonic plates of the Earth. When Lil Wayne and Baby kissed on BET, and it didn’t end their careers, the wheels were clearly in motion at that point. One of my favorites, Andre 3000, used to don a blonde wig, and it simply didn’t matter nor was it even an afterthought. Nicki Minaj has flirted - literally - with her "Barbs" for quite some time. In the aftermath of the Mister Cee debacle, author/scribe dream hampton even revealed that one of The Notorious B.I.G.’s best friends was gay. Biggie was not, she said, but his ride-or-die was. Change gonna come, like it or not.
Clearly, there is a distinction between receiving sex from a man in a car, and the bold fashion statements of an eccentric artist. So, the lines are drawn…but are still unclear. For now, some of us who aren't gay have gotten used to laughing our uncertainty away with a simple "pause" or "no homo."
In 2012 and beyond, well-represented will be those who vehemently denounce homosexuality, those who accept it as a sign of the times, and those that who waffle amid tolerance.
So, how will Hip-Hop handle it? How will you handle it?
(EDITOR'S NOTE: This editorial caused a furious discussion within the AllHipHop offices. What truly constitutes homosexuality? Have attitudes within Hip-Hop really changed? Are artists just creating "shock" moments and fashion statements? And more!)