The other day, a reader asked me an interesting question: given that he were lyrically dope, would I or wouldn’t I listen to or support an openly gay MC? First, let me say that simply having the ability to rap doesn’t mean I’m going to listen to you or support your work. J. Cole can technically rap, but I have never been excited about new material because I find him boring. Second, to answer the question, I would say yes, but I can’t wholeheartedly say that I would in all cases.
Though I hate that I even have to do so, let me start by being “that guy” and saying yes…I have gay friends and colleagues. I’m very much in support of marriage equality and am 100% in active support of trying to change attitudes in the Black and hip-hop communities regarding LGBT acceptance, not just tolerance. I say this only to present my dilemma as honestly as possible. That being said, I think the problem I would have with a gay rapper is the same problem a lot of enlightened straight male hip-hop heads (and we do exist…I can direct you to several…we meet every Thursday and there’s coffee and donuts) would have. Over any other genre, in hip-hop, rappers tend to be very candid about their sex lives and exploits. That isn’t to say that he would need to be forthcoming with those details at all, as many don’t rap about such matters, but would it be fair to expect him not to ever for my own comfort, stifling his ability to fully express himself? I don’t think so. The show Will & Grace was very careful about not showing too much man-on-man action to the point it became unfair to viewers who were interested in seeing a realistic character portrayed in a way that was honest. Though two men kissing isn’t something I necessarily want to see on my phone’s lock screen, it was dope that we had come far enough as a society to show that reality and progress on network television.
The problem I think a lot of people create in this whole fight for “tolerance” is that while we expect people to be accepting of other orientations, some are not respectful of others’ comfort levels. I don’t think any of my gay friends or colleagues would expect me to attend a gay club or bar with them just to prove I’m as accepting as I say I am because that’s crossing the line, yet I’ve seen this thinking on shows like The Real World…and the guy even gets pressured into doing it sometimes (or he secretly wanted to go in the first place). What they would expect me to be is respectful, which for me is a given…nothing more, nothing less…respectful of their rights, humanity (nobody wants to be introduced as “my gay friend” or “the gay”) and ability to express themselves, which is what I expect from them or anyone else as well. Considering this, I don’t think it’s fair to say a straight person who wouldn’t be comfortable hearing a gay rapper rap about sex or attraction to other men (if he decided to do so) is intolerant or bigoted. It just isn’t going to be a true assessment in many cases.
In conclusion, would I support the idea of a gay rapper? Absolutely. Doors need to be opened in all facets of our society. However, supporting something doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to listen to it. If I don’t like your content, I’m not going to force myself to, especially if it makes me uncomfortable but I do believe it should be available to those who want it and are okay with it in this case. I really hate when the talking heads who are often called to speak on hip-hop matters and even speak for hip-hop tend to speak down to the culture and whenever issues like misogyny in hip-hop are brought up, they use the issue as a pedestal with which to brow-beat the hip-hop community and further their own agendas. This topic is no different. We can look at this as a hip-hop issue or place it where it belongs, which is on the collective shoulders of the Black community and our archaic views on homosexuality. That’s the root of it. Would a lot of people be resistant to an openly gay rapper? Yes, but gays have found resistance in many areas where openness is uncommon and it will take some opening of doors to push acceptance…work that needs doing, ultimately.