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Hip-hop and homophobia

5th July 2012

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In a courageous, and perhaps even revolutionary move, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA) singer Frank Ocean published an open letter on his personal Tumblr site on Wednesday declaring that he had fallen in love four summers ago with another man, and that love had changed his life. It’s no coincidence that Wednesday also marked the annual American independence celebrations.

Alongside the armed forces and sports teams, one imagines that ‘coming out’ to the masculine drenched hip-hop community must be one of the most overwhelming feelings, particularly due to some of the lyrical choices of the genre’s most renowned artists. It’s fairly plain to see why hip-hop has been accused of being homophobic when talismanic figures such as the late Notorious B.I.G rapped, “Money and blood don’t mix like two dicks and no bitch” and, arguably the most popular rapper of the last decade, Eminem rapped, “Hate fags? The answer's 'yes'.

Frank Ocean’s situation had an extra dimension of complexity as leader and co-founder of Odd Future, Tyler, The Creator, is widely known for his overuse of the word ‘faggot’ in many of his songs and reportedly used the word 213 times throughout his 2011 album, Goblin. However, Tyler defended accusations of homophobia by stating “I'm not homophobic. I just say faggot and use gay as an adjective to describe stupid shit.” If the hip hop community needed any verification to these claims, Tyler tweeted this yesterday:

 My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.”

There have also been other recent developments in hip-hop that suggests attitudes toward homosexuality are changing. Although heterosexual, Lil’B’s 2011 release was entitled I’m Gay, in support of the LGBT community. Fat Joe also hinted of a ‘gay mafia’ within hip-hop, claiming that those who may be homosexual and also part of magazine editorial teams or radio station programmes have real power within the industry. Hell, even Kanye West said sensible things back in 2005 before he discovered egoism: “Everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gays. I want to tell my rappers, my friends, 'Yo, stop it.

Frank Ocean’s letter could be a pivotal moment in hip-hops relationship with homosexuality. As one would expect, Ocean has been praised for his courage to come out and founder of Def Jam records, Russell Simmons, declared Wednesday as “a big day for hip-hop.” Singer/songwriter Bluey Robinson epitomised modern attitudes to homosexuality by tweeting: “Honestly couldn't care less if Frank Ocean is bisexual/gay or what. He makes great music! Props for the courage.

It’s important to realise that Frank Ocean isn’t the first homosexual hip hop personality, but his current popularity and talent sends the message that even those at the top of their game need no longer keep the wraps on their sexuality. To come out this early in his career was a brave move from Frank Ocean, especially given that his debut album is due for release later this month. However, with President Obama and Jay-Z advocating gay marriage, Ocean’s letter could be catalyst the LGBT community needs in order to eradicate homophobia in hip-hop. 

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