“Like the creator love all creatures” and Homophobia in Conscious Hip-Hop

When I first moved to New York, I got a job as a street canvasser for a gay and lesbian rights organization. I’m not gay personally, but I feel pretty strongly that people in the LGBT community deserve equal rights. So one day I was canvassing in Chelsea and had a really interesting conversation with a guy who was an aspiring rapper and was also gay, but was reluctant to be open about his sexuality until after his big break. His reasoning was that the hip-hop community would not be willing to accept an openly gay star and that if he came out, he’d be kept from success in the industry. Now, it’s no secret that the hip-hop world is rampantly homophobic. And while uber-star Kanye West recently spoke out against that homophobia, it’s not something that’ll go away that easily.Fast-forward a few months to today, when I was coming home from my current job (exhausted and unfulfilled) and listening to the great album Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star (Buy It). The song “RE: Definition,” which is one of my favorites on the album, was on when I heard the following lyric as spoken by Mos Def:
Cats who claimin’ they hard be mad fag,

So I run through ’em like flood water through sandbags

I was shocked. Mos Def is one of those rappers considered “conscious,” as in rapping about more than bling and bitches, with a social conscience and all. Yet there he was, using the word that is to the gay community what the ‘n’ word in to African-Americans. It reminded me of a similar dilemma I faced years ago when listening to A Tribe Called Quest’s last album The Love Movement (Buy It). The “Scenario (Remix)” track is easily the best song on the album, yet in the first verse, Kid Hood raps:
Death on the phono, my skills are polo
You say “oh no” you bitch-ass homo

Keep in mind that these are both really solid songs by artists who are sometimes considered the most progressive voices in the world of hip-hop, sometimes even the consiences of the genre. I’m conflicted. Somehow I can justify (or at least ignore it when) listening to the insanely prevalent homophobia (not to mention misogyny) of mainstream hip-hop, but when it comes to “conscious” hip-hop it bothers me when anti-gay epithets are used. And at the same time, do slurs equal hate? Something I obviously need to think about more. In the meantime, here are the songs in question:

A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario (Remix)
Black Star – RE: Definition

posted by Adam

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One response to ““Like the creator love all creatures” and Homophobia in Conscious Hip-Hop

  1. You ROCK too.

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