“I have to exist in a homophobic space in order to make change and that homophobic space would be the hip-hop community”.
These were words uttered by BROCKHAMPTON member and openly gay rap artist Kevin Abstract.
BROCKHAMPTON have been praised as pioneers when it comes to raising awareness for the LGBT community in Hip-hop. But despite their growing success gradually giving rise to a further acceptance towards the queer community in Hip-hop, there is still a long long way to go.
Hip-hop has had a long and rich history, being conceived in the late 1970s. Since then, it has kept quite a consistent aesthetic. While many people (myself included) adore the genre for its sheer skill, talent, and rejection towards racism and classism.
Despite going against multiple discriminations, Hip-hop still has some discriminations of its own. As the hip-hop scene evolved over the years, it almost seemed like there became a stereotype to follow. Many of the most successful Hip-hop artists adopt a very masculine facade, conventionally having big chains, tight vests, and muscular physiques.
Furthermore, many themes throughout Hip-hop appeal heavily towards a straight male audience. These themes include money, violence and sex with women. These kind’s of ideologies have evidently shaped the way many Hip-hop artists behave, as many dream of being the ideal man that Hip-hop portrays so often.
The toxicity of Hip-hops ideologies and conventions behind Hip-hop have built up over so many years, that they have almost become concrete, to the point where if somebody in the community doesn’t follow them, it can garner a very negative response.
A case in point would be the openly gay trap artist Kevin Fret, who was shot dead in Puerto Rico this January, aged 24. This murder seemed to purely come from a homophobic standpoint. And the fact that this happened so recently suggests that homophobia in the Hip-hop community is still rampant.
Beyond this, many Hip-hop artists with legendary status have been known to use lyrics that have been painted as homophobic. Many of them exhausting the word “faggot” to describe a weakling, or a sissy, as well as the now infamous term “no homo”, being used by artists such as Kanye West and Lil Wayne. In short, queerness was something that was joked about quite heavily in the community.
One artist, in particular, toyed and joked with the idea of queerness in hip-hop; a walking contradiction that came in the form of Tyler, the Creator. He was heavily scrutinised for his homophobic and other very controversial language, even being banned from certain countries. However, Tyler seemed to be doing this from a satirical standpoint. Tyler’s “character” in his earlier music almost felt like an exaggeration of the typical manly rapper, and this caused quite a divide, in which you either loved or hated the artist.
Nowadays, however, Tyler and his music has been far more refined. His revolutionary album Flower Boy actually felt very queer in nature, and maybe the change in his music is a good selection of the shift Hip-hop over the recent years.
It was only in the later half of this decade that queer hip-hop artists were finally rising in popularity and slowly becoming more and more accepted. Possible pioneers include Frank Ocean, who identifies as bisexual, and of course BROCKHAMPTON. Since then, more and more artists (especially in Hip-hop) are beginning to be more open about their sexuality and themselves, rather than putting on a fake masculine facade. Most recently, Lil Nas X made a huge splash when coming out as gay shortly after the release of his 7 EP, furthering the idea that the rules of Hip-hop can be re-written, not only through his sexuality but his unique style of Hip-hop as well.
When looking back on Hip-hop’s humble beginnings, LGBT artists in the Hip-hop community actually makes perfect sense to me. Homophobia is indeed discrimination that is in need of addressing, much like how racism and classism needs to be addressed. I hope that all queer artists in the genre will be recognised for their bravery and talent, instead of their sexuality. But most importantly, the very heart of Hip-hop is indeed expression, and expression should never be shunned.
So are we beginning to eliminate homophobia and toxic masculinity in Hip-hop? My answer would be yes.
However, we still have a long way to go. The best thing for us to do is continue showing support to the artists who aren’t afraid to defy conventions and simply be themselves. Hopefully, we will be able to change the course of Hip-hop towards a bright and accepting future.