THE problem is one song about lesbian sex doesn't resolve the whole issue. While 'Girlfriends' was controversial, the idea of 'hot lesbo action' has always been titillating for straight men, and has been mentioned in rap several times before. The real taboo in hip hop is male sexuality. Professor Michael Eric Dyson, head of African American Studies at Columbia University, is one of America's leading commentators on contemporary black culture. A Baptist minister who was raised in the Detroit ghetto, he's argued his case on Oprah as well as writing for Rolling Stone and Vibe. He's also the author of the book 'Between God And Gangsta Rap'.
"Hip hop's one of the most homophobic of all musical genres," he declares. "There's an
excitability in our culture around issues like homosexuality, transvestites and so on.
And as wonderful and outrageous and avant garde as rap is, it's never meaningfully challenged
any of these boundaries," he says.
But Dyson acknowledges that gay rap fans, and, more importantly, gays within the business, are "a lot more prevalent than they used to be. Just the other day, I spoke to a young man who claimed to be the first openly gay rapper. The culture is being forced to take seriously the fact that you can look the b-boy part with your gold chains, your pants sagging down, and represent the 'hood, and still be gay or lesbian. The hip hop community isn't suddenly going to embrace these folk, but they're going to have to make their peace with them one way or another."
Biff Warren is part of the original Def Jam team who helped break seminal acts like Public Enemy and LL Cool J. He manages hip hop artists like EPMD's DJ Scratch, Special Ed and Blahzay Blahzay. "If Lil' Kim said in a song that she wanted to see two brothers getting busy with each other, what would happen?" he asks. "I'll tell you. Brothers would lose their minds!" He publishes B1G2, a magazine for gay black men, as well as Que Pasa, a title aimed at gay Latinos, as well as organising hip hop and soul events from this year's mammoth Black Lesbian And Gay Pride festival in Washington.
Biff claims America's jails have a role to play in hip hop's homophobia: "A lot of rappers,
and people who run with the rappers, have been in jail. If they ain't tough enough to make
it behind those walls - and most brothers ain't tough enough - they're taking it up the butt
to survive in that environment."
But whatever the cause, he says homophobia is an example of black people being their own worst enemies.
Gay Hip Hop continue