Eminem, Wale come around to gay rights
Perhaps hip-hop’s most notorious gay-basher has grown more enlightened as he’s aged. Though he’s already dueted with Elton John, Eminem now tells the New York Times that he’s fine with same-sex marriage, because people “should have the chance to be equally miserable,” he jokes. “It’s the new tolerant me!” he admits.
It’s an arc toward acceptance that hip-hop didn’t necessarily seem capable of, say, 15 years ago. Recently, D.C. rapper Wale caught fire for what he said was a “misunderstanding” – he was accused of refusing to perform at a gay pride festival, but later told blogger CarlosinDC:
It’s one of those situations where like, it was hard to understand like ten years ago, but it’s 2010, there’s gay people who are heads of companies, just functional human beings…How could I be scared of a gay person when most of the designers that I wear are gay? To say that you hate a specific orientation for whatever reason is to be unfair.
Even this sounds a bit reluctant on Wale’s part, but at least he ultimately comes to the right conclusion. As Adam Serwer pointed out over at the American Prospect:
What’s important here isn’t so much that Wale is a big hero for not being a homophobe; it’s the fact that it represents a remarkable cultural shift in hip-hop for an emcee not to want to be seen as homophobic. Even if your tastes are strictly backpacker, your favorite emcees toss around homophobic slurs like loose change.
Kanye West famously pledged to stop gay-bashing once he learned his cousin was gay, and pleaded with other rappers to do the same, telling MTV that rappers should keep: “speaking your mind and about breaking down barriers, but everyone in hip-hop discriminates against gay people … I wanna just come on TV and just tell my rappers, tell my friends, ‘Yo, stop it.’ ”
Jonah Weiner has argued in Slate that the phrase “no homo” (which Kanye has used) in hip-hop, whereby MCs tack those two little words on to the end of suggestive statements to dispel any possible gay entendres.
When these rappers say “no homo,” it can seem a bit like a gentleman’s agreement, nodding to the status quo while smuggling in a fuller, less hamstrung notion of masculinity. This is still a concession to homophobia, but one that enables a less rigid definition of the hip-hop self than we’ve seen before. It’s far from a coup, but, in a way, it’s progress.
Hip-hop’s progression, like anything else’s, isn’t always in a straight line pointed skyward. But the fact that the biggest rappers in the game now not only recognize that gay-bashing isn’t going to win them points with fans, but are speaking openly in support of gay marriage, is a significant turning point.