T. Pain Speaks Out Against Homophobia in Hip Hop & It's About Time
Yesterday, T Pain made a statement against homophobia in the hip hop community, regarding the unwillingness of some artists to work with Frank Ocean because he is gay. He told Vlad TV, "If you ain't gay, then gay things shouldn't bother you," he said. "You ain't gotta say 'no homo' after you say you want a hot dog." Let's all just autotune a slow clap for T Pain for his candor. He went on to say, “I think the radio is getting more gay-friendly. I don’t think urban music is getting more gay-friendly because if that was the case, Frank Ocean would be on a lot more songs. I know n—-s that will not do a song with Frank Ocean just because he gay, but they need him on the f—ing song and that’s so terrible to me, man.”
T Pain is coming to an conversation about homophobia in the hip hop community that has long been going on, but was recently put in the national spotlight, oddly enough, by Macklemore, who performed his song "Same Love" at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. The now notorious "historic moment" saw Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform the song while Queen Latifah officiated a ceremony in which 33 couples (gay, straight, old, young) were married on the Grammys stage. Some in the LGBT community lauded the public ceremony on primetime television as a step forward toward gay acceptance, but many were uncomfortable with Macklemore as an ally.
The integral issue is not that Macklemore is standing up as an ally in the face of the homophobic hip hop community (though this is definitely problematic because of his old homophobic tweets), but more so how much he is getting praised for it. There seems only to be room for cis, white, male voices to take a stance against homophobia, which is why it's encouraging that a black artist like T Pain is condemning his peers in the hip hop community for their discrimination. Not to say that black artists are silent on the issue; Beyoncé, ever the ally, is supportive in more subtle ways. In fact, she recently launched a line of couples' Valentine's Day underwear, which are bundled in all variations — his and hers, hers and hers, his and his.
It would also be imprudent to imply that the hip hop community is the only microcosm of music that is homophobic. Katy Perry, lest we forget, has a song literally titled "Ur So Gay." But as T Pain points out in his interview with Vlad TV, the homophobia of the hip hop community is tied to a need to assert male sexuality (he speaks on the fact that many straight men think they will be subject to gay men's advances). Last year in an interview with Wyatt O. Evans at the Huffington Post, Maco. L. Faniel, the author of the book Hip Hop in Houston, summed up the complexity of the hip hop community's attitudes towards LGBT this way:
Hip-hop is traditionally an unaffirming and unsafe space for non-heteronormative sexualities in large part because of the racial and gendered politics that it responds to. Hip-hop is LGBTQI-phobic because the urban spaces that it represents are spaces for black masculine performance and protection in the face of everything, past and present, that threatens the existence of the black male body and or regards it as deviant, wayward, irresponsible, savage, and un-American. Therefore, virility, power over women, and other heteronormative ideas/practices become important to hip-hop culture to affirm fractured identities, and all other sexualities become subject to opprobrium and subject of teasing.
It's a complicated discussion, and we're glad that T. Pain is joining it. Hopefully more of his colleagues will speak their voices soon, too, and there will be room for more LGBT people to speak, too, not just their straight allies.
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