Compton-born rapper Game, at this point, grabs more headlines for his off the mic antics than anything he has ever said on record. As his music becomes less interesting and his album sales dwindle (his fourth solo album released last month moved just 96,000 in its first week, as compared to 239,000 first week units of his third album a few years ago), things like tweeting the phone number to the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department become his primary means of maintaining relevance. His desperation becomes more apparent by the day.
His latest attempt at hanging on to his final shreds of relevancy finds him entering a very sensitive debate rather haphazardly. In an interview with Vlad TV, Game was asked if he believed a gay rapper could ever achieve the status of someone like Eminem, and in response he offered his stance on homosexuality in general, stating: “Game has a problem with people that are pretending not to be gay and are gay because the number one issue with that is that you could be fooling somebody and you could give them AIDS and they can die and so that in the closet sh*t is real scary.”
While he eventually says “Be gay and proud,” Game’s comments continue the vilification of gay men as the carriers and spreaders of HIV/AIDS. Not only that, but he’s call for homosexuals to come out of the closet fails to address his privilege as a heterosexual man who will never have to deal with the dangers faced with open expression of homosexuality.
He didn’t stop there either. Replying to a TMZ article about his interview, Game tweeted: ”@TMZ but look around, shit I be surprised when I see someone who’s not GAY. My girl hair stylist is GAY & he kool. @50cent GAY n we was kool.”
Whether he meant this sincerely or was (in the more likely scenario) trying to goad 50 and drum up publicity for his latest album, in “outing” his former boss turned rival, Game has opened up the discussion once again about who “the gay rapper” might be (as if there is only one), and with that the other discussion about homophobia.
The issue of homophobia in hip-hop comes up quite a bit. It’s not that hip-hop is more homophobic than any other aspect of American culture, but it is one of those spaces that seems extra resistant to the broader cultural shift of acceptance toward homosexuality. However, there have been signs that hip-hop at least may be ready for a real conversation on this issue.
In the aftermath of the arrest of legendary DJ Mister Cee’s arrest for soliciting sex from a 20 year-old transgender woman, 50 Cent seemed to come out on the side of tolerance, if for merely financial reasons. He said of the LGBT community: “They can say what they want about it, but…how about if you say I don’t care? Who is to judge you when there’s an audience that’s probably one of the strongest audiences — if you look at Lady Gaga’s career — that says that that’s fine?”
It’s a big turnaround from previous statements the rapper made in a 2004 Playboy interview where he said: “I ain’t into fa**ots. I don’t like gay people around me, because I’m not comfortable with what their thoughts are. I’m not prejudiced. I just don’t go with gay people and kick it — we don’t have that much in common. I’d rather hang out with a straight dude. But women who like women, that’s cool.”
Rapper “Lil B has (awkwardly) expressed a desire to end homophobia”:http://www.thegrio.com/entertainment/rapper-to-declare-im-gay-with-new-album-title.php in the hip-hop community and caused a bit of a stir earlier this year when he named his debut album I’m Gay. But he’s not the first to make this call. In 2005, after finding out that a cousin of his was gay, Kanye West said of homophobia: “I wanna just, to come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, ‘Yo, stop it.’” This newfound enlightenment wasn’t sustained, as West hasn’t mentioned it since, but there was at least a moment of concern.
Common is generally considered one of the more progressive and socially conscious lyricists the genre has produced, but early on in his career his lyrics could compete with the most homophobic of his contemporaries. It wasn’t until a childhood friend revealed that he was gay that Common addressed his feelings about homosexuality.
On his song “Between Me, You & Liberation” from his 2002 album Electric Circus, the Chicago based rapper detailed the process of his friends coming out: “For so long he tried to fight this/Now there was no way for him to ignore it/His parents found out and hated him for it/How could I judge him?/Had to accept him if I truly loved him/No longer he said had he hated himself/Through sexuality he liberated himself.” But as with his frequent collaborator West, this sentiment was fleeting and didn’t result in any real movement toward ending homophobia in hip-hop.
This is an issue deserving of a much more serious conversation than can be had based solely on Game’s flippant comments aimed at stoking old beefs and reviving his album sales. We have a ways to go before hip-hop will be receptive toward an openly gay, mainstream rapper. The atmosphere will have to change drastically, but so long as we continue vilifying and propagating falsehoods about “down low” men, there will be barriers relegating “gay rap” to a minor subculture.