Two historically marginalized groups, the black community, and the LGBT community, also have some historic tension between each other. The black community originated hip-hop culture and continues to be a very important part of black culture although now it is not exclusively black people who compose hip-hop culture. Although hip-hop culture has become more diverse and progressive, it is still struggling with the inclusivity of the LGBT community. A very popular theme of hip-hop culture is aggressive masculinity which leads to the perpetuation of harmful gender and LGBT stereotypes.
The History of Homophobia in Hip-hop
Hip-hop music, along with other popular genres of music, is mostly hetero-normative, reinforcing and emphasizing the presence of heterosexuality as the norm of everyday life. However, hip-hop and rap lyrics contain the majority of instances in which homophobia and antigay beliefs and values are displayed in popular music (Hill). Extremely popular rappers such as Jay-Z and Eminem use derogatory terms for gay people to either belittle to LGBT community or to emasculate enemies. The image of masculinity in the hip-hop community originated as a stereotypical hard, macho man, so homosexuality was originally something very looked down upon. The roots of homophobia in hip-hop culture still hold strong today, but new artists and new social values have changed the overall understood attitude of homophobia in hip-hop culture.
Homophobia in Today’s Hip-hop
Although homophobia is becoming understood as morally incorrect by the general public, rappers who continue to use slurs have been confronted and asked why they use such harmful terms in such negative manners. Some prominent figures such as Eminem and Tyler the Creator believe that their use of derogatory terms is justified because they are used abstractly or simply used for shock value, neither of which is really an excuse (Binder). Furthermore, the continuous exposure to antigay values may lead consumers to mirror the hate towards the LGBT community, adding to the homophobia the LGBT community has fought long and hard to get rid of.
As homophobia continues to be perpetuated in hip-hop with disrespectful and threatening lyrics against the LGBT community, especially with the use of derogatory terms, there has also been some research to define a correlation between homophobia in popular media and homophobia in society. The findings of an experiment testing the effects of music on behavior show that exposure to homophobic hip-hop music resulted in more negative responses from the participants after being presented with hypothetical situations featuring homosexual people. Although the forefront of hip-hop may seem bleak for the future of homosexuality in hip-hop culture, there is hope as new hip-hop artists have actually come out as members of the LGBT community, giving them the opportunity to redefine the values of hip-hop culture.
A New Wave of Hip-hop Culture
Some hip-hop artists who have confirmed themselves as members of the LGBT community are Frank Ocean, Janelle Monae, Lil Nas X, and Kehlani. With the growing awareness of gay hate, the introduction of LGBT artists certainly changes the original form of hip-hop culture and can allow it to progress with the present and society. For example, after coming out as gay, Lil Nas X has become increasingly comfortable with himself and is definitely a more eccentric hip-hop icon. This change in the presentation of masculinity along with the removal of the expectation for hip-hop lyrics to be hateful and harmful, hip-hop culture can be redefined to be more inclusive.
While the roots of hip-hop are homophobic and unnecessarily aggressive towards LGBT communities, the scene has certainly developed over time, changing along with societal expectations. Although some older artists continue to spread antigay values and hate against the LGBT community, the growing popularity of LGBT hip-hop artists gain that much more ground and equality.