Kobe said it and set the sports world ablaze. It also cost him $100,000. Isaiah Washington said it. He lost his job and has all but vanished from Hollywood. It’s been made more than clear that homophobia and the word faggot is a terrible and disgusting word that refuses to be tolerated except for in one place –the music world. Particularly in rap music.
You don’t have to search far or hard to find homophobic rap lyrics, the use of the word fag, faggot, or the legendary “no homo”. But the reason I decided to voice my opinion on this matter is because recently the music world has fallen in love with a 19 year rapper by the name of Tyler The Creator of Odd Future and I for one can’t climb on board this train. Why? I’ve listened to Tyler’s work and there is no doubt he’s a very talented kid but to see people whom I respect or who’s opinion I consider valuable shower such high praises on him with such hateful and irresponsible lyrics like “Come take a stab at it faggot, I pre-ordered your casket” or “You silly rabbit faggot, tricks are for kids so we go abracadabra” starts to make me question the validity of their intellectual understanding. Why is this acceptable?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of rap music and will be the first to tell you I’m guilty or reciting misogynistic and nasty rap lyrics from Eminem down to Lil Wayne. However, since majority of rap lyrics are compiled with female conquests, newly acquired wealth and rags to riches stories of ghetto survival, you or I probably wont have much luck changing that. But for rappers who are held up and regarded as role models to the youth in many communities, there comes a certain level of responsibility with the way they use their instrument especially when it comes down to word choice. I mean even Nicki Minaj, who’s fan base is comprised mostly of women and gay men casually uses the lyric “Nigga you softer than a homosexual”. How do you deliver a direct insult to the very people who pay your bills and made you famous and that’s ok?
Why is it that Shonda Rhimes(creator of Grey’s Anatomy and ‘giver of the ax’ to Isiah Washington), the media and NBA Commissioner David Stern can immediately recognize the error of Kobe Bryant’s ways, recognizing how far and wide the tentacles of destruction reach from the word faggot, yet label heads and record executives aren’t inclined to do the same with their artists? For those who argue its artistic censorship, why is it not for Kobe or Isiah? They’re both entertainers as well — one theatric and the other athletic.
I would most likely attribute it to the fact that no one is brave enough to go against the machine and the fact that not enough rap fans will never complain or stop listening. Couple that with the fact that it’s no secret that statistically, the black community is anti-gay so why would they care about homophobic lyrics(granted majority of rap is consumed by white people)? Just look at the way Grant Hill was attacked by black people on Twitter when his “Don’t Say Gay” PSA aired during the playoffs. But everyone black, white, blue, or green has a responsibility in this matter.
If anything a rapper has more responsibility to be careful with his or her choice of words seeing how not everyone can drive the lane and dunk on a seven-footer but anyone can walk around reciting homophobic rap lyrics. But why is this so important? It’s just a word and as Tyler and many other rappers have said before him, it’s just another way of saying something is stupid. But you know another word that indicates you might think something is stupid and isn’t yelled at LGBT people while they’re being beaten within inches of their lives or bullied at school? The word stupid. Some people like to think the word is harmless like the word “nigga” or “nigger” but if this is so, why were so many people attacking Jenifer Lopez when she used the word in her song “Im Real”?
And no, it’s not like casual use of the word nigger, though the words are symmetrical in ways of oppression but not in history. Because in 2011, black people aren’t being called nigger in school and casually in public right before someone beats them with a bat or beats them up in a McDonald’s(who has a history of homophobia) while all the employees stand around and watch and one of them records it on their phone to upload on YouTube. Black people today can stop at night to go to the gas station and get cigarettes or a soda without being called a nigger by a group of racists and then hospitalized because of it. Because there are legal protections in place that over the course of time have eroded that type of behavior in general from society. Did I mention all of these beatings have taken place within the last three months?
Unfortunately LGBT American citizens are going through that TODAY. Everyday someone is being bullied and called faggot or beaten up and by trivializing and making cool through music the use of such a dangerous word at a time when the quest for LGBT civil rights is as alive as it has ever been is irresponsible, inconsiderate, disrespectful and down right dangerous. Rappers and entertainers saying the word faggot or any homophobic remark and then giving money to charity and saying “I’m cool with gay people” or “I love gay people” is like Jillian and Bob doing commercials for Burger King and then showing up at the Biggest Loser and telling fat people they have a problem and need to change. It’s stupid.
If you used the word nigger in the 50’s and 60’s you were a racist, plain and simple. So no matter how you dress it up, there is no nice way to say faggot today or ever. The word nigger has evolved into “nigga” which black people like to think of as a term of endearment but this will never be the case with the word faggot. Because it’s intention is and has always been meant to attack a person’s masculinity, identity and character. You can say nigga all you want(though I try to refrain from using the word as often as possible but am guilty of the occasional use) but it will never be ok to say faggot — it just won’t.
You’re either a part of the problem or you’re a part of the solution. Every time a rapper or any musician or entertainer uses the word faggot you’re contributing to the problem. As long as impressionable young minds can point to the people they look up to and idolize like like a 19 year old Tyler who’s album sold 50,000 copies in it’s release yesterday(according to him), the glorification of such heinous words will continue and the cycle of homophobia will never end. This is not an attempt to hate on anyone, there’s a distinct difference between hating and criticism. But in the words of Dr. Cornel West, at some point we have to grow up. And if as an artist, using the word faggot is the only way you can express yourself, then maybe you aren’t as talented as you thought and the world could do without your expression. You don’t know who or what your child will grow up to be and one day that could very well be your son or daughter on the end of that unprovoked fist, baseball bat, or gun being called a faggot or it could be your child or family member being locked up for doing it.
Kobe said it and it cost him $100,000. Tyler and other rappers say it, and make millions. There’s a problem that needs solving and I’m not the only one calling for change. No one is saying rappers have to stop being rappers because they won’t. But we can demand better from them. It’s not hard at all to not say the word faggot or any word for that matter. Because the only thing Tyler is creating with rape filled, homophobic lyrics is more reason for people to spew hate and a mild shock value that will wear off and soon send him into rap obscurity.Follow @Travon