I wasn’t making any statement about whether or not it was wrong for Macklemore to make such a record. Again, I haven’t spent enough time with the record to really analyse the details of his argument and whether it holds up, although trying to convey nuanced political arguments rather than lived experiences in music is always tricky. I feel like you’re trying to pin me down to an answer here, and I’m not making a declarative statement because I don’t think it’s that simple.
I will ask what you mean about “these issues”, because I think that merely by existing and being visible and taking up space and being great rappers putting out great tracks, Mykki and Le1f did a heck of a lot. Beyond that, both of them spoke about “these issues” insofar as they touched on their experiences of homophobia, offered witty and strong-willed rejoinders to those who target them with bigotry, and do so without getting preachy. Le1f threw tons of shade at homophobes, made jokes about converting them to queerness, alluded to the constant fear of gaybashing in a couple of songs, cleverly but pointedly discussed racism in the gay community and the sexual fetishization of queer men of colour, etc. etc. etc.
Angel Haze and Azealia Banks also didn’t explicitly address ‘political’ equality messages either, but Angel writes astoundingly beautiful love raps about falling for women, and while that’s not ‘about these issues’ it’s exactly ‘about these issues’, you know? I think humanizing queer folks and portraying our experiences and rendering us real is an important project. It’s about getting the variety of our voices out there. And it’s not necessarily going to take on the form of an advocacy-type argument. But that doesn’t mean it’s not having an impact.
And while Azealia did have some uncomfortable biphobic and transphobic moments in a few songs, and there are debates over whether her use of ball culture was appropriative or not, she is a very visible queer rapper, and in a number of songs deploys her sexual interest in and prowess with women not as something to titillate men (as often happens in pop music) but rather as something threatening to male superiority. (i.e. from 212 to Esta Noche she is going to steal straight dudes’ girlfriends.) That might not be ‘addressing the issues’ and it might not be a positive portrayal of queerness per GLAAD or whatever, but it’s something new and aggressive and powerful.
In terms of explicitly political pro-equality messages, I suppose neither of these artists made songs that fall into that category, but there were others who were more like this, including Baltimore’s DDm, who I mentioned in that previous post, and who made a concept album about the life as a gay black man, that directly addressed political issues (although perhaps not marriage equality - I forget). There were and are lots of other queer rappers out there though, beyond the ones that got national media attention in 2012, and I’d hazard that some of them were probably writing on-the-nose songs about political equality.
So, again, I’m not saying that it’s wrong for Macklemore as an ally to write a pro-marriage equality rap song. I’m saying that it is symptomatic of a bunch of problematic things in our society and in the queer community and how we deal with race and sexuality and so forth that an explicitly political song by a straight white dude that (well-meaning-ly, from a place of perceived membership within the ‘hip hop community’) criticizes hip hop culture (read: a large segment of black American culture) for its failure to live up to the ideals of equality and the civil rights movement (from what I can remember, and at the very least this part of the song/video is pretty sketchy. I don’t think it’s appropriate for a white guy to appropriate the ‘lessons’ of the civil rights movement in order to lecture black folks about gay rights) is seen as the best and most righteous and most productive and most helpful way of advancing the cause of LGBT rights while comprehending the entire output of a broad spectrum of queer rappers of colour of various gender and sexual identities as apolitical or not addressing the issues because the ‘issues’ aren’t framed in ways that speak the language of rights or politics or advocacy but instead speak the language of hate and love and discrimination and sex and so forth through first hand human experience.
I’ve only listened to ‘Same Love’ a couple times. I don’t particularly love it, but I haven’t spent enough time with it to describe what about the video or song itself is troubling and problematic.
I am troubled, as I’ve written about before, by the fact that in a year with a lot of visible queer rappers, a decent number of whom have rapped about issues of visibility and discrimination and so forth, and in a year when straight black rappers have advocated for and rapped about gay rights. (Murs, notably, but some other folks too) that so many (white) gay media outlets were so eager to celebrate the importance of a pro-gay rap song by a straight white man, and label it one of the most important musical moments of the year, especially given that they did so often in ways that constructed his song in opposition to an idea of ‘hip hop culture’ and by extension ‘black culture’ that was implicitly 100% bigoted and homophobic, erasing and ignoring the complicated role homophobia plays in all genres of music, all aspects of American culture, all racial communities, and marginalizing further the voices of queer people of colour, who were (and are) rarely looked to for opinions about hip hop or stories about their relationships with the genre.
So, I don’t know. I think regardless of my opinions about the song itself, which I don’t have fully developed, it was used in ways that reinforce a narrative in which white gay men like myself take offense at and are alienated by a cultural product that comes from a culture that they are not part of, and which we then use to castigate and shame black American culture as a whole for the perceived homophobia of hip-hop, without ever racially generalizing the homophobia present in some country music or some rock music or some aspects of whiteness and white culture in America to all (or even most) white people. It constructs a discourse of ‘tolerant liberal white culture’ and ‘intolerant black culture’ in ways that are inaccurate and harmful and counterproductive - and in ways that ignore the people who these critics claim to be concerned about - i.e. gay black people. But all of this has less to do with the song itself and more to do with how we talk and write and think about activism and rights and intersectionality and music.
i’ll still listen to your music because i really love it. fantasea was a really good mixtape.
i’ll still defend you when it comes to your music (most of it) and you being a dark-skinned rapper who’s pro-black all the way in the industry (you know shadism/colorism, anti-black misogyny, all that gucci stuff).
however, i cannot fucks with you as a person. chile, you’re only 21. you have barely, barely started to come through to mainstream cracks. you’re starting beef with everyone left and right. you dissed lil’ kim earlier in the year. you said you wanted to rape a man the other day. i thought you were down with ball culture, but i see that you’re just appropriating it since you spit on their backs for your profit (transmisogyny in your lyrics). i also remember earlier in the year, you said something transphobic (i think you said tr**ny to that person but i’m not sure) on twitter.
look, i know you’re young but that’s really no excuse. now unless i see someone coming for you and starting shit, i reeealllyyy don’t want to see you beefing with anyone. if you really want to make it, you need to hush. it’s not cute. it makes you look immature. it’ll probably bite you in the butt later down the road when you want to work with other producers. also, lay it off with the problematic lyrics. :/ you have a ton of fans in the lgbtq community, and it hurts to see that you’re offending them left and right.
i really hope to see you grow and mature, but for now, i’ll just listen to your music. i can only do that much.
i too feel like i would be considered one of your stans but bb grrl you can’t be fucking with my sisters like that.
trans*women are shitted on just like us, pro-black girl means pro-black for EVERY GIRL.
I’m finna cry over you, bb. Why would you reel us in the Paris is Burning and 212 and then drop us on our asses with ‘Us’ and ‘Runnin’ and don’t even get me started on your reckless ass timeline on twitter.
I wasn’t prepared for that or nothing, jesus, and I need you to fix it.
We’re dying left and right and half of our representation don’t even give a fuck about us?
I was just listening to her album this morning and having these feelings. SPEAK ON IT, CHURCH!
yeah. so. I think I had a mini-rant when Fantasea first dropped about this, but these posts say it better and more passionately and with more force than whatever I said, so pay attention because these folks are speaking truth. much as I love a lot of Azealia’s output, and as much love as she occasionally sends to the ballroom scene on twitter or anywhere else, she doesn’t get a pass on the transmisogyny of the opening few lines of ‘Us’:
I’m on that Marilyn
She got that Adam’s apple and she asked about that fashion
And we passed her with that laughter
And passed her wacker friend
or the homophobia (biphobia? it’s unclear) later in the song or in ‘Runnin”. the OP referenced some transphobia in ‘Runnin” also, which I didn’t catch, but yeah. if these folks say it’s there, I trust them.
I’m not saying don’t listen to Azealia, and I’m not discounting her as part of the larger queer community, but queer folks can say and do homophobic and transphobic and misogynist stuff too. and when they do so on a big platform, they deserve to get called out for it.
i think it’s especially interesting that Banks draws so strongly on ball culture and music, style and culture created in large part by trans women while simultaneously tossing around transmisogynist slurs and lines in some of her songs because recently i’ve often observed similar behaviours among the (often white) gay male circles who have eagerly embraced her music. i’ll hear gay guys drop Paris is Burning references with one breath, and rap along with 212 while never thinking twice about using the t-word and making disparaging comments about trans women. (or, let’s be honest, all women, cis and trans, but especially about trans women)
there’s a lot to like about Ms. Banks, and I do, but this isn’t cool.
If we could have a moratorium on all the patronizing discussions of how “brave” Frank Ocean was for coming out in the hip-hop community, with the implicit understanding there being that black homophobia is somehow particularly heinous, awful or egregious and so this somehow elevates the nature of his coming out, that would be great. Let’s remember that it’s white people who are the driving force behind many anti-gay initiatives at almost every level, from towns to the federal government. Compare the racial make up of the list of the 7 most anti-gay representatives with that of the list of the 11 most pro-gay representatives.
For all this talk about how brave he is and how hip-hop and the black community need this to be brought into the 21st century and all these expectations of backlash, the backlash never comes. When Obama and later Jay-Z announced his support for marriage equality, polls showed that black Americans were not the backwards idiots the media keeps insisting we are.
The NAACP has openly expressed the need for marriage equality. Kanye West has, well I don’t really know what to call this other than Kanye being Kanye, but you get the idea. OFWGKTA, the collective of young people of color that no one could stop talking about for what felt like months due to the extreme misogynistic and homophobic nature of some of their members’ lyrics, not only didn’t hesitate in throwing support behind Frank Ocean, but also have now spawned two young, out, queer artists of color.
Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood is dealing with a lot of crap because she openly voiced support for marriage equality. Notice that doesn’t get portrayed as white people being homophobic, it gets portrayed as country fans and/or southern and mid-western religious folks as being homophobic. But when southern religious black folks express homophobic sentiments, all that nuance and all those qualifiers disappear, they just become black folks and their bigotry becomes typical. Because white people are complex individuals and black people are a monolith. So this type of support of Frank comes off not as actual support, but as patronizing words born racism and stereotyping. If y’all could cut that out, it would be great.
In short: much better than we could have hoped in any realistic way.
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