Homophobia in Music

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Homophobia in Music

Rapper, Common Says He Will No Longer Write Homophobic Lyrics
Rapper, Common Says He Will No Longer Write Homophobic Lyrics. Image (c) Frazer Harrison

Despite advances in gay rights, homophobia in music continues to appear. Sometimes it is overt. Other times it is more subtle. Often when musicians are called out for anti-gay lyrics they claim they are adopting a character, expressing themselves creatively, or that their lyrics have been misunderstood. Other times they become defensive and argue that free speech gives them the right to spew hate.

Whatever the artists' rational, anti-gay lyrics reinforce stereotypes and accelerate hostility and hatred of GLBT individuals.

Of course, plenty of musicians change over time. Some who wrote homophobic songs early in their careers have gone on to change their views (or at least their tunes...).

One example is the rapper, Common who in 2007 said he would respond to gay fans' concerns by no longer producing homophobic music.

They was like, 'Why you keep disrespecting homosexuality?' I thought about it. I ain't here to judge 'em, so I just decided not to approach it like that.

Common isn't the only person to change his views. Superstar Kanye West spoke out against homophobia during a 2008 concert saying that it took him time to, "break out of the mental prisons [of homophobia]" and encouraged the audience to, "Open your minds. Be accepting of different people and let people be who they are." In a 2009 interview with MTV he continued on this theme explaining,

"I used to be scared to talk to a gay person...And in hip hop, there's people — and let's not even say scared like homophobic — but they're scared of the way people gonna look at them."

Common and Kanye West aren't the only musicians to speak out against homophobia. But as the offenders below show, there continue to be artists out there who still think mocking someone for being gay or using a gay slur is perfectly acceptable.

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Katy Perry: Ur So Gay

Katy Perry Ur So Gay
Katy Perry Tells an Ex "Ur So Gay". Image (c) Jesse Grant

I usually feel pretty immune to dumb pop songs. But Katy Perry's debut song, Ur So Gay, reaches a new low.

The song is supposedly about an ex (possibly Pete Wentz?) of Perry's. It's your standard, we broke up, you done me wrong, now I'm going to bash you in song, ode that we've heard a million times before.

But this version comes with a twist. The major crime of Katy's ex is not cheating or partying. Nope. It is being a straight guy who acts "gay." That is, if being gay means you are a soy eating, make-up wearing, Mozart listening, electric car driving depressive.

Perry sings:

I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf / While j**ing off listening to Mozart / You b*** and moan about LA / Wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway / You don’t eat meat / And drive electrical cars You’re so indie rock it’s almost an art / You need SPF 45 just to stay alive / You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys

Does Perry think that because she sings about kissing a girl in I Kissed a Girl she negates the homophobic references in Ur So Gay? That she's "part of the club" so it's okay? Or does she, like so many others, buy the notion that it's sexy and cool for two (straight) women to hook-up, but gross for guys to exhibit "gay" traits?

Whatever, her motivation, Perry's song reveals a lot more about her true character than it does about her ex, a guy who based on her song, I might actually enjoy hanging out with.

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Lil' Wayne: Why the Need for so Many "No Homos" in His Songs?

Lil' Wayne No Homo
Lil' Wayne Wants You to Know He's "No Homo". Image (c) Kevin Winter

What do you do if you're a straight male rapper and a picture of you kissing another man emerges? Apparently, if you're Lil' Wayne you have to prove your heterosexuality by inserting the phrase "No Homo" into a lot of your songs.

Now, I actually don't know if doing so is a specific response to the incident with the picture (something both men first denied but then later explained as being a "father son" type of kiss...). But whatever the motivation, saying "no homo" doesn't prove Lil' Wayne is straight, it just highlights his own insecurities about his sexual orientation.

For example, in the song, Georgia Bush, Lil' Wayne raps: "Got money out the a** / No homo but I'm rich."

Oh right, because any reference to your posterior must mean you're gay!

And in his song, Lollipop, Lil' Wayne opens with, "Uh Huh / No homo / Young Mula baby / I say he so sweet make her wanna lick the rapper / So I let her lick the rapper."

Lil' Wayne is by no means the only person in rap, (or any other genre) to use that phrase, but he is hugely popular right now. So the more he uses a phrase like this, the more acceptable it becomes to promote the idea that it would be disastrous for a straight man to ever be mistaken for gay.

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Eminem: Claims Portraying a Homophobic "Character" Makes His Lyrics Okay

Eminem is Responsible for Some of the Most Violently Homophobic Songs in Rap. Image (c) Kevin Winter

Eminiem's songs have often been called some of the most homophobic in history. For example, his 2000 song, Marshall Mathers says this:

"New Kids on the Block, sucked a lot of d*** / Boy-girl groups make me sick / And I can't wait 'til I catch all you f*****s in public / I'ma love it [hahaha]"

Equally upsetting was Criminal, another song off the same album, where Eminem raps:

"Whether you're a f*g or a l*z, Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-vest, Pants or dress - hate f*gs? The answer's yes."

Yet the next year, Eminiem appeared with the openly gay musician Elton John at the Grammys to perform a song together.

He has also claimed that he personally does not hate gay people. Rather he says he is portraying a homophobic character through his music.

He touches on same sex relationships in his 2008 memoir, The Way I Am, saying, "Ultimately, who you choose to be in a relationship with and what you do in your bedroom is your business," and later told the New York Times that he supports gay marriage because, "If two people love each other...I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want."

Some of Eminem's worst songs are now almost ten years old and many people felt he was turning a corner with his anti-George Bush song, Mosh. However, his 2009 album, Relapse proves that some things remain the same. For example, in the song, We Made You, he raps, "Lindsay, please come back to seein' men/ Samantha's a 2, you're practically a 10." Later he asks Portia de Rossi, "What's Ellen DeGeneres have that I don't?"

Maybe the homophobia in this song isn't as violent as it once was, but this song, combined with Eminem's rather weak explanations for his homophobic words of the past, don't really make me think that we are looking at a very changed rapper.

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Beenie Man: His Anti-Gay Songs Bring Attention to Homophobia in Dancehall Music

Beenie Man homophobic songs
Beenie Man's Explanations for his Lyrics Don't Quite Add Up. Image (c) Ethan Miller

Beenie Man is a Jamaican rapper who makes raggatron and dancehall music.

In 2006, the rapper was forced to cancel a number of concerts after there was public outcry over his intensely homophobic lyrics. For example, his song Damn says, "Well I'm think of a new Jamaica, me come to execute all of the gays."

In an interview with Britain's The Independent, Beenie Man tried to explain that he wasn't actually homophobic, but rather was aiming his violent lyrics at child molesters. As he said:

"Jamaica is not against gay people. Gay means consented sex. What we have in Jamaica is not what it is in England where two men live together...In Jamaica, gay is rape. It's a big man with their money going into the ghetto and picking these little youth who ain't got nothing. And then give them money and then involving them."

Seems like a bit of a cop out to me! Especially when you consider he could just be clear in his music if it really is child molesters he is talking about. And really, what does he mean, "In Jamaica gay is rape?"

The controversy surrounding Beenie Man raised awareness about homophobia in dancehall music, but so far few other performers in the genre have even bothered to speak to the issue.

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Big & Rich and Brad Paisley: Homophobia Country Style

big & rich country band
John Rich of Big & Rich Doesn't Want You Getting Married. Image (c) Kevin Winter

Hip Hop, rap and dancehall music often get labeled as being anti-gay. But country can also bring out some pretty nasty (though often more subtly) homophobic stuff.

The country group Big & Rich is known for songs like Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy. They are also known for writing a song supporting John McCain in the 2008 election, and for lead singer, John Rich's outspoken homophobia.

For example, during a radio show to which he regularly contributes, the country singer went on a rant against gay marriage saying:

"I think if you legalize that, you've got to legalize some other things that are pretty unsavory. You can call me a radical, but how can you tell an aunt that she can't marry her nephew if they are really in love and sharing the bills? How can you tell them they can't get married, but something else that's unnatural can happen?"

While the group isn't overtly homophobic in their songs, the views of its members are pretty well known.

Another country singer, 2008 Grammy nominee, Brad Paisley, has a popular song called, I'm Still a Guy. In it he sings:

Well love makes a man do some things he ain't proud of / And in a weak moment I might walk your sissy dog, hold your purse at the mall / But remember, I'm still a guy /.../ These days there's dudes getting facials / Manicured, waxed and botoxed / With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands / You can't grip a tacklebox / With all of these men lining up to get neutered / It's hip now to be feminized / I don't highlight my hair / I've still got a pair / Yeah honey, I'm still a guy

Now Paisley isn't coming out and saying that manicures, botox and holding a purse make a man "gay." But it isn't exactly a stretch to see homophobia in his condemnation of anything not hyper-masculine.