Before we discuss where homophobia in hip hop developed I would like to introduce you to some tracks to give you an understanding of the issue. Most of them are German but I also included some tracks in English. Take a few minutes to listen to some of these lyrics – But do not judge the artists too quickly. Some of them will be discussed in the following posts and they might surprise you. This selection does not exactly reflect my taste in rap music.
Huss & Hodn – Radiowecker:
Edgar Wasser – 44 Bars:
NAS – Ether:
Royal TS – Westberlin:
Bushido – John Wayne:
Eminem – Criminal:
Masculinity, violence, misogyny and homophobia – These four aspects seem to be tied together in hip hop. Take a look at any given rap music video and you will find many barely clothed girls, presentation of wealth in numerous forms and weapons – All to underline hypermasculinity (for a definition of hypermasculinity have a look at the end of this post). Homophobia can be seen as a non compellent but often established concomitant of hypermasculinity. Many rappers make use of homophobia but examples of hypermasculinity without homophobia can be found.
Due to this, all four aspects need to be included into the discussion of homophobia to get the full picture.
„When you think about American society the notion of violent masculinity is at the heart of American identity.“ – Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
This quote, taken from the movie “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes” by Byron Hurt sums up the root of masculinity, violence, misogyny and homophobia in hip hop culture. The picture of the pioneer extending the frontier with armed force, many international wars, the right to bear arms, even football – The USA can be considered a violent nation without any doubt.
This thesis might not be conclusive at first glance. But imagine growing up as an African American male in a ghetto in the US, always surrounded by potential threats and equipped with really poor life chances. It is no surprise that violence and the display of your masculinity become key elements in your life to survive.
This construct of masculinity and violence, in combination with governmental and religious homophobia favors homophobia in hip hop in many ways. If you are not strong, tough, dominant, independent – what else than “gay”, a “faggot” or a “sissy” can you be in this background? So I think it is no surprise that rap artists often choose homophobic terms to “battle” their adversaries in their lyrics. But for these reasons I think that homophobia should be seen as something that develops in a society and finds its way into hip hop rather than an isolated issue of hip hop. And in the end it is us, the people who buy this music, who help to reproduce homophobia in hip hop.
It is hard to answer where homophobia made its transition into German rap. It could have been simply adopted like many other things of American rap or maybe it has always been here and there was no need for a transition – it just found its way into German rap!? I think it is a combination of both points. Germany always has been a quite homophobic society and if you grow up in certain precarious social environments homophobia is an everyday thing that finds its way into your vocabulary.
In the next post I am going to show you how rapper reflect their homophobia and what other people write about homophobia in hip hop.
- “Hypermasculinity is a psychological term for the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypermasculinity (22.5.2016)
- If you like to learn more about masculinty, violence and homophobia in hip hop I recommend this movie: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes