“I’m Gay,” (pause) will be the title of Bay area rapper Lil B’s upcoming album, reports the Huffington Post. He is in fact not homosexual. As he puts it, “I’m very gay, but I love women. I’m not attracted to men in any way. I’ve never been attracted to a man in my life. But yes I am gay, I’m so happy. I’m a gay, heterosexual male.” So cool, it’s a play on words, a reference to the all but defunct original meaning that conjures images of elegant fops skipping through a field of wildflowers. Really, rap’s built on wordplay like this, so you could figure that it was only a matter of time until this pun found its way into the culture. What’s that you say? The hip-hop community is far too homophobic to accept such a title, regardless of its no-homo intent? You caught me there; I haven’t given you the full story. You see, Lil B, better known as BASEDGOD by his fans, chose this title in spite of potential backlash. He’s adding his name to the list of high-profile rappers stepping out against gay and lesbian oppression, saying, “I got major love for the gay and lesbian community, and I just want to push less separation.” Unfortunately for our Based Lord and Savior, he doesn’t have much clout compared to pro-gay rappers like Kanye West, and has been receiving a lot of criticism. More specifically, death threats.
Both on Twitter and MySpace, he’s received such threats as “I’m gonna bash your head in,” “you faggot,” and “I’m gonna kill you.” Definitely not positive reactions. And while it’s arguable that the medium of conveyance is less than intimidating, we should take a second to look at Lil B’s rise to fame. Truly, the man is more a master of publicity than lyrics. In the past 7 years the 23 year old created 155 MySpace accounts so he could upload all of his songs. His fan base is almost entirely self-made, and volatile to say the least. They take his BASED GOD alias serious, chanting lyrics like “Hoes on my dick cuz I look like Jesus,” with a haunting zeal. It’s even become common for fans to offer up their loved ones as a sacrifice to Lil B. Just this Saturday I read through his tweets: one follower, Mr. Barnes tweeted “gonna see LilBTheBasedGod at bamboozle today, he better fuck my bitch!!!” Only two hours before that, a second follower ayyitswill tweeted, “you can fukk up my credit and my bitch based god.” Flattering.
When juxtaposed with the threats on his life, this sincere obsession with Lil B and his actions is not so funny. Interestingly though, there are no articles criticizing those who have threatened him, merely objective blog pieces explaining the situation. There has been no outcry against these menacing attacks for their unfortunate rooting in homophobia. Sadly, I hesitate to claim any surprise. Hip-hop has always been a culture where hyper masculinity, misogyny and homophobia thrive. During the 80s and 90s, known as the golden age, rappers now cited as legends and inspiration by modern greats Jay-Z, Nas, and Lupe Fiasco, established this tone. In his song “Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy,” Big Daddy Kane raps, “The Big Daddy law is anti-faggot! That means no homosexuality, what’s in my pants will make you see reality!” So gays are bad, but we should all be thinking about your penis because you’re so not gay? Okay, I think I get it. Lemme try again. Biggie Smalls once rapped “but smalls don’t get down like that,” in reference to a man’s pleading for his genitals, which were presumably as charismatic as his personality. But in a different song he says, “You look so good huh, I suck on your daddy’s dick.” Again contradictory. Clearly, he’s using the image of giving this girl’s father fellatio because of how thankful he is for her presence, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he uses gay images to get this point across. On the low, this willingness to commandeer homosexuality for the sake of creativity while simultaneously denouncing gay men has been alive and well in hip-hop for decades. Lil B would have some leeway, if only he had not broken one of the holy hip-hop rules: thou shalt not flagrantly adorn the qualities of an ass-bandit without the mandatory qualification of understood hatred, i.e. no homo.
Lil B doesn’t share this long held hatred, saying, “I got major love for the gay and lesbian community, and I just want to push less separation and that’s why I’m doing it. I hope GLAAD sees that I’m taking initial steps to break barriers.” So he’s been abandoned by many fans and dissed by many a rapper: Mysonne, TD, and Freddie Gibbs to name a few, all because he doesn’t affix a simple no homo to his work. That’s been an irritatingly popular phrase for a while now, hasn’t it? No homo, as in “I got money out the ass, no homo, but I’m rich,” from Lil Wayne, or “those are nice pants Brad, no homo,” or one of my personal favorites from Harlem rapper Cam’ron, “suck a dick, no homo.” What’s ironic about the use of this term is that in its effort to silence any implications of the rapper’s tendencies to touch the tip, it forces that image upon the listener. This trend started in the early 2000s, and marks an easily overlooked shift in the nature of hip-hop homophobia. Instead of assuming one’s masculinity, the hip-hop community has inadvertently revealed insecurity over its masculine image. The thugs doth no homo too much, methinks. True confidence has no need for boasting, as Nas puts it, “I never brag, how real I keep it, cause it’s the best secret.” Similarly, if you truly love that wet, as commentors on popular hip-hop blog NahRight call vaginas, then why the need to fend off homo-accusations? Perhaps all the years of crotch grabbing and pouring champagne on bitches has become tiresome. Maybe the occasional murmurs of popular rappers being in the closet are true. I’d argue that with homosexuality gaining public acceptance at large, hip-hop is just moving along with the times. Either way, the shift shows that the hip-hop community’s staunch homophobia is weakening, and Lil B’s situation is proof of that.
This may seem like an idiotic assertion to consider death threats akin to social progress, but hey lil mama lemme whisper in your ear. The threats are just that, threats. Words with no action. Although this only occurred a week or so ago, and I don’t want to jinx the man’s health, the fact that Lil B remains physically unscathed proves the hollow nature of many hip-hop-homophobes. If he had put this album out in the 80s or 90s rap scene, he, well he wouldn’t have put this album out. So instead of attacking homophobic rappers and fans, maybe we should all just smile and nod like a knowing parent whose late blooming child cries “I’m never gonna hit puberty!” The momentum has shifted, and social progress has reached a point where you won’t be shunned for supporting the LGBT community. Lil B may be a horrendous rapper, he may have a song titled “Justin Bieber,” and people just might have thought he had a legitimate mental handicap at first But the young man is making a difference. And for that, I commend him, and join in saying, “I’m gay.”