Today Jedi Mind Tricks is playing in Amsterdam, and with that city being known (amongst quite a few other things) for its acceptance of homosexuality their performance has caused a bit of a stir amongst Dutch gay rights organizations. Some of them are calling for a ban, but maybe this will all have a positive side-effect as a cue for discussion. Let’s take a look at hip-hop culture’s awkward relationship with homosexuality again, shall we?
First off, banning JMT would not be the answer. It doesn’t make their opinions and music go away. ‘De Melkweg‘ (the venue JMT is playing) already stated this band has the same rights to free speech as we all do, and they’re right. These same principles grant you the right to oppose these views and if censorship would be the answer the cure might be worse than the treatment. But this does not mean we should condone the spreading of hatred in hip-hop culture.
In an official statement on the venue’s webiste JMT said the following:
Jedi Mind Tricks is not homophobic. Hip-hop is an art form that involves a fair amount of braggadocio. Unfortunately, this braggadocio can be misconstrued by those not familiar with this context. For the sake of clarity, Jedi Mind Tricks is not homophobic.
We’ve all heard, and maybe even used this defense before and it’s not completely off the mark. Calling some thing or person ‘gay’ doesn’t have the same exact connotations in hip-hop culture as it has elsewhere. Lyrics based in battle or braggadocio may call out an actual or potential opponent ‘gay’ or even ‘faggot’ implying that he’s softer than the mc currently on the mic, and therefore will be beat. Nobody will misconstrue this as an actual revelation of the opponent’s sexual orientation, not even when in-rhyme jokes about this ‘perceived orientation’ are made.
Besides that, hip-hop used to be the music of the underdog in society, and from that position it is all too familiar with racial, cultural and sexual stereotypes. Jay-Z even scored a classic hit single playing around with those stereotypes on ‘Girls, Girls, Girls‘ from his first Blueprint album. The context was very different though. It’s one thing to play with stereotypes for comedic effect, it’s a whole different bag of chips when you’re not only reinforcing stereotypes but actively spewing hatred for groups of people or even condoning violence against them. There is very little doubt on which side of the fence JMT’s Vinnie Paz falls. Here are a few choice quotes from his lyrics:
You like to sleep with guys
You a gay maggot
Listening to fucking B2K faggot
Go to raves faggot
Put a hole in your heart
Destroy everything that you know and you thought
From ‘The Age of Sacred Terror‘
He despises this person, and likens his distaste to his similar distaste for gay people. Still, you might argue, despite its aggressive tone, that this falls under the ‘braggadocio’ aspect. But on ‘Scars of the Crucifix‘ he leaves no doubt about his political stance:
I civilize the savages, while you support gay marriages
From the ‘Army of the Pharaohs‘ song ‘Bloody Tears‘:
Kanye West, gay rapper, thats when lines are drawn
From JMT’s ‘Rise of the Machines‘:
You just a homosexual; I stick the gay rights movement
You do not belittle your opponent by saying that you “stick the gay rights movement”. Not even close. You simply say you disapprove of the gay rights movement. Which calls for nothing more than equal rights for people regardless of their sexual orientation. And if you still don’t think Vinnie Paz is a homophobe, he basically says as much about himself on ‘Beyond the Gates of Pain':
I kill ya thoughts, with a nine MA eagle
Make me sick to my stomach, like y’all gay people
We are quick enough to call for a boycott of a radio shock jock who waltzes over racial sensitivities, or blast Fox News for it’s lopsided and highly questionable content, but where’s the outrage when somebody from our own culture is not only insensitive but actively spreads hate? Is it because it’s ‘just about gay people’? Has being gay become such a high offense in Hip-Hop that this kind of talk is somehow okay?
Take the first Vinnie Paz quote and replace the stereotypes with analogues for any different minority and it sounds like it could come straight out of the KKK song book. It’s not my intention to single out JMT in this (I’ll even admit they have some bangers in their catalogue, and Stoupe is mean on the boards), or even Vinnie Paz, sadly, they are not alone in this. They are one of the worst and most vocal though, and their denial of it shows how clueless they remain about it. This behaviour has no place in our time nor in our beloved hip-hop culture. Simply put, hip-hop needs to man the f*ck up and no longer take this kind of sh*t.
Full disclosure (because I’m pretty sure some will think that would be the reason to write something like this): No, I am not gay. While I’m quite happy with my girlfriend, I also believe in civil rights. When someone stands up for gay rights others often assume he must be sticking up for his own rights, which is ridiculous to automatically assume. There are far worse assumptions though, I’d rather be seen as gay than as a bigot.
No one is free when others are oppressed.