Tolerance in the industry

(Graphic by Adele Palmquist)

“If I was gay, I’d think hip hop hates me,” raps Mackelmore on a track from The Heist, his recent debut studio release.”Have you seen the YouTube comments lately?”

With lyrics that point a finger at the intolerance of a “culture founded from oppression,” the Seattle rapper is part of the growing minority of rappers and hip-hop artists with a clear sense of social responsibility and tolerance.

Frank Ocean, known for both his solo project, Channel Orange (2012) and work with the alternative rap collective Odd Future, took the industry by surprise in July when he posted a rambling love letter confession about his first love; another man.

“I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore. I feel like a free man,” the crooner spilled.

A bomb had dropped on fans of a genre that has been synonymous with intolerance and hate-speech for years.

The admission came only one short week before the release of his debut album. Tyler, the creator, shock rapper and skilled controversialist, is an integral part of the Odd Future collective.

Fans wondered how he would react to the news of Ocean’s bisexuality. In a show of solidarity, Tyler was quick to vocalize his support of Ocean. Tweeting jokingly (and affectionately) about the news and later saying in an interview that he’d known for a long time and was proud that Ocean had found the fortitude to come out publicly.

Snoop Dogg, an old-school rapper who has been on many tracks where homophobic slurs were used, commented on Ocean’s confession in a recent interview.

“When I was growing up, you could never do that and announce that. No one would step up to support you,” he said, making a comment on the changing ideologies in hip-hop.

Yet, Ocean’s recent news was met with overwhelming support from the public. There has been negative backlash too, but many found their hate falling on deaf ears.

Even Eminem, once widely vilified for his hateful lyrics and penance to throw around words like “faggot” as though discussing the weather, has, in recent years, formed a rare and close public friendship with Elton John — a man who’s hardly been subtle about his sexual orientation.

It would seem that the industry is taking necessary and overdue steps to support the talented, gay members of their community and is encouraging an attitude of openness.

Hopefully, as record sales of socially conscious rappers rise, we can eradicate the false notion the industry has perpetuated; that being gay is a handicap of some kind. That’s good news for all of us.

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