By Daniel Paiz
Hello everyone, and welcome to the 10th issue of Cypher Sessions, and it has been one hectic and fulfilling ride. I just want to thank everyone that has been reading the blog since day one, and I definitely appreciate everyone that has joined us at various intervals throughout the process; ten down, hopefully thousands more to go.
In this edition, we will be addressing a topic still surprisingly taboo and dangerous within Hip Hop, and a topic that has been quite “venomous” and “demonized” to many in and outside of Hip Hop. Yes, the word not used in a kindly manner, the “H” word: Homophobia.
We’ll look into the recent developing story of Odd Future member and popular singer Frank Ocean and his letter describing his first love. We’ll also briefly look into a mainstay Hip Hop group in the underground scene known as Queer Hop, Deep Dickollective, and how they’ve managed to survive the cruel world that Hip Hop can sometimes be to its own kind. Let’s get into it.
Homophobia is something that has not only pervaded Hip Hop culture, but US and World culture for quite some time (despite the fact that it was a bit more accepted centuries ago in places such as Greece and Rome). In modern times, it is something that not only seems to pervade Hip Hop quite a bit, but it sometimes seems to have no end in sight with regards to the extremes that it is taken to. Artists use homophobic slurs as punchlines and think nothing of it.
This analysis is not meant to delve into the two main perspectives people have with regards to identifying as a part of any of the LGBTQ’s varying communities and the implications of it being “right” or “wrong”, per say, but rather to question why it is so pervasive within Hip Hop, and the changing tide that may be coming with regards to the general consensus on this topic. The example that brought about this inquiry would be the letter that came out last week from Frank Ocean.
Frank Ocean published a letter on one of his social media blogs which outlined a male that Frank Ocean had romantically fallen for. In it, he outlined how he felt about the man, and how things did not turn out how he had wanted them to, but it had made him reflective of the situation and had left an impact on him. While there is no clear or specific word usage specifically indicating that he is outing himself in one way or the other, it has largely been assumed that he has done so.
There seems to have been a largely positive response online, but within Hip Hop, it has been quite subdued , although it was a better response than most within Hip Hop would have expected. Tyler the Creator, fellow Odd Future member held down Ocean throughout Twitter, and it kind of started a trend that allowed for much more support than initially expected. While celebrities and fans of Frank Ocean have supported the supposed outcome of his letter, it remains to be seen that the Hip Hop community will also be as accepting of this letter.
It is a complex issue, as one can imagine. It’s complex not only because of the humanity and vulnerability shown within the letter and within Ocean’s music, but because it makes one look at where we currently are within Hip Hop. Fellow Odd Future mates of Ocean also make it that much harder, as Tyler throws down quite a bit of homophobic rhymes, but then is the first to back Ocean.
Syd the Kid also displays her sexuality and then as well throws down “interesting” lyrics to say the least. This leads to a whole lot of confusion within Hip Hop, as we have artists who are promoting one thing and living another. This actually goes along with how the music industry as a whole seems to be at as far as recent memory serves, with several artists promoting what is expected and what sells, while living how they truly feel behind closed doors.
That may be the beauty of Ocean’s letter, and the appeal of Odd Future as well, because they address the contradictions that everyone lives with and exists in, and discuss them as they are, but out in the open: complex hypocrisies. Hip Hop may need to take note of one of the few movements that is actually addressing what the music and culture originally were discussing: inequalities that affect more than just the targeted group.
Granted, their methods are far from textbook or what’s expected, but that’s what makes them effective, their ability to use the foundation of Hip Hop in their current states. They take something old, considered to be decided upon and not something that can be revised, and recreate it into an image/belief that may not have been thought of up until this point. Another group that has survived in some capacity within Hip Hop while deciding to stay true to their identities and beliefs are Deep Dickollective.
Hailing out of Oakland, California are the godfathers of the sub-genre of Hip Hop known as Homo Hop. This group has been making this music for years, and Deep Dickollective has done it with not all that much support from the mainstream media or from mainstream Hip Hop. There’s a reason though for this, and it’s because Juba Kalamka, Tim’m T. West, and Phillip Atiba Goff all did what Frank Ocean did.
They used love as a tool to forge ahead in their struggles, and did not allow those around them who said that they would not advance phase them. Homophobia was an obstacle, and they used it as a boosting tool to get over their struggles. That’s how Juba and company maintained, and that’s how Ocean will maintain as well.
That’s it for this week’s Cypher Sessions, if you feel strongly one way or the other on this topic, let us know in the comments section. Thanks for reading, Peace…