By Victor “Doc V” Trammell, guest columnist for Reason4Rhymes.com
Social expression of one’s sexuality has been on display in American culture since the introduction of the first films and television programs. Even before then, there were forms of literature that presented sexual adult themes like Crime Magazine. However, the social revolutions of the 1960s and 70s brought a radical tilt, which reshaped the traditional images of sexuality being limited to a man and woman who were either married in a family setting, or became as such living happily ever after. Even in the crime-themed material, heterosexual males and females triumphed over their opposite gender in wild stories of lust and sexual frenzies.
New alternative life styles, images, and challenges came with the social revolutions of the 60s and 70s. One such lifestyle exposed to the mainstream was homosexuality. This lifestyle has been around since the days of ancient Greece and Rome. However, in American culture, the life styles were suppressed and were not present in the mainstream. In the late 1970s, the first cases of the deadly AIDS epidemic were reported and the majority of those diagnosed were homosexual males. AIDS is classified as one of the challenges, which resulted from the social revolution of that era. The first commercialized recordings of hip hop music were also coming into fruition around that time. Hip hop culture for a long time was synonymous with black culture, which still largely considers homosexuality a taboo. Homo eroticism is the term used by film maker Byron Hurt in his 2006 documentary titled, “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. Homo eroticism is described in Hurt’s film as something still very much shunned by purists in circles within the hip hop culture. The theme seems to beg the question: Why is homophobia the norm in hip hop culture?
Fast forward six years later after the film’s release, hip hop has evolved as it always does. New artists have emerged, and so have trends in fashion, social expression, and commercial acceptance. The recently televised BET Awards put some of those trends on display in what has been coined as today’s “swag” generation. One could argue that the traditional images of our young black men exhibiting toughness, masculinity, and control are scarce today. Performances and music videos have male artists prancing about in tight clothing, wearing bright colors popularly regarded as feminine, and carrying themselves in a fashion that could easily be classified as homo erotic. Frank Ocean a member of the rap group Odd Future has also recently admitted his homosexuality publicly. Referring back to the question begged in Byron Hurt’s documentary, one could proclaim that hip hop culture is taking steps in the direction of getting over its long time phase of homophobia.
Though homosexuality is widely accepted in American culture, which is evident by the legalization of gay marriage, many religious and conservative critics still contend it is morally wrong. History has shown that any social revolution brings new challenges along with the new perceptions of legitimate cultural expression. What will be the new challenges of this revised social era? However, there is nothing new under the sun. Images of homo eroticism were prevalent in the 1980s with numerous black male pop and R&B acts. One such artist was Bobby Debarge, who in 1995 died of AIDS. He also was widely known to be a homosexual. Verbal attacks against homosexuality are widely vilified and those in the public view are often forced to quickly apologize after a slip of the tongue. Is society imposing a homo erotic agenda on our citizens and youth of today? If so, is this the right thing to be doing in a country where one has the right to stand for or against whatever they want? In the case of hip hop, one must understand its nature of constantly changing. One could bet on the fact that in the next six years, artists of today will be hanging up their skinny jeans to be commercially accepted by an audience programmed to believe in the next hot fad. Hopefully it is a fad that doesn’t cause so much divisive confusion.