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Beats Per Millennium - Rhymefest opens the floor

Rhymefest opens the floor

Well, that took even less time.

Rhymefest has apparently been receiving some of the same weirdness as I was dishing the other day, and he’s opened up a dialogue on his blog. He hasn’t said anything of substance yet, but I’ve a feeling that’s coming. Or he doesn’t know just what to say yet, and he sincerely wants to listen first.

I’m usually not one to complain about language in my hip hop, nor do I think I’m necessarily qualified to. And generally, I’ve never taken the Bill O’Reilly side of things, where misogynist and violent lyrics are necessarily as harmful as they’re made out to be. There are enough competing influences both positive and negative in society to minimize the influence of any one factor, I think. One of the most important things you develop when growing up is your sense of how others ought to be treated, and the music you listen to doesn’t seem like that transformative an influence when held up against the behavior of your parents and peers. And as far as “nigga” goes, I think Wale summed it up pretty nicely.

Even the word “gay,” in casual conversation, I don’t have much of a problem with – it’s kind of been robbed of its connotation, the same way “sucks” doesn’t necessarily mean you are comparing something to oral sex, you’re just saying it’s bad. You don’t really think about it too much. But there’s something a lot rawer about “faggot,” especially when it’s said with the level of disdain that ‘fest has for Charles Hamilton in the song. It conjures up images of Matthew Shepard, it’s said in a way like someone’s about to get his nose broken in a locker room because he likes dudes.

Where this differs from the misogyny, violence, and “nigga” is that while growing up you’re taught how to treat other people, you’re never taught how to treat yourself. How many people “come out” as heterosexuals? If it were easy, we wouldn’t have a phrase for it. But it’s not easy, and you have to wonder what people will think when you announce something that changes their perception of you as a person, no matter how forward-thinking your friends and family might be.

Imagine you’re a gay teen, coming to terms with your sexuality. What’s your fear? That you’ll get beaten up. That you’ll be cast away by your family. That you’ll lose friends. You don’t even have a good idea of who you are yet, and yet with one admission you could turn everything on its head. How much sack do you have to have to come out to the world? I mean, why do you think we don’t know that celebrities are gay until after their careers are over?

I love hip hop with all my heart, and there are going to be generations of kids growing up listening to it, the soundtrack of their adolescence. But the kind of disdain exhibited for “faggots,” legitimately homosexual or not, makes coming out a much scarier proposition. Who wants a rapper speaking directly to you (as all good hip hop does), ranting about faggots like Toby Keith ranting about Osama Bin Laden? It’s enough to scare someone away from hip hop altogether, and there’s nothing good about that.

‘Fest, you’re my favorite rapper. Just drop the gay-bashing, that’s all I’m asking.

Posted by Joe Kaiser at Feb 03, 2009 11:21 PM