As the Supreme Court takes up the second of two potentially landmark gay-marriage cases Wednesday (March 27), another major shift in attitudes about gay rights is already well under way and gaining steam.
A$AP Rocky became the latest hip-hop star to speak out on gay rights in a new cover story in Interview magazine, joining the ranks of Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg and Macklemore. The change in attitude in a genre that has long trafficked in macho posturing laced with unapologetic homophobia got a major lift last year when Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean revealed in the liner notes of his Grammy-winning Channel Orange album that his first love was a man .
Perhaps it took the self-outing of a respected, über-talented member of the tribe to open the floodgates, but since Ocean’s revelation, a number of major stars have spoken out against homophobia.
Before he spoke to Interview, Rocky told Hip Hop DX that after being pegged as “weird” and “gay” for liking high-end fashion, he had a major change of heart. “I used to be homophobic, but as I got older, I realized that wasn’t the way to do things,” he said. “I don’t discriminate against anybody for their sexual preference, for their skin color … that’s immature.”
Snoop Dogg, also inspired by Ocean, described to the Montreal Gazette last summer how his attitude has evolved over the years. “People are learning how to live and get along more and accept people for who they are and not bash them or hurt them because they’re different,” he said. “When I was growing up, you could never do that and announce that. … There would be so much scrutiny and hate and negativity, and no one would step [forward] to support you because that’s what we were brainwashed and trained to know.”
How else has the mind-set shifted in the hip-hop community? With these megastars:
Jay-Z and Beyoncé Step Up
A major turning point for rap icon Jay-Z was President Obama’s reversal last year on gay marriage. “What people do in their own homes is their business, and you can choose to love whoever you love,” Jay said, calling the president’s stance “the right thing to do” last May. “That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”
Mrs. Carter has also weighed in, posting a handwritten message to Instagram on Tuesday that reads, “If you like it you should be able to put a ring on it. #wewilluniteformarriageequality!”
Eminem and 50 Cent Do a 180
After lacing his early music with sometimes virulent anti-gay slurs in songs such as “Criminal” (“My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/ That’ll stab you in the head/ Whether you’re a fag or lez”), Eminem helped open the door for acceptance with his stunning collaboration on “Stan” with openly gay pop superstar Sir Elton John at the Grammys in 2001.
The pair have since become friends, and John has helped Slim Shady overcome his nearly fatal drug addiction, standing as a landmark moment between the best-selling rapper of all time and a music-industry legend and gay-rights icon. Eminem even came out in support of gay marriage back in 2010, telling New York magazine, “If two people love each other, then what the hell? I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want.”Marriage equality backed by President Obama, Ben Affleck and more on Twitter.
Em’s labelmate, 50 Cent, who once said “being gay isn’t cool, it’s not what the music is based on,” also had a change of heart thanks to Obama. He told MTV U.K. last year that, “Anyone that has an issue with Frank Ocean is an idiot … I think Frank Ocean is a talented artist, adding, “Obama is for same-sex marriage. If the president is saying that, then who am I to go the other way?”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Put It on Wax
“Thrift Store” rapper Macklemore is yet another hip-hop star who has supported gay rights, including in his song “Same Love,” whose video and lyrics champion same-sex marriage. In a sign of the changing times, the song’s strong message has done nothing to slow Macklemore’s momentum and has elicited little-to-no backlash in the rap community.
Support for same-sex marriage has reached all-time highs over the past year, with a majority (53 percent) of Americans saying they are in favor. Among people 18-29, support for gay marriage is even higher, polling between 74 and 81 percent.
Other rappers have taken different routes, from Murs wearing a “Legalize Gay” T-shirt throughout his “Animal Style” video to Lil B naming his 2011 album I’m Gay (I’m Happy).
Compton’s Kendrick Lamar also had something to say about gay marriage last May during an interview with DJ Drama, even if it wasn’t the kind of full-throated support some others have offered. Saying he doesn’t “give a f—” what people want to do,” Lamar explained, “You got your own beliefs and your own morals. I can’t help the way you was born if you was gay. And I can’t change that, so do what you gotta do to be happy.”
Will this summer’s decisions on the two Supreme Court cases help push the envelope even further in the hip-hop world? We’ll have to wait and see.