Murs’ video for “Animal Style,” a story about the tragic consequences of internalized homophobia and closeting, was planned long before Frank Ocean released the liner notes from Channel Orange that tell the story of his first love. But the timing’s been such that it enters an existing conversation that’s already underway:
The video itself plays into some very old narratives about self-hating black gay men that, while they may be a powerful dramatization of the worst consequences of internalized homophobia, are hardly the sum of the experiences of non-straight African American people. But there’s still something bracing about Murs’ willingness to play a gay man even though he’s straight and married, without any of the coyness or shock-value courting of Lil B’s I’m Gay (I’m Happy) album.
But no matter the content, one of the things that’s fascinating about the reaction to the clip is the anxiety some people appear to feel about its existence. “Since when is HIP HOP and being GAY ever intertwined,” complains one commenter on World Star Hip-Hop. “Wtf , why are rappers trying to capitalize on this gay shit now,” whines another. The idea that hip-hop has somehow been captured by a gay takeover is ludicrous, of course. But it’s amazing how threatened people feel by even a couple of positively-received efforts by rappers and R&B singers to explore sexuality and homophobia. Frank Ocean, Lil B, and Murs are a beginning of a conversation, rather than the end of it. And some people seem very nervous about the prospect of that conversation taking place anywhere, even if there’s absolutely no requirement that they participate in it, if only because they know that it means their views may no longer be dominant.