A$AP Rocky On Homophobia And Hip-Hop’s Brand

With the Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the case against California’s Proposition 8 yesterday, the consensus seems to be that deadline for politicians to come out in support of equal marriage rights and to get some sort of credit for it has passed. But beyond the field on which legal equality is adjudicated, stands for equality can still be interesting. And there’s something particularly telling about this Interview magazine conversation between rapper A$AP Rocky and Alexander Wang in which Rocky both speaks up for gay rights and outlines an important tipping point. He believes it’s now worse for hip-hop’s overall brand to appear homophobic than it once was for rappers to be perceived as gay-friendly:

So now that I’m here and I’ve got a microphone in my hand and about 6,000 people watching me, I need to tell them how I feel. For instance, one big issue in hip-hop is the gay thing. It’s 2013, and it’s a shame that, to this day, that topic still gets people all excited. It’s crazy. And it makes me upset that this topic even matters when it comes to hip-hop, because it makes it seem like everybody in hip-hop is small-minded or stupid — and that’s not the case. We’ve got people like Jay-Z. We’ve got people like Kanye. We’ve got people like me. We’re all prime examples of people who don’t think like that. I treat everybody equal, and so I want to be sure that my listeners and my followers do the same if they’re gonna represent me. And if I’m gonna represent them, then I also want to do it in a good way.

It’s preferable for people to be affirmatively welcoming because they truly want their lives to be full of different kinds of people and want the communities around them to be the same way. But even if they’re not, it’s one of the great victories of the gay rights movement to make an embrace of gay rights better for business than the alternative, both by articulating the size of the gay market itself, and by expanding that figure by adding in the market of straight allies, such that that combined buying power dwarfs that of anti-gay boycotters.

The full recognition of gay humanity and gay purchasing power for a wide range of products go hand-in-hand. Once you recognize that gay people are people who deserve rights, you will probably realize that gay folks are also not a monolithic block who listen only to house music, live only in New York and San Francisco, vacation only on Fire Island, and amuse themselves only with faaaabulous clothes. Like heterosexual people, it turns out that gay people live everywhere. They buy tickets to sporting events — and at those sporting events, buy beer, and hot dogs, and jerseys. They take out mortgages in places other than Chelsea, often for homes that require things like drywall, and gardening prodcuts. And they buy hip-hop records and hip-hop singles and tickets to hip-hop shows. There’s a more attractive order in which to recognize these things, and it’s the one that recognizes the diversity of the gay community first and its purchasing power second. But you can’t recognize one without being confronted with the other. Hip-hop may be slower than Home Depot to shift its brand. But it will be a relief when no homo, a phrase as lyrically lazy as it is intellectually cowardly, becomes an anachronism.