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By James Braxton Peterson| With thanks to NewBlackMan

Thursday, June 09, 2011.

 Hip-Hop is gay. Not in the colloquial/vernacular sense of ‘gay’ as something negative or deplorable, but gay as in actually gay. I am gay too – about the possibility of actually having a real conversation about human sexuality, human resources and Hip Hop culture. It’s high time that Hip Hop had some real discourse about the homophobia that plagues us socially and I think at this point any other front(ing) is simply a thin veneer for the Hip Hop community’s inability to embrace the sexual reality of this culture that we know, love, and sometimes hate.

Recently, HOT97’s Mr. Cee (ne Calvin LeBrun) was arrested for public lewdness when police allegedly saw him receiving oral sex from another man in his car. According to the New York Daily News this is the third time that (in less than a year) Mr. Cee has been caught/detained for solicitation, loitering and now public lewdness. Even more recently, Mr. Cee pled guilty to lewd conduct in public. As J. Desmond Harris reported on The Root.com, the online response to Mr. Cee’s predicament was typically homophobic and at times downright ignorant. To my mind this is simply more evidence that Hip Hop is gay.

In his award-winning documentary, Beyond Beats and Rhymes, filmmaker Byron Hurt unveils hypermasculinity and homosocialism as foundational pillars in the construction and performance of black masculinity in Hip Hop culture. The film also suggests that some of the rampant hypermasculinity, misogyny, and violent themes are ways in which men attempt to over compensate for their own homoerotic and homosocial desires. As more and more narratives like Mr. Cee’s emerge, the response to the alleged activities/crimes seem to be more indicative of Hip Hop culture than the actual alleged acts in question.

For his part, Mr. Cee originally denied these allegations, shielding himself in a playlist of oddly defensive rap tracks, and ramping up a twitter account so that he can defend himself against the perceived ‘plague’ of being gay in the homophobic world of Hip Hop. There are several situations in the not so distant past that have unraveled similarly in the public sphere. Eddie Murphy was arrested for a rendezvous with a transgendered person and rumors of him being gay have pretty much dogged him ever since. In a more honest discourse we might be able to consider that Eddie is more bi-sexual than gay, or better still, he, like many folk, have sexual preferences that can not simply be defined by hetero/homo terms.

You might also remember that New Jersey governor (McGreevey) who frequented Turnpike truck stops in order to satiate his socially repressed desires to be with other men. Or you might likewise recall Ted Haggert’s scandalous meth-drenched affair with a ‘personal trainer’, or former Senator Larry “wide stance” Craig’s arrest for lewd conduct. Maybe you haven’t seen the self-photograph of a svelte Bishop Eddie Long, in full pose – making a virtual/visual gift for his young targets of seduction. Bishop Long also, very recently settled his case. Mr. Cee is not the first and certainly won’t be the last public figure to be “guilty of” engaging in gay sexual activity.

Yet his recent plea, the responses, defenses and protests tell a powerful story of repression and utter fear of severe social rebuke. For the ministers and senators, their professional anti-gay rhetoric belied their personal gay desires. If we situate Mr. Cee’s alleged activity within the context of a long history of homophobia in Hip Hop – and here I am thinking specifically of the ways in which Wendy Williams stoked the flames of hatred and fear in the very first gay-rapper witch-hunt-like scandal. Nothing really came out of it except for the violent verbal attacks on Wendy Williams and the vehement denials of any rapper ever even having a gay thought.

Seriously, we cannot at this point in time as adult constituents of Hip Hop culture believe that no rapper (or DJ/producer) has or will ever be gay. It just doesn’t add up and this is not to weigh in on how/why you think people are gay – whether you think they are born that way or they somehow ‘choose’ their sexual preferences. Somebody in Hip Hop must be gay, but for me, our exceeding willful denials of this fact simply belies our culture’s repressed gay identity. We’re much like those ministers and senators who protest gay sexuality/marriage just a little too much – or just enough to signal the repression of deep-seeded gay sexual desires.

In Hip Hop this repressive denial often takes the shape of hypermasculine narratives with a no-homo brand of homophobia functioning as the frosting on the cake. Check out Funkmaster Flex’s seething defense of his homie Mr. Cee delivered in response to a rival station’s bit about Mr. Cee’s alleged public fellatio scenario. Flex goes on for at least five minutes straight, berating the entire station, defending Mr. Cee, and intimating that (gasp) there may be some folk at that other station who are actually gay, not (as Flex suggests re: Cee) framed by the NYC Hip Hop police.

But let’s pretend for minute that Mr. Cee is gay. Does that mean that his show, “Throwback at Noon” isn’t hot like fire? Does it diminish his pivotal role as Big Daddy Kane’s DJ? Is Ready to Die any less dope to you now than it was before you thought about the possibility that Mr. Cee was gay? I hope that you answered NO to all of these rhetorical questions and I hope that starting now the Hip Hop community can at last be persuaded to confront its irrational fear of the full range of our community’s human sexuality.


James Braxton Peterson is Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University and the founder of Hip Hop Scholars, LLC. Follow him on Twitter @JBP2.

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