When it comes to homophobia and hip-hop, it’s time we start looking at the bigger picture.
In a guest verse on YFN Lucci's "Boss Life," initially released in December 2017 and finding mainstream notoriety today thanks to the release of the song's music video, Migos rapper Offset spit an inexcusable, tasteless, and tired lyric about not "vibing with queers," but instead of focusing on the one line, let's pivot the conversation.
Responding to Offset’s lyric on Twitter, Starrah—the prolific and openly gay songwriter behind hits for Drake, Travis Scott, Kevin Gates, and more—suggests that too many rappers are trying to have their cake and eat it, too.
Starrah, of course, is right—both in hip-hop and on the broader scale of consumer culture. You cannot, in good conscience, despise and/or insult a group of people and enjoy their cultural productions en masse. Consider the score of racists who religiously listen to hip-hop, and how for years those who are rooted in the culture have been trying to unpack and battle that cognitive dissonance—this is the same situation.
I’m not asking Offset to enroll in a Queer Theory 101 class, but if you’re going to be working with and deriving your style from the LGBTQ+ community, it’s best to take five minutes and educate yourself on the basics, like what is and is not considered hate speech.
In that breath, Offset’s apology rests on his misunderstanding the definition of queer to mean strange, which, for all intents and purpose, may have been a true lapse in his judgment. However, there is no avoiding that the word queer is widely used as a slur and has had a long, difficult, and often bloody history as the community it's attached to attempts to reclaim it.
For the time being, I don’t care if Offset is or is not homophobic. This is bigger than Offset because even the most “conscious” rappers slip “dyke” into their lyrics without batting an eye. Hip-hop has a long history of letting homophobia and misogyny slide, and every call-out, every critical look, is a step in the right direction.
What we need to focus on is how we can take these insensitive moments and flip them into a breeding ground for doing better as a culture.