Late in the afternoon on August 26, Young Thug started trending. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering Thug’s ascension from hometown hero to hip-hop hitmaker within the last two years. From features with rap elder statesmen like T.I. and Juicy J (“About the Money,” “Low”), magazine covers (Complex, Fader), and co-signs from hip-hop luminaries (Kanye, Drake, Wayne), the day of the Thug is upon us. However, Thug wasn’t trending for any of these reasons. The Atlanta native started a social media storm, because of a simple Instagram picture with Rich Homie Quan:
Thug captioned the seemingly innocuous picture with the statement “Me and my hubbie!!! @richhomiequan 4life udigg!!!!!” While at first glance this easily can be deemed news that isn’t deserving of being called news, it brought a large problem to the forefront. Immediately, Young Thug’s Instagram was bombarded with questions and often homophobic slurs about the rapper’s sexual identity.
“thug wtf wrong wit you dude yo moma need to beat yo ass bra” - @kingfreebandz_23
“Who misinformed u smh...doodoo ass gay Generation. Wtf going on nowadays” - @iamjaysantana
“Is ya’ll gay or nah .. Damn smh" - @imdatchick_29
Even more recently Thug took to Instagram to stoke the flames of the continuing controversy over his ambiguous sexual identity by calling Birdman his lover.
Once again arguments raged over Young Thug’s sexuality and its ultimate place in hip-hop. This argument reaches beyond Instagram. One search of a simple term like “Young Thug” or phrase like “Young Thug Gay” on Google or Twitter, opens up a tsunami of ignorance, but ultimately raises a compelling question: What is the state of homophobia in hip-hop, and beyond?
If reactions to Young Thug’s various social media posts are to be believed, then we haven't made much progress. In a completely rational world, Young Thug’s sexuality shouldn’t be important. However, within the confines of the internet (where Thug arguably grew the majority of his fanbase) this isn’t the case.
In a naive sense it almost feels like hip-hop as a culture was past this point. The genre as a whole has evolved so much in the past 30 years that its hard to stomach the pure and unadulterated hate that regular fans direct at Young Thug for something as harmless as his sexuality. Icons like Andre 3000 and Kanye have broken down so many barriers of masculinity, it's hard to recognize that hip-hop isn’t as accepting as I assumed it was.
Of course, Young Thug’s picture with Quan and Birdman wasn’t the first time he’s deviated from hip-hop’s normal script. There’s this:
Thug has worn a dress, put his hair into what can best be described as “Princess Leia” buns on national TV, and even paints his fingernails on a regular basis. Young Thug is out there, but what’s more disturbing is how fixated people are on his harmless pursuits. So much of the critical discussion of Thug rests within the confines of his questionable sexuality, and has nothing to do with what should actually matter - his music.
Perhaps in 2014, Thug has hit upon the secret to his success. For all the ridicule, hate and bile, Thug has weathered the storm of relevancy (for now). The more Thug skates around the question of his sexuality the more fans swarm towards his persona. In essence Thug has turned his sexuality into the ultimate troll. However, meaningless this might be to Thug it has presented hip-hop with a hard truth...homophobia is still a very real issue in 2014.
Young Thug has been called a fag, fruitcake, and had his life threatened on message boards of the most popular hip-hop sites in the world. If nothing else hip-hop needs to hold itself to a higher standard. At its core hip-hop has always provided a voice for the voiceless, giving disillusioned youth the chance to speak out against racism, violence, and institutional inequalities. When it needs to, hip-hop can affect change better than almost any other genre. Whatever people’s personal beliefs may be, on a basic human level it’s wrong to persecute someone based upon their inherent differences. What’s even worse is discriminating against an individual based off the chance that they just might be different.
Young Thug is a person. He deserves the same respect as any other contributor to rap and its continued existence. Most people wouldn’t walk up to a random person on the street and yell slurs like “faggot” or “fruitcake,” so why do it anonymously behind a keyboard?
Questions about Thug’s sexuality will continue to persist. That's something that cannot be changed in the immediate future, but what can be is how we react to Thug’s eccentricities. If Thug likes calling his friends “hubbie” and “love” that’s a part of who he is.
Like Thug sings, he’s done, “a lot of shit just to live this here lifestyle,” and we shouldn’t persecute him for it.
[By Charles Holmes. He writes things. This is his Twitter.]