An open and honest dialogue surrounding hip hop and the gay community aired on VH1 after an episode of its regular series Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood. The special television broadcast named LHH: Out in Hip Hop was hosted by T.J. Holmes, an ABC News correspondent, and included several openly gay panelists within the hip hop community. The roundtable discussion wasted no time getting right to the point by posing the question, “Is the hip hop community homophobic?”
LHH: Hollywood has broken into new territory by casting a homosexual couple who happened to be two young African-American men in the music industry. The couple, Miles Brock and Milan Christopher, have been in a relationship for two years, but have finally decided to go public with their love for each other. With millions of people watching, Miles broke the news to his two sisters and now ex-girlfriend. According to Mona Scott-Young, the show’s executive producer and CEO of Monami Entertainment:
We have had same-sex relationships happening around us since the beginning of time, but somehow we tiptoe around the subject and we never want to give it the same prominence and visibility as we do heterosexual relationships. Here was an opportunity to do something that was reflective of our time.
The black community is slowly opening up to the homosexual culture, but significant resistance yet remains; especially within religious and hip hop arenas. Although critically important, many believe the addition of gay cast members was a risk for the famed series. Brock and Christopher reported being shunned and said few cast members wanted their storylines to include them.
Brandon Anthony, an openly gay man who loves hip hop, penned an open letter to the genre who he maintains shuns him and the gay community for living in their truth. The music lover felt he was basically “raised” by hip hop which Anthony called “the soundtrack” to his life. He penned:
I want you to know who I am. I am a strong black man… And I am gay… And I am proud. Today, I honor you, I admire you, I’m thankful for you and I love you. You played a heavy hand in the way that I was raised and I reveal myself to you because I realize how alike we are. I am Hip Hop too.
The same gender lover said it took a long time to build up the courage to express his truth because the genre has not always accepted who he is. His letter sounded a lot like the group of artists and cultural experts who joined Holmes on the show as panelists. Rap veteran MC Darryl, from the legendary group RUN DMC, agreed that recording artists in the game who come out as homosexual are laced with a stigma. He added:
In hip-hop, you can be gay but you can’t be the rapper. In hip-hop we disrespect the hell out of our women, so what do you think we’re going to do to a gay man?
Is hip hop ready for the shift in gay culture? Could the inclusion of gay cast members on a reality show mean a chance at redefining depictions of black love on-screen? Could reality television, in particular, shows that focus on African-Americans, finally be ready to embrace the LGBT community? Many still refuse to embrace the idea of same gender lovers while others have recognized that Brock and Christopher reflect the reality of a changing, more accepting cultural landscape.
Allegedly, several famous hip-hop stars are members of the LGBT community. Many of these rappers are gay, but some identify as bisexual, asexual and pansexual as well. In 2012, Frank Ocean opened up about his sexuality on social media and afterward said he felt like a “free man.” Since that time, others have joined the ranks and come out publicly while many others would rather keep their sexual preference private.
Although LHH: Out in Hip Hop has undoubtedly opened the door for more discussions to follow, it is unlikely that one night of candid conversation will change the attitudes of many representatives in hip hop community. Whether or not viewers or hip hop lovers embrace the LGBT community, Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood gave its viewers a dose of the world’s current reality. Is the hip hop community ready for the shift in gay culture? Maybe not in totality, but many are hopeful that continued dialogue will serve as a bridge to close the gap.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
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