Director Takes on Homophobia in Hip-Hop

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Mark you calendar, kids, because on February 20nd, PBS will be airing Byron Hurt‘s investigative documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes in which Hurt explores the at times violent, misogynist and homophobic underbelly of hip-hop culture and economy.

Narrowing in on the homophobic aspect of the film, AfterElton’s perhaps appropriately named Robert Urban sat down for a little chat with the straight director.

That’s right, we said it: straight. So, how does a straight director deal with taking on an unspoken and undoubtedly hostile aspect of hip-hop: uncomfortably. Urban points out that Hurt’s nervousness come through loud and clear, to which Hurt replies:

Honestly, I am not always comfortable having conversations about homosexuality and homophobia. It wasn’t as if I was completely fearless about it. I felt it was important to…show my discomfort at times, like when I was talking to the transvestite guys. I know I have a lack of awareness and understanding about things. I want to make sure I say the right thing and don’t come off as being ignorant. One can see there’s some hesitation on my part.

Despite his own hesitation, Hurt realizes that there are topic that need to be addressed. Other people, however, don’t see things in quite the same light: known homophobe Busta Rhymes walked off when presented with Hurt’s homo-related inquiries.

It’s people like Rhymes and his ilk that present such a problem for queer hip-hopters. This topic’s come up a number of times in the past few days. You may recall Cazwell‘s comments in part two of our The Youth Issue interview:

…If I was trying to be hip-hop, then I couldn’t be out of the closet, because there are rules in hip-hop, both spoken and unspoken, and one is that you can’t be a fag. Maybe people will say it and maybe they won’t, but it’s true. That’s why there’s no successful [gays] in “hip-hop”.

out homo-hopper Deadlee recently blasted the hip-hop industry, taking some shots at 50 Cent and Eminem.

Obviously aware of these issues, Hurt doesn’t seem so pessimistic. When asked if he thinks a gay person could come up in hip-hop, he replied:

I don’t know about right now; I think it would still be a big challenge. If such a rapper were to emerge, he would have to be much more than a novelty act. He’d have to possess all that it takes to be a great rapper — not be just a “gay” rapper. Would that person be embraced? If his skills were tight enough and his personality compelling enough, I think yes.” As Jadakiss said in the film, “There are millions of gay people, so why can’t a gay rapper go platinum?” Change is possible.

Certainly it’s possible. Is it going to happen anytime soon? We hope so, but we’re not hold our b-b-breath. (We could totally be rappers, homies.)