California hip-hop artist Murs has taken a stand for LGBT representation with the music video for his new song “Animal Style,” which sees him playing a closeted high-school student—complete with a same-sex kiss.
Obviously filmed long before Frank Ocean discussed his sexuality, the clip is another example of changing attitudes within the hip-hop community, which previously treated homosexuality with silence or utter disdain.
In the video, teen Roderick (Murs) is in a down-low relationship with Jonathan, an openly gay student at his school. Murs raps about Jonathan’s frustration at his boyfriend: “Wanted Roderick to follow him/He see him in the halls but Rod would never acknowledge him.”
In a disturbing climax, Roderick shoots Jonathan in cold blood and then turns the gun on himself. In the video’s final scene, though, we see Roderick and Jonathan sharing a kiss across a picnic table.
Granted, a (presumably) hetero rapper not just singing about a gay relationship but participating in a same-sex kiss in his video is monumental. But we’re disturbed by the murder-suicide scene, and by the fact that no one else seems to be. What’s the message: That being in the closet leads to violent tragedy? That being out will get you killed?
Given the hot-button issues of mass shootings at schools and LGBT teen suicide, the scene kind of feels exploitative.
Murs explains his choices on the video’s YouTube page:
“With this one I wanted to challenge the listener to ask themselves: Is the love shared by two people of the same gender, really that different than the love I have for my partner of the opposite sex? And finally, I just felt it was crucial for some of us in the hip hop community to speak up on the issues of teen suicide, bullying, and the overall anti-homosexual sentiment that exist within hip hop culture.
I felt so strongly about these issues and this song that I had to do a video that would command some attention, even if it makes some viewers uncomfortable. Even if it came at the cost of my own comfort.”
Okay, we could be being oversensitive—or just old fuddy-duddies that don’t “get” it. What do you think? Is “Animal Style” video gold or just plain static?