APPARENTLY … The use of “no homo” by rappers to shrug off any notion their lyrics or behavior might be G-A-Y is actually doing more to free hip-hop from homophobia than it’s encouraging it.
Though not necessarily a premise we agree with, Jonah Weiner’s rather reasonable discussion is worth reading.
Beyond this, there’s a sense in which no homo, rather than limiting self-expression in hip-hop, actually helps to expand it. We see this play out in the rhymes and personas of the term’s most famous practitioners. Cam’ron and the Diplomats are, ironically, among the most homoerotic MCs in rap. They wear pink and purple furs and brag regularly about how good they look. In the video for “Pop Champagne,” Jim Jones and Juelz Santana giddily douse each other with frothy white geysers of bubbly. On Cam’ron’s “Hey Ma,” he describes having sex with a female paramour with seven vague words—”She was up in the Range, man”—but when the girl leaves, he immediately calls Santana to narrate the act in detail and, in a sense, to enjoy and consummate it fully. Similarly, Lil Wayne has been photographed kissing his mentor, the rapper Baby, on the lips and cultivates a shirtless, slithering, rock-star-worthy air of libertine sexuality. Kanye West attends runway shows, keeps an entourage of designer-clad dandies, and blogs regularly about design. When these rappers say “no homo,” it can seem a bit like a gentleman’s agreement, nodding to the status quo while smuggling in a fuller, less hamstrung notion of masculinity. This is still a concession to homophobia, but one that enables a less rigid definition of the hip-hop self than we’ve seen before. It’s far from a coup, but, in a way, it’s progress.