After the Oct. 19 episode of “Love and Hip Hop Hollywood,” VH1 aired a special titled “Out in Hip Hop.” “Love and Hip Hop” tackled the taboo topic of DL rapper Miles, who’s in a relationship with producer Milan while hiding his bisexuality from his long-term girlfriend Amber. After the emotional episode, VH1 made the responsible move by coming to the rescue with a makeshift roundtable discussion, complete with members of the cast and some of the music industry’s most prominent gatekeepers and influencers.
For a genre that has been defined by machismo and chauvinistic lyrics amidst theatrical bravado, it’s no surprise that hip-hop has been reluctant to relinquish its stereotypical restraints to allow anyone less than heterosexual into its ranks. Truth be told, it’s only recently that less macho artists like Drake and Kanye West have been accepted into hip-hop’s testosterone ruled dope boy club that until the last five years was led by street-brooding types with mugshots and rap sheets in their background as opposed to middle class childhood memories and college degrees. To take it a step further, we’d have to admit that historically hip hop culture has embraced criminal behavior. I could list all the top tier rappers that have criminal backgrounds but that would be too easy. Instead, we’ll celebrate the fact that West, who’s from a middle class educated background, and half-black, half-Jewish former “Degrassi” actor Drake are arguably two of hip hop’s biggest forces today, so it’s safe to say we’ve come a long way in redefining hip-hop.
On Monday night, the boundaries were pressed even further with the conversation extending to sexuality. Does hip-hop have room for an openly gay artist? Will a genre based on machismo in its simplest form be able to evolve to include a man that openly sleeps with men instead of the trophy women rap is known for? As of today, a rapper can’t acknowledge that his real girlfriend isn’t a trophy, or that his bank account isn’t on platinum status or that he isn’t able to satisfy a room full of groupies in a single night. It’s all a testosterone-driven fantasy that none of the players in the game can possibly live up to, and allowing a gay or bi-sexual man into the picture could be bypassing several other issues a bit too quickly.
In order for this to happen, hip-hop would have to allow its listeners to get used to the idea that there is no one definition of masculinity. This acknowledgement is on the way; how quickly it will be achieved remains to be seen. I don’t expect to hear Milan on hip-hop radio in the next year, but if Drake is a gauge on the probability of change, I would say there’s a good chance that a gay rapper could take the top spot.