Eminem and the F-Word: Why Does Rap Still Tolerate Homophobia?

Too little? Too late? Well, definitely, too little.

Eminem expressed a degree of regret over referring to rapper Tyler, The Creator as a “f-ggot” on his latest single during a September 13 interview with MTV’s Sway Calloway. But as usual, he stopped short of actually apologizing for his offending words.

In fact, the next day he was back to gay-baiting on the new diss track “Killshot.”

Meanwhile, the rap community has once again taken the Switzerland approach. Why so deafeningly silent? Where is the outrage over yet another instance of hip-hop homophobia? In 2018, why is rap still flagrantly using homophobic language or tacitly endorsing it by not calling out its stars for lazily falling back on it?

The late rapper XXXTentacion once bragged about nearly beating a man to death in prison for looking at him a little too long while he was naked. Still, fans and fellow rappers canonized him after his shooting death in June, overlooking his history of homophobia and violence against women.

Earlier this year, when Migos rapper Offset offended the LGBTQ community by rapping “I cannot vibe with queers” on YFN Lucci’s track “Boss Life,” he apologized and claimed to have meant “queer” not in the “gay” sense but in the “strange” or “odd” sense. His wife Cardi B defended him in a Twitter Live video — “He literally told me he didn’t know that was a word for gays,” she said — and scolded his detractors for being offended rather than “educating.”

Can anyone who is fluent in English and whose job revolves around words seriously not know the connection between “gay” and “queer”?

She isn’t the first female rapper to stand by a male rapper accused of homophobia. In 2011, Nicki Minaj tried to rationalize Eminem’s use of the word “f-ggot” on her track “Roman’s Revenge” by saying he was speaking as a character he was playing. Fast forward seven years, and Minaj is casually tossing off homophobic rhymes on her latest album “Queen” (presumably a reference to herself and not to gay men).

“They switchin’ like sissies now/You n-ggas is iffy now,” She raps two tracks in, on “Majesty,” which features — surprise! — Eminem. On the next song, “Barbie Dreams,” she’s skewering Young Thug for wearing dresses and mocking the “gay lisp.”

Minaj has a significant gay following, and her dropping the S word doesn’t mean she has anything against them. But if she isn’t homophobic, if Offset respects “gays” as much as Cardi B claims he does, then they should be as sensitive to LGBTQ feelings as black rappers expect white teenagers at their concerts to be respectful of theirs. They need to hold each other accountable rather than enabling each other by making weak excuses or saying nothing.

Predictably, the LGBTQ community has been expressing most of the indignation over Eminem’s Tyler-bashing lyric on his current global hit “Fall.” The track appears on his 10th studio album “Kamikaze,” which sold 434,000 copies in the U.S. the week after its August 31 release.

“Tyler create nothing/I can see why you call yourself a f-ggot, bitch,” Eminem, 45, raps on the song, in belated response to 27-year-old Tyler’s tweet from last year criticizing his Beyoncé collaboration “Walk on Water.” “It’s not just ’cause you lack attention/It’s because you worship D12’s balls /You’re sack-religious.”

Eminem has been casually diminishing gay men in his raps for years. His first LGBTQ controversy was in 2000, over the lyrics to the song “Criminal,” on his third album, “The Marshall Mathers LP”: “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge/That’ll stab you in the head whether you’re a f-g or les… Hate f-gs?/The answer’s yes.”

Although the media excoriated him for those homophobic lyrics — it took a 2001 Grammy collaboration with Elton John to quell the furor — the response from the hip-hop community then was as muted-to-non-existent as it is now.

A few white music celebs have been vocal about their objection to the “Fall” slur. Bon Iver’s lead singer Justin Vernon, who appears on the song, has called out Eminem and tweeted that he asked the producers to remove the word from the track. (They obscured it, but not enough to make it completely inaudible.) Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds also gave Eminem a thumbs-down.

Good for them, but it would be such a powerful statement if a high-ranking black rapper censured Eminem for his homophobic words. Hip hop has been a galvanizing political force since the ’80s, from Run-D.M.C. and Public Enemy then to Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino now, exploring the racism, the poverty, the police brutality, the oppressive legal system, and the sense of hopelessness that weighs down black America.

That not one big-name rapper has challenged Eminem over his continued homophobia, that the genre hasn’t used its influence and clout on behalf of other disenfranchised groups, diminishes rap’s activism. It’s time for hip hop to broaden its scope.

Saying neutral is especially disappointing because, in some ways, hip hop and R&B have come so far in embracing LGBTQ people. Tyler, who has used the F-word himself in the past, now raps about hooking up with other guys and propositions Oscar nominee Timothée Chamalet in rhyme.

Tyler’s ex-Odd Future bandmate Frank Ocean revealed in 2012 that his first love was a man, and his solo career still thrived, and his street cred remained intact. Both Kanye West and Jay-Z, who rapped about his mother being a lesbian on his 2017 album 4:44, have been openly supportive of the LGBTQ community.

As far back as 2005, Kanye, who admits he was homophobic as a teenager, told Sway during an MTV News interview: “Everybody in hip-hop discriminates against gay people. Matter of fact, the exact opposite of ‘hip hop,’ I think, is ‘gay.’ You play a record and if it’s wack, ‘That’s gay, dog!’ And I wanna just come on TV and just tell my rappers, just tell my friends, ‘Yo, stop it fam.’”

Ah, 2005 Kanye, you’ve been missed. Please come back. We need you now.

Even Eminem has evolved  —  somewhat. After his initial controversy, he performed at the 2001 Grammys with Elton John and gave England’s piano man and his husband David Furnish matching diamond penis rings on velvet cushions as a gift for their 2005 civil union. He also expressed his support for gay marriage in a 2010 interview with the New York Times.

“I think if two people love each other, then what the hell. I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want,” he said, adding, “It’s the new tolerant me!”

In his September 13 chat with Sway, Eminem admitted that he may have gone too far by calling Tyler a “f-ggot.” “I was angry when I said the sh-t about Tyler,” he said.

“The word that I called him on that song was one of the things where I felt like, ‘This might be too far.’ Because in my quest to hurt him, I realized that I was hurting a lot of other people by saying it.”

He still hasn’t really apologized, though, and the rap community still hasn’t held him accountable. As if to prove his insincerity, the next day Eminem released the track “Killshot,” in which he fired lyrics that could be construed as ridiculing gays at Machine Gun Kelly: “You would suck a d-ck to f–kin’ be me for a second/Lick a ballsack to get on my channel.”

Kanye? Jay-Z? Ocean? Fam? Anyone?

More Music

  • Beyonce poses for photographers upon arrival

    Beyoncé Releases Music Video for 'Spirit,' Her 'Lion King' Soundtrack Contribution

    Beyoncé fans are stampeding across the web veldt to get a look at her just-released music video for “Spirit,” the original song she co-wrote and sang for the “Lion King” soundtrack. The track is also included on the companion album she executive-produced and will release Friday, “The Gift.” Clips from the computer-animated film are interspersed [...]

  • Woodstock 50's Latest Plea Denied by

    Woodstock 50's Latest Plea Denied Unanimously by Town of Vernon

    UPDATED: The light is quickly fading on Woodstock 50, which in its latest plea to the town of Vernon, New York, was rejected in its effort to secure a permit to hold the three-day concert at Vernon Downs. The Syracuse area venue with a capacity of 35,000 was the most recent proposed site for the [...]

  • Beyonce-HOMECOMING-Netflix

    Beyoncé, Sara Bareilles Vie for First Emmys as Ramin Djawadi Looks to Reclaim Throne

    Beyoncé and Sara Bareilles could add Emmy trophies to their awards shelves this year, having been nominated in key music categories Tuesday by the Television Academy. Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” special on Netflix was nominated in six categories, and four of those include a nod for the pop superstar herself. Only one of those is in a [...]

  • LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet

    LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet Dermot McCormack President

    Live entertainment digital media company LiveXLive Media today announced that AOL and MTV veteran Dermot McCormack has been named president of the company. According to the announcement, McCormack will lead the business and creative operations of LiveXLive, effective immediately. McCormack previously served as AOL’s Global President of Video and Studios, where he oversaw the video [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    R. Kelly Ordered Held Without Bail

    R. Kelly has been ordered held without bond at a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The singer entered a not-guilty plea. The hearing, which follows the singer being hit Friday with a total of 18 counts of serious sexual misconduct and other charges in Chicago and New York, [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content