Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Straight Dope

This post is in part a response to Steve's comment on last week's post on the hip-hop vote, which seemed too substantial to answer in another comment. I wrote that post because I thought the press was missing the story, as it misses so much about hip-hop both inside and outside of arts journalism. Let me repeat that I believe Russell Simmons and the likes of T.I. deserve a credit they're still not getting for Obama's victory, as do hip-hop fans. But in hip-hop even more than in most things, hosannas generally have downsides, and in that connection the Proposition 8 defeat was painful to me as someone who's dissed hip-hop homophobia for decades. I'll never forget the way-back time (1991, I think) when I joined the passionate African-American anti-homophobe Greg Tate in a tag-team interview with Chuck D, probably the most politically perceptive name rapper of all time, chasing him around and around the block not just on gay rights but on whether there was homosexuality in Africa without getting a straight answer. It was so frustrating, so dispiriting.

I came in early on the Prop 8 story, which was just starting to attract attention as the Obama triumph wore off. There's been a lot more coverage and commentary since, much of which complicates if not obliterates my conclusion that the hip-hop vote contributed to Prop 8's passage (Steve notwithstanding, I never said or implied it was decisive). Most of this stuff I encountered via Andrew Sullivan--wish I could provide links, but my skills in that essential blogging practice are poor and I find Sullivan's back pages hard to negotiate. So let me try to sum up. As Steve indicates, religion correlates more positively with opposition to gay marriage than race does, and of course, the Mormon church proudly took the lead in that outrage. And as many have said--including myself in my earlier post, because it was clear from the first exit polling--age correlates as well. Voters under 30 strongly opposed Prop 8, while my over-65 contemporaries supported it. This means that, demographically speaking, opposition to gay marriage is literally dying off. Moreover, as Nate Silver's "Prop 8 Myths" made clear, the generational generalization holds for black and Latino voters as well as white voters--the differential was only three points.

For hip-hop homophobia, this is the most telling stat. Moreover, as several Sullivan posts made clear, the anti-Prop 8 forces did a poor job of outreach to the black and Latino communities--and as Sullivan also reported, with suitable chagrin, gay voters were one of the few demographics to offer more support proportionally to Kerry than to Obama. Hip-hop homophobia is all too real--far nastier and more explicit than in country music, whose oldest audience was the most prominent demo to favor Kerry over Obama. But it was more pervasive and virulent 15 years ago, and it doesn't seem to be taking with the youth sector of hip-hop's audience (yes, there are now many hip-hop fans over 30, just as there are rock and roll fans over 60).

Reassuring, right? So what should appear in my inbox but yet another missive from allhiphop.com, this one helping a Detroit rapper named Trick Trick publicize his new album by expanding on its anti-gay content, some of the worst I've encountered in contemporary hip-hop, with an anti-gay interview. (Oh hell, here's the link. Don't tell anybody, all right?) Got me to download the record, I'll say that--and discover to my own chagrin that, on first listen, Trick Trick seemed to have somewhat more talent than most of the local nonentities Eminem hangs out with. Eventually some gay rappers got their own two cents in at allhiphop--apparently some of Trick Trick's contumely is based on a projected (I think) "reality" show about gay and transgendered rappers. (Talk reality the way hip-hoppers do and it serves you right to get bitten in the ass.). He also got a lot of gay bloggers, right up to Perez Hilton, to spell his name right. So I'll just leave it right there.

1 Comment

By steve on November 14, 2008 2:52 PM

What you say about the gay community going for Kerry in greater numbers than for Obama is true, unfortunately. And I want to clarify that the reason wasn't because of racism, although I'm sure there's truth to that on an individual basis. But the far greater reason is because of Obama's association with McClurkin, his stated belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman (despite his opposition to Prop. 8), die-hard older lesbian feminist supporters of Hillary Clinton who were turned off by the nasty primary campaign, etc.

I certainly won't deny there's homophobia in the African-American community, and yes, it's at very nasty, unacceptible levels. What I'm saying is that its primary roots stem from religion, and narrowly focusing on the hip-hop community creates an unnecessary scapegoat.

Poverty plays its part as well, and it enables religion to be more powerful. As Obama said in his "clinging to guns and religion" remark, when people feel their livelihoods are threatened, they turn to religion in general, and usually fundamentalism in particular, for stability. And poverty means less quality education, which brings us once again to "clinging to religion."

I understand this is an arts criticism blog and what I'm saying probably goes beyond the scope of this website, and I apologize for that. But anyone who doesn't see this happening to poor, religious white people as well as with black people just isn't paying attention.

Articles, Nov. 14, 2008


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