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Earlier this month, Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee found himself fending off rumours pertaining to his sexuality after a photo surfaced online which appeared to depict him kissing another man. The photograph was accompanied by a lengthy ‘coming out’ declaration, supposedly written by Yankee himself. However, speaking to The LA Times, Yankee (known to his mother as Ramon Ayala) flat out denied claims that he was the man in the photograph, stating: “the Internet is where lies become truth and truth becomes myth.”
Two explanations spring immediately to mind. The first, and most probable, is that the entire thing was a prank. The second is that Ayala did, in a moment of madness, post the truth online, then instantly regretted it and jumped straight back into the closet. Either scenario paints a very interesting picture about what it means to be a man in the hip hop industry.
In a recent interview with The Guardian, unlikely LGBT pundit Snoop Lion (née Dogg) voiced his doubts that openly gay performers will ever be made welcome in the world of rap. While he publicly supported R&B singer Frank Ocean’s decision to come out, he maintains that rap is a different world altogether: “I don’t know if it will ever be acceptable because rap is so masculine,” he said. “You can’t be in a locker room full of motherfucking tough-ass dudes, then all of a sudden say, ‘Hey, man, I like you.’”
While the locker room analogy brings to mind that arrogant and outdated notion that a gay man will unfailingly pounce on the nearest straight man, his use of the word “masculine” is particularly telling. When discussing the Daddy Yankee story over at Fox News Latino, writer Mark Travis Rivera proposed that this self-perpetuating myth of machismo acts as a barrier for LGBT hopefuls who are looking to break into the hip hop genre. Rivera states: “machismo relies on strict gender norms in order to operate, and being gay goes against [this] definition of manhood.”
It remains an unfortunate fact that this barrier still exists in the industry in 2013, despite king of hip hop Jay-Z himself backing US President Obama’s stance on gay marriage and dismissing homophobia as “no different than discriminating against blacks… it’s discrimination, pure and simple”.
It’s not that gay rappers don’t exist. YouTube star Cazwell has been churning out cheeky, innuendo-laden rhymes since 2006. What the canon is lacking is a rapper who is open about their sexuality and makes it work for them both artistically and commercially (and not simply as novelty value).
Good news, then, for gay hip hop fans hoping to see a little more diversity in what is traditionally an art form all about street life. We might finally be on the verge of getting such an icon, either in the form of cross-dressing confessional rap artist Mykki Blano, or Khalif Diouf, who goes by the moniker Le1f and has been tipped by Mike Diver at BBC Music as the “most likely [gay rapper] to breach the mainstream”.