What do you think of when you picture a rapper? The answer to this may vary from person to person but I think we can all agree on one characteristic: rappers are masculine. They grow up in rough neighborhoods, know how to fight, and above all, know how to humiliate anyone and anything with words and a sick beat. Some people are socialized to use homophobic slurs, rape fantasies, and the objectification of women as ways to signal masculinity. Words like “faggot” and “bitch” are thrown around inside and outside of the rap world, but it is important to analyze who is being targeted at the other end. Eminem and Tyler, the Creator are two rappers who use these methods in a rap culture known for homophobia and the degradation of women.
In the article, “Guys are Just Homophobic”, CJ Pascoe explains that, “through making homophobic jokes… boys attempt to assure themselves and others of their masculinity” (177). She even addresses Eminem and states that he “doesn’t call people faggot because of their sexual orientation, but because they are weak and unmanly” (178). Eminem is known for homophobic slurs, but sometimes his lyrics suggest that he actually does hate gays:
My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge
That’ll stab you in the head
whether you’re a fag or lez
Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest
Pants or dress – hate fags? The answer’s “yes”
Homophobic? Nah, you’re just heterophobic
Clearly, based on this song, he is dissing gays and pretty much anyone who isn’t straight. Yet in this interview with Anderson Cooper he defends his use of these slurs:
Tyler, the Creator is another rapper who uses homophobic slurs, the objectification of women, and most disturbingly, rape fantasies in his lyrics and videos. In “Wait… Hip Hop Sexualities” Thomas DeFrantz states that “Some hip hop… connects audiences through boastful stories of sexual encounters staged as bragging rituals about near-impossible events” (DeFrantz 326). In the music video and lyrics for “She”, Tyler, The Creator fantasizes raping a girl and watches her while she sleeps.
Tyler then defends his obscene lyrics in this interview (First 3 minutes):
Are Eminem and Tyler using these offensive actions as strategies to gain respect in the rap community, or do they really feel that women and gays are inferior? Are they defending their lyrics and actions in these interviews to save their own backs? This is a little more broad, but what is masculinity to you, and do you think these rappers portray a masculine image? Perhaps we need to re-consider the definition of masculinity.