By now, I’m sure most of the world has tuned into the controversy surrounding Tyler The Creator and his sexuality. Thanks to a leaked album – Scum Fuck Flower Boy which comes out on July 21st – and fan speculation over lyrics on the project like “Shout-out to the girls that I lead on / For occasional head and always keeping my bed warm / And trying they hardest to keep my head on straight” and “Garden shed for the garçons / Them feelings I was guardin’ / Heavy on my mind / All my friends lost / They couldn’t read the signs” everyone’s curiosity about Tyler’s sexuality has reached a boiling but is it really that important? Yes, I’m completely aware that Hip-Hop is known for it’s homophobia but it’s no longer the 90s when the career of a sexually ambiguous artist would be drawn and quartered. The beauty of now is that we have artists of very diverse backgrounds making noise based on talent and talent alone. Everything else in terms of their beliefs, sexual orientation, and the like are really superfluous and have little to do with our enjoyment of their craft.
After watching yesterday’s debate on Complex’s Everyday Struggle between hosts DJ Akademiks, Nadeska Kelly and Joe Budden over Tyler and his alleged truth, I wondered why was it such a huge deal. I sided with Joe and his viewpoint of Hip-Hop being more accepting than ever before despite the occasional pushback from close minded artists and fans. We’ve always had queer artists in black music; We can look at Rock and Roll legend Little Richard, pianist James Booker, R&B singer Luther Vandross, Blues singer Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, Michelle N’degeocello and a host of others whose contributions to music are not only significant but also unquestionable.
Hip-Hop is no longer solely a “masculine” thing or a vehicle driven by heteronormativity. There are too many players in the mix with their own stories to tell for it to remain as it was. When Frank Ocean shared his bisexuality with the world via a letter on tumblr a few days before his album release (I definitely thought it was marketing gold at first) I think that it opened the door for more artists to find the freedom to be themselves. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve had acts like Mykki Blanco and Zebra Katz on the set rocking out respectively, but I feel like Frank’s openness had a domino effect. iLoveMakkonen, former OVO artist and singer of “Tuesday” and Chance The Rapper’s brother Taylor Bennett who also raps, seemed to “come out” back to back and it appeared to empower their popularity and not lessen it. As I stated before, if this was 1997 and not 2017, those guys would have committed career suicide.
I never saw the point of the commotion made whenever an artist decides to reveal something personal about themselves and in this case their sexuality. I know that it can help others to not feel alone but I have a problem when it becomes a focal point which then leads to a media circus. When Young M.A. hit the scene, there was much discussion made about her being a lesbian as it was about her music. When we focus on one aspect of a person, a disservice is not only being done to them but to ourselves as well. There’s more to a great photograph than the frame that it’s in, there’s content to be seen and experienced. Years ago, I couldn’t see myself listening to an openly gay rapper but once I heard joints by Kevin Abstract of the group Brockhampton, I can say that I’m glad to have opened my mind and shook off the old skin. I may be incapable to relate to all of the things he says (he does NOT have a filter) but I can appreciate and respect his artistry.
As for Tyler, who knows if he really is gay or if the lyrics are just lyrics. Does it matter? I say no and it shouldn’t as long as the music is dope. Plus, let’s not forget that Tyler, the Creator is a massive troll and knows how to fuck with our minds so again who really knows? Who really cares? If you’re one of those people that care more about someone’s orientation rather than their humanity, then the game is twisted for you, home skillet.