Homophobia and Gay Rappers in Hip-Hop

From Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes collection, lesson plan 4 of 5

(90 minutes + assignments)

Grade Level: 9-12, College

Subject areas: Social Studies, Language Arts, Ethnic Studies, U.S. History, Media Studies, Cultural Studies, Art/Music, Current Events

Purpose of the lesson: As such a visibly and audibly homophobic venue, rap music is a taboo topic that should be examined. At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that there are hip-hop artists that have been challenging and redefining hip-hop with their presence. This lesson asks the taboo questions and challenges the listener to consider the role homophobia in hip hop plays in maintaining the one-dimensional definition of masculinity that boxes in both men and hip hop.

National teaching standards addressed:

Grades 9-12

National standards from the following organizations were used in developing this lesson plan. See recommended national standards available in the educator guide for full descriptions of standards employed.

  • National Council for the Social Studies
  • National Council of Teachers of English/International Reading Association

Writer: David Maduli

David Maduli is an independent educational consultant who has contributed many curriculum guides and conducted various workshops for PBS programs. He has a master’s in teaching and curriculum from Harvard Graduate School of Education and continues to work as a veteran Bay Area public school language arts and social studies teacher.

For this activity show Film Module 3, “Homophobia in Hip-Hop” (5:27).

  1. Ask the class this question, which Byron Hurt poses to rapper Busta Rhymes in the film: “Would a gay rapper ever be accepted in hip hop?” Have students write a response using the following sentence stems:

    • A gay rapper would/would not be accepted because ...
    • A major record label would/would not promote a gay hip hop artist because ...
    • If a gay rapper were the best rapper ...
    • Busta Rhymes refuses to address the question because ...
    • The lack of a gay presence in hip hop is/is not surprising because ...

    Have students show their point of view regarding each statement with a “thumbs up/thumbs down,” then call on a few students from each perspective to read their sentences.

  2. Introduce the article “Stick This Into Your Mind,” by Amanda Nowinski. This article, which is a spotlight on Oakland rap crew The Deep Dickollective (D/DC), was the cover story of the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s Aug. 21, 2002, issue. One of the members of D/DC, Tim’m West, is featured in the film.

  3. Have the students read the article together in small groups, then discuss these questions within their group:

    • West recounts a time he and Ampu walked up to a cipher and everyone stopped; no one wanted them to join and no one wanted to battle them. Why would the presence of a gay rapper cause that response? Why is it that for many rappers their “skill is bound up in the fact that [they are] hetero[sexual]?” What would happen if a gay rapper out-rhymed a heterosexual opponent in a cipher?
    • West also argues that society expects black men to be homophobic, and he gives the example of journalists excusing “conscious” rappers for their homophobia. In fact, Common and Mos Def, arguably the most prominent and mainstream conscious hip-hop artists, have homophobic lines in their discography. (See Common’s “Dooinit”: “Niggas hate you, they ain’t payin’ you no attention / In a circle of faggots your name is mentioned” and Mos Def’s, from Black Star’s “RE:DEFinition”: from Southern Voice, Aug. 29, 2003 or are they presenting themselves as anti-gay? Do conscious artists have an even greater responsibility than unabashedly derogatory rappers to present an anti-homophobic stance?
    • West states that as an artistic entity, “D/DC occupies this space that isn’t exactly comfortable for anybody.” How do they embrace that role? Why is it important to have artists visible in that role? Do they risk alienating any audiences? How might they contribute to reinforcing or breaking stereotypes? Could D/DC be a commercially successful music group?
  4. Present this final quote from West from the San Francisco Bay Guardian article: “What the D/DC is doing is not about homohop, and it’s not really about gay people in hip hop. What it’s really about is, we are rappers who believe, struggle and fight for freedom inside of hip hop to the utmost degree.” Have students discuss what “freedom inside of hip hop” might mean and might look like.

  5. Assignment: Opinion editorial Have students write an op-ed to a media outlet of their choice presenting their views on homophobia in hip-hop, the presence of gays in hip hop, and the impact of the language and messages that artists choose to communicate.

There is no extension activity with this lesson plan.

  • Film module:
    Hip-Hop: Homophobia in Hip-Hop

Download lesson materials