Lil’ B Ain’t Gay, but He’s Certainly Queer

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Rapper Lil’ B is causing a scene with his recent news that he’ll be naming his upcoming studio album I’m Gay.  He’s not only earned some recognition from GLAAD, he’s also received a few death threats, and has lost some valued support from those who once had his back in the game.  What do I think it means?  Good question.

Lil’ B is something new.  Something we’ve not really seen before.  He’s not normal.  Not your average rapper.  He’s too comfortable with his sexuality, and that disturbs people.  From his song “I’m Paris Hilton” to “I’m Ellen Degeneres,” there’s something about him that makes you tilt your head a bit and go “huh…” Having listened to some of Lil’ B’s mixtapes and after having some extended conversations about the topic, I’m apt to say that Lil’ B, though he does not identify as gay, may embody queerness. Queer need not refer directly to gay or lesbian bodies, but can stand in as a term for all non-normal configurations of sexuality (Halberstam 2005). He doesn’t say stuff “right”, doesn’t do stuff “right” and he is certainly doing something extra-ordinary (that is… outside of the normal), by being a Black heterosexual man who is a near-mainstream rapper and says that he supports gay and lesbian rights.

I don’t know what it means.  Maybe it means that in the next 3 years there will be a mainstream “out” gay rapper though and that will certainly be news.  Right now, I think we wait and see.  We wait and see if Lil’ B can remain relevant and we wait and see if a major studio gets brave enough to back an out gay/lesbian rapper.  Let’s not forget him though.  Lil’ B is definitely doing something worth remembering.


2005  Halberstam, Judith. In a queer time and place: transgender bodies, subcultural lives. New York University Press.


Chris Brown: Still Angry

Most of you have already heard, that after appearing on “Good Morning America” last week, Chris Brown went off backstage.  Unlike the news and other bloggers, I refuse to call his backstage belligerence, a “tantrum” because it infantilizes him, and I think Chris Brown is a grown man.  He deserves to be treated as such.

Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America” asked about how he felt and was dealing with the restraining order that Rihanna had put in place, and his life since his violent outburst with her, or the incident where he and Rihanna’s face got into a “fight.”  It seemed like an appropriate question in the context of his new image, but instead of acknowledging in some meaningful way the seriousness of incident and the obvious reason why someone who was interviewing him would ask about it, you can see him get uncomfortable and visibly upset.  He only wanted to discuss his upcoming album, F.A.M.E and all that other stuff concerning his anger issues or his violence against women, “wasn’t even a big deal.”  He had “moved on” in his life.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t explain his angry outburst after his performance.  It seems to me that Chris Brown is still angry (with women).  He still has a lot of deep emotional scar tissue to work through.  The scary part of that is that he’s big enough to leave some physical scars on people if he wanted to.  Maybe it was just a mirror or his t-shirt this time, but what happens if it’s someone face the next time?

Chris Brown can beat up a woman, have a violent outburst about being questioned about it, and folks who have never met him still “love” and/or “support” him.  He smashed a woman’s face in.  Give me a break, not him.

Blackness, Nudeness, and Thinking Critically


Timothy Bloom featuring V. Bozeman, ‘Til the End of Time

As you can imagine, I’ve got plenty to say about Timothy Bloom’s new video “‘Til the End of Time,” but rather than offering my own reading of this video and the message its sending through its lyrical content, I’m just going to ask a few questions that came up for me and hope you’ll consider them when you watch it for the first, second and third time.

Let’s start from the top.

  • Where are they? What’s the context? You remember in school when your teacher would talk about the importance of looking for context clues? Well, what are the clues in this video that would help us make sense of it? Is it purposeful that there is no context?
  • Why are they naked? If you’re naked the first time you are talking about making a baby, that’s kinda late, right?
  • Are there other ways that Black men and women relate to one another other than in the context of sex?  And if so, where are those depictions?

Booooooy, put it inside of me/Go ahead and inplant your seed until the end of time/
And aaahhhhh… if you should die tomorrow/seed will live on inside of me.

  • What exactly is she talking about? Does it at all sound like a weird way to say “let’s have a baby”? Think about it literally and figuratively.   Literally: if this man dies–or if leaves her–his “seed,” the part of him that aides in the growth of another being will live (and grow) inside of her forever.  Okay.. so what does that mean? Figuratively: perhaps she’ll remember that dude for a long time after having sex with him.
  • But isn’t the general use of the word “seed” in the context of sex in reference to semen?  So, “implant your seed” means that they aren’t using condoms… which seems like an awful thing to do, because what if that dude does leave you?
  • Assuming the song is about two committed people having children, which would make some sense in the context of their naked bodies (babies come out naked), when you and your partner sit down and discuss having children, is it a deeper conversation than “I want you to remember me”?
  • Is this song/video so beautiful that it makes you forget that typically, women in heterosexual relationships are burdened with an unequal amount of reproductive labor, i.e. they spend way too much time “remembering” their kids and their partners, and not enough taking care of (remembering) themselves.  Do you think at all about the unequal distribution of power between men and women on a larger scale when you watch this?
  • Let’s just say that the video is hot, it’s only about good sex, and it’s just not that deep “Doctor” Lane… then what is its purpose? I mean, why make it? There’s plenty of videos and songs, and whole industries dedicated to that.
  • And then, let’s assume it is deep and is meant to send a message and does exist in a particular context where homosexual bodies continue to be policed, continue to be deemed “unnatural” because they don’t “reproduce,” and some people really think that sex can only happen between a man and a woman, and the AIDS/HIV crisis, is still a crisis and STDs are real but you have folks who would deny teenagers and grown people in prison condoms, and Planned Parenthood is in danger not existing in the next year or so, and feminist are fighting tooth and nail for Roe v. Wade… In that context, what then does this video mean?

The above questions are meant to aide you in the consideration that popular culture isn’t produced in a vacuum.  I don’t have all the answers to the questions I asked, I only know that it’s a good idea to ask them especially when Blackness and (hetero)sexuality are being deployed.

Enjoy and do me a favor, think critically.

Throwback with a Twist – Amber Rose: the Exploitation of Exoticism

I wrote this two years ago for another blog and I thought I’d share it here with a few twists.  It raises some questions that are still relevant.

Adapted from a November 1, 2009 post by “Doctor” Lane

This evening I was looking for videos and pictures concerning Black women’s sexuality, and was initially assaulted by a series of images and commentary where Black women were being discussed, but where we weren’t in the conversation.  In fact, our voices were no where to be found except where they were doing the police work of keeping Black women “in line.”  Very few voices other than those concerned with propriety seemed to exist, and I have problem with that.

I was on this search because I’m preparing a short lecture on the topic of Black women and our racist and sexist depiction.  After typing the first few names of pop cultural figures that came to mind, I came across photos of Amber Rose.  For the purposes of this post, I decided against reproducing  one of the many images of her in the nude or nearly nude in mostly men’s magazines, opting instead for the above photo where she dons more masculine attire.

For the October 2009 issue of Elle magazine Kanye West produced a photo with: Amber Rose.  I wasn’t impressed.  There are a couple back-shots reminiscent of King Magazine; territory I didn’t know Elle dabbled in, but which take on a particular (racist) character in the context of a predominately white, female readership of Elle. So what are the implications behind Elle producing these dramatically sexualized images of a Black woman?  The implications seem quite clear in the reader comments made on article that Elle writes about her.

Umm excuse does anybody know exactly what Ms. Rose if famous for other than her body and ability to wear anything that will draw stares or gasps from the world???? Pls tell me that she’s actually doing something worth talking about other than herself and advancing off of Kanye’s back. No one knew her or put her on a run-way or magazine to this extreme before she got with Kanye.. Can you say user!!! He is so lost, blind and must I dare say dumb to not see it for himself, lord get that man therapy for his mom has to be shaking her head.. I wish him all the best, but Ms. Rose your style is lets say differnent but no different from a high priced street walker with over exposure. America’s standards have lowered and ELLE I would’ve expected better!!” Posted by: t.p. 10/2/2009

although I did not care to notice at first, Amber has a really nice physique. Nice round, shapely butt cheeks, sensational handful (mouth full) of breast, and a style all her own. She is one lovely brownin’.” Posted by: Avtomat Kalas 10/21/2009

Even without knowing the race/ethnicity of the authors of the post, they reproduce the underlying racist/sexist assumptions concerning Black women’s sexuality, particularly its uncontrollable nature and its inappropriate uses.  The co-option of Black women’s bodies is systemic.

She’s a beautiful woman.  She’s mixed.  She dated Kanye West.  Why is there any doubt that she would be famous?   And would Kanye’s standards be higher if Rose hadn’t been out about previously dating women?  There’s something contradictory and problematic about the way that women can be used by men to elevate their status (Kanye) and then be damned for getting paid for their services.  Don’t blame the “street walkers”… instead think about the individuals and structures which make their services un/acceptable, possible, and necessary for their survival (Elle, Kanye West, racism, sexism, etc.).

INK: Momma, Rent is Due & He Left Me: Or Black Urban Theatre… Briefly

This is part two of the INK (In the Name of Kwanza) series.  So let’s get into it…

“Chitlin’ Circuit” by Everett Spruill

Black actors (Blacktors) and Black actresses (Blacktresses) have consistently been an under represented group in Hollywood and on the Silver Screen (television). Yet, while their plight may be similar to other people of color in Hollywood (Latinos playing thugs, Asians playing karate masters, “Middle Eastern” people playing terrorists…), what Blacktors and Blacktress’ end up doing for work outside of Hollywood is very fascinating and telling of ethnic-niche entertainment markets.

Since gaining mass popularity in the late 19th century, the ‘Theatre’ in America has been heavily segregated, particularly because of its inception in an already racialized cultural terrain and because of the perpetuation of racial segregation by those who owned theaters who would not let Black performers in their theaters, directors of plays who would not cast black members of casts, and writers who wrote racially insensitive material. This is not unlike Hollywood. But by the 1920s some of the only work a Black actor could get were minstrel shows performed primarily for white audiences. Others who did not or would not perform in minstrel shows sought self-definition, better yet, they carved out their own lanes. That lane was known as the “Chitlin’ Circuit” where Black written, produced, and directed stage plays could be seen and the venues were often Black owned, like the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. which was one of the stops along this string of venues stretching from Jacksonville, FL to New York City’s Apollo Theater.

Black Urban Theatre: The Bougie way of Saying “Chitlin’ Circuit”

In 2004, Ebony featured an article about Tyler Perry asking: how did Tyler Perry go from homelessness to a $5 million dollar mansion?  In the article, Perry says speaks to the criticism his work has received from “Blacks in traditional theater” and those Black people who feel his work “set back Blacks 500 years through minstrelsy.”  Apparently, playwright August Wilson told him to “keep on doing what you’re doing… I don’t think it’s bad at all.”  The article is of note because it gave some credibility to the use of the term “Black Urban Theater.”  Tyler Perry is the most successful of a handful of big players in the Black Urban Theatre circuit.   Emmbre Perry and Dan Garcia made one of their “hit” stage plays into a movie — God Send Me a Man (2009) and it starred Robin Givens.  Well not really.  They put her on the cover of the movie box, but her role is rather tangential.

The current environment for Black actors is simply this: if you’re looking for them, they’re likely in a Tyler Perry movie (or soon will be) or an “inspirational” stage play on the Black Urban Theatre circuit, or they’re avoiding both of those like the plague and taking the hard road by fighting for a few spots on the mostly white prime time line up.

If Tyler Perry brought people to Black Urban Theatre that were never there, then Je’Caryous Johnson’s work takes up where Tyler Perry left off and which stars every Blacktor and Blacktress you’ve not been able to find in years.  For example Je’Caryous Johnson’s Love Overboard stars Khalil Kain, Carl Payne from Martin, and even Miguel Nunez who was Juwanna Mann.

So what’s the issue?

The work of Tyler Perry, Emmbrey Perry, and Je’Caryous Johnson all deal in the same tropes. There are undercurrents of sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, and a general lack a consciousness about issues of class, all of which are divisive and unhelpful to the African Americans individually and collectively.  These plays and their authors are sometimes guilty of depoliticizing and individualizing issues which are systemic.  So preoccupied with getting women married to the “right” man, they elide issues between men and women’s relationships with one another other than sex.  Blaming the victim seems to run as an dominating theme in these plays, especially in God Send Me a Man.  What’s interesteing about all of this, is that there are brilliant Black actors/resses, playwrights and authors out there who deserve to have their work appreciated by the same audiences giving there money to these plays that ain’t doing nothing for them.  So… if you want to know which playwrights to really be on the lookout for, here are just a handful:

Tarell Alvin McCraney Lynn Nottage
Suzan-Lori Parks Katori Hall
Marcus Gardley Danai Gurira
Tracey Scott Wilson August Wilson

Imani (Faith)

Ultimately, I have faith that racism can end and that internalized racism can be uprooted.  We live with the consequences of the racialization of bodies in America, so rather than acting like race doesn’t exist, it is my hope we can begin to correct the mistakes of those who set up the hierarchical system that devalues both the physical existence of non-white bodies, but if we can channel creative force, our Kuumba — if put to use in resistance to systems which further bind us and separate us from one another along lines of color, race, faith, sexuality — then maybe, just maybe… we can do mo’ betta.