DaBaby on stage at Rolling Loud.
DaBaby performing at Rolling Loud Miami.

DaBaby and the Legacy of Homophobia in Hip Hop


“Rockstar” Rapper DaBaby faced immediate backlash after delivering unprompted homophobic comments during his Rolling Loud Miami set in July.

DaBaby, whose latest album “Blame It On Baby” reached number 1 in America, was pulled from several festivals in response to the viral homophobic rant.

The controversy was met with a flurry of celebrity responses, of varying stances. From “Levitating” Collaborator Dua Lipa to “Rocket Man” Elton John, DaBaby was condemned for his perpetuation of AIDs misinformation and general homophobia.

The 29-year-old rapper responded to the controversy in a video, but his defense did not achieve much in the way of reconciliation, and his so-called cancellation continued.

In contrast to DaBaby’s fast fallout from the good graces of stardom, Lil Nas X’s meteoric rise is seemingly never-ending.

The openly gay rapper galloped onto the scene with 2019’s “Old Town Road,” the Billboard Hot 100 record-breaking smash hit that spent 17 consecutive weeks at number 1.

Since he declared his sexuality on Twitter in 2019, Lil Nas X has released increasingly queer content. He broke the internet with the inescapable music video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”—in which the rapper slides down a pole into hell and gives Satan a lap dance—and the recent “Industry Baby” video, which includes a provocative scene of pixelated naked men dancing in the Montero prison showers.

This current era, where a confident, openly gay Black man can thrive in hip hop, is unprecedented.

Hip-hop artists of the ’80s and ’90s from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Wu-Tang Clan to Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z used homophobic rhetoric and slurs in their music.

Homophobic slurs were commonplace in the rap battles of the time as well.

Journalist Jeremy Helligar posits that the prevalence of homophobia in the genre could be a result of “old-time religion and a God who, according to some beliefs, condemns homosexuality” and an overcompensation of “masculinity stripped away by slavery and compromised by centuries of racism,” in a 2019 Variety article.

Throughout the 2000’s, the rise of “no homo” culture signified an obtuse step forward. “A Milli” Rapper Lil Wayne popularized the use of “no homo” as a one-two punch, both demonstrating wit and dismissing the homosexual interpretation of a given line.

For instance, Lil Wayne prefaced the line “I said he’s so sweet, make her wanna lick the wrapper” with a sly “no homo” in his 2008 single “Lollipop.”

Although the term carries a homophobic connotation, the prevalence of “no homo” represented a turning point in hip-hop that nodded “to the status quo while smuggling in a fuller, less hamstrung notion of masculinity,” according to Journalist Johan Weiner in a 2009 Slate article.

The 2010’s marked progress towards queer acceptance in hip-hop as “Flower Boy” Rapper Tyler the Creator and multiple Grammy Award-Winner Frank Ocean wrote same-sex experiences into their music.

Though homophobia still undoubtedly exists in hip-hop today, the steady progress of the last four decades indicates there is hope for an even more accessible and accepting future for the genre.

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