The Evolution Of Jay-Z

“What people do in their own homes is their business, and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”

The above quote comes from Jay-Z. He was referring to gay rights in an interview with Poppy Harlow on CNN in May 2012. Referencing the lack of marriage equality nationwide, he said “I always thought it as something that is still holding the country back.”

He always thought this? Even in 1996, when he rapped about “Too many faggot niggas clocking my spending?” Or the following year, when he rapped ““Hate a nigga like that faggot?” How about the lyric in which he complains about “faggots” talking to the police, which is followed by his promise to kill those faggots? Or his rap “Why is you over here lookin’ at me while all these girls up in here? What you gay?” Or the song in which he calls rapper Nas, no strange to homophobic lyrics himself, a “fag?” That’s the same song in which he mocks Mobb Deep’s Prodigy with a gay implication. Was he ruminating about how gay Americans deserve the same rights accorded to straight Americans when he rapped “Now I ain’t down with who like me or who like you. That’s gay, I ain’t into liking dudes no way?” When he said “And since you infatuated with sayin’ tha gay shit, yes you was kissin’ my dick when you was kissin’ that bitch,” was he really saying “I respect you as a man, for I am a man as well, and we are all equal?”

There are rappers, specifically Eminem, who defend the use of the word “faggot” by saying it doesn’t mean gay; it means weak. Equating a gay slur with weakness or a lesser-than status isn’t homophobic? First of all, that’s bullshit. Secondly, in the case of the Jay-Z lyrics cited above, he is referring to gay men.

Perhaps, like President Obama, who endorsed marriage equality shortly before the rapper’s CNN interview, Jay-Z has evolved. I’m skeptical that he “always” felt the lack of equality was holding the country back, but I’m glad he feels that way now. He is one of the two most-famous rap artists in the world. He is not running for office and trying to garner votes. His support means a lot. As Clinton Yates wrote in the Washington Post, “Hopefully, Jay-Z’s words can lead generations of music fans out of the fog when it comes to being an open-minded and accepting citizen of the world.”

Today Jay-Z turns 45 years old. Here are twenty of his finest raps, homophobia-free. Misogynist? That’s a discussion for another time.

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