I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this video. It’s basically a rapper/comic trolling another aspiring rapper via a submitted guest verse, which is followed by a Skype back-and-forth. The man in question (L-$ from Rap is a Joke, which has other, more offensive stuff) has a set-up and performance that are perfectly executed to get the best of his uncomfortable target. And it is perhaps arguable that this is calling out the typical anti-gay, tough-guy attitude that plagues rap (that overt homosexuality is the “next level” of rap is something I hope is true), but still it re-inscribes and perpetuates the typical anti-gay message of the genre with overly stereotypical and aggressive homosexual “advances.” Watch in its entirety if you are gonna watch it because the last minutes are important even if the middle lags a bit:
First off, L-Money’s skills make this work. It’s done well from a rhyming point of view. If the verse was weak, there’d be no reason to discuss this beyond a mere “LOL/WTF/Meh.” He does it with style and the semblance of earnestness. This feigned earnestness is doubly true in the Skype discussion where he keeps on about changing the “hook” despite that obviously not being the real problem for his target, Swelly (really? Swelly?).
More importantly, this obviously puts the target in the uncomortable position of dealing with a possible homosexual advance without coming off as a total homophobe dick (it’s gonna be public, no doubt) and not totally failing (he’s still not in the clear, obviously, but does better than expected given the circumstances of this situation). Plus point-five for him, especially given how he could have responded. However, it is also obviously not serious, so the real discomfort is on the level of “how do I tell this joke rapper he is going too far?” Plus one for funny, but lacks a more real critique of the genre’s relationship with homosexuality.
Where it is at the best, though, is near the end when L-$ talks about the hyperbolic nature of stories in rap (“rap isn’t true” and “sometimes you have to overexaggerate for rap” and “we might not ever fuck, but . . . “). This is real, pointed talk that provides an uncomfortable angle on the usually homosocial, yet often violently anti-homosexual, nature of most rap. The moments where L-$ is claiming that rapping about being gay is the “next level,” amid the backdrop of most rap being made-up, bullshit stories, works pretty well as a critique, intended or not, of the genre.
Again, I’m not entirely sure how I should respond to this video and Rap Is a Joke’s “Offended” project. Watching the prior entries into the series doesn’t make it any clearer, especially “Vol. 2,” which is over-the-top racist and doesn’t really affect the target (a white rapper from Kentucky) in the right way. But I know I care about the response to this one because it does raise issues rarely discussed in rap/hip-hop via a device (comedy/satire/trolling) that can make them publicly accessible even if the initial reactions are strongly negative or unthinkingly positive. Is this a discussion that can even happen at this time though? I have no idea; let me know if you know better.