I’ll admit it. I shed a tear or two when I first saw Macklemore’s “Same Love” music video. The heartwarming story of two men sharing their lives together. Walking along an aisle of scattered flowers to join hands in marriage. Embracing each other in a hospital room. The whole nine yards. Maybe it was because I had never seen gay marriage portrayed on the stage of mainstream media. Perhaps I thought it represented a larger movement among straight allies to support LGBTQ rights. Possibly it’s because I had just began my journey as an openly gay male. Whatever the reason, the tears were there.
In retrospect, the video is somewhat of a token anthem; something for straight people to post on their facebook and say: “this song was a hit! Macklemore is such a great guy! It’s ok to be gay!” Yet, we’re still at the point where queer hip-hop is forced underground, popular hip-hop groups still throw out “faggot” as an insult, and thousands of teens suffer from suicidal thoughts because they’re excommunicated by their families and churches, bullied by teens, and misrepresented in mainstream media. Same-sex partners are forced out of hospital rooms, denied civil rights on a daily basis.
I’m not saying that Macklemore has done any wrong by making the video. We need allies in the straight community to speak out in support. But there’s a part of me that’s nauseated at the fact that queer artists have been pushing the same message for years, and Macklemore comes along, makes one record in support of LGBTQ rights, and it goes platinum.
So when Le1f went on a twitter rant criticizing Macklemore’s video, I wasn’t surprised. For those of you who don’t know Le1f, he’s a leading voice in queer hip-hop. His most well-known song, “Wut,” features lyrics like “Ukrainian cutie –he really wanna cuddle/The fever in his eyes. He wanna suckle on my muscle.” One of his songs is titled “Gayngsta.” In “Fresh” he spits:
I made this song for my girls in Timbs, boys in gems posing real femme
It’s not pretend. No Barbie, no Ken. Hater step up and I poison them
I poison them with a 10 10 10. Homophobes, go watch ESPN
The point is, if anyone should be the authentic voice of queer America, it’s Le1f, not Macklemore. Le1f is the man who unabashedly breaks the boundaries of mainstream hip-hop, pop music, and the narrow ideological views of the black community. He slides seamlessly between what we’ve defined as masculine and feminine roles. He boasts about his conquests of men, his fabulous fashion, and how “he’s the type of john closet dudes wanna go steady on.”
But as popular as Le1F has become in the queer rap scene, I haven’t heard one second of his voice on the radio. In fact, the most recognition he ever received was when he spoke out against Macklemore, with many criticizing him for refusing the support of a perceived ally. Well, can you blame him? Le1f has devoted his entire career to giving a proud, authentic voice to the queer community, and a straight white man comes along, makes one song about gay rights, and he’s made a hero. As Le1f said best in one of his many twitter-rants: “it saddens me out that a straight man is the voice pop music has chosen for gay rights.”
As with all things, there is a grey area here. I’m not mad at Macklemore. I appreciate his support for gay rights as much as I want to see Le1f’s music to go platinum. I want the straight community to support gay rights without needing a straight white guy to lead the charge with a feel-good story. A story that hides all the bullying and suicide and discrimination. A story that makes everyone think that the world is fully accepting of any lifestyle. Realistically, the fact that Macklemore’s video has become this anthem for gay rights speaks volumes to how far we stand from true equality, genuine acceptance, and a space for an authentic voice for the queer community like Le1f.
If you want to hear the real story about growing up in America as a queer individual, listen to Angel Haze’s remix of “Same Love.” Here’s a glimpse of her message, which tears down the fairytale that is so happily portrayed in the original video:
So don’t badger and abuse the solemnly defenseless
See us as yourself
There’s no equality in difference
Until we all get it, we’ll be drowning in the same blood
Despite orientation, we all feel the same love
We’ll be drowning in the same blood
Despite orientation, we all feel the same love
Angel Haze has rested perfectly in the middle of this Le1f vs. Macklemore conflict. She tells the real, bloody tale of facing childhood bullying and a narrow-minded family without bashing allies. She provides a message of hope without ignoring the reality that we still have a long way to go. And hopefully, her message will make us realize that how Macklemore’s video doesn’t begin to tell the real story of the present state of acceptance in America. For now, it’s a feel-good pop anthem for straight America.
Queer rappers like Le1f, Angel Haze, and Mykki Blanco continue to devote their careers to providing an authentic voice to the gay community. But until they gain recognition and popularity on the mainstream stage, I’ll remain unimpressed with the progress we’ve made in hip-hop, music, or the American social atmosphere as a whole. If you’re going to be an ally, then at least be cognizant that a video of rainbows and flower petals isn’t exactly an accurate representation of acceptance in mainstream America.