Rapper Lil B on ‘I’m Gay’: ‘We’re all one people’
- Album title has brought debate, death threats
- “I’m not homosexual. I don’t like men,” he says
- Lil B has used the internet to almost single-handedly gain the spotlight
(CNN) – Brandon “Lil B” McCartney is no stranger to making bold statements.
In front of thousands of concert-goers at April’s Coachella Music and Arts Festival, the 21-year-old rap artist announced that he would name one of his future albums “I’m Gay.”
So, what’s the big deal? Well, for starters, Lil B is not gay. And although it’d be easy to write him off as another performer trying to stir up controversy and gain popularity, he’s already got the latter covered.
Like Soulja Boy and Justin Bieber, Lil B has almost single-handedly used the internet to put himself into the spotlight.
In a few short years as a solo artist without a major-label deal, Lil B has recorded almost 4,000 songs, gained over 200,000 Twitter followers and signed a touring deal with LiveNation. His YouTubevideos have been viewed 28.7 million times and counting.
Lil B’s supporters and fans laud him for his gender-defying self-proclamations that he’s “pretty b—-” and a “princess” while producing songs inspired by untraditional hip-hop topics like Miley Cyrus and Ellen DeGeneres. At the same time, a growing skepticism follows the artist, who some critics argue is full of himself and is more concerned with selling an image through hyperbolic claims than any music of substance.
Lil B says he saw the Coachella moment as a chance to bridge the differences between communities and spread his message of “loving.”
“I think that (announcement) was so much bigger than he was,” said Terrance Dean, a former MTV executive and the openly gay author of the book “Hiding in Hip-Hop.” “That it was like seeing his future before it even actually happened.”
While advocates in the LGBT community like Dean feel that Lil B is sincere, others like Lloyd “Gyant” Dinwiddie, a BET blogger of the year who is openly gay, aren’t so sure.
“I don’t want to take anything away from what I think he’s trying to do,” Gyant said of the album, which is set for release in a few months, according to Lil B. “I really do feel that it is less about social evolution, and it’s more about making a name for yourself and selling your project.”
Lil B sat down with CNN to talk about the inspiration for the title, the death threats that have followed and why he’s the rap version of Lady Gaga. The following is a transcript of that interview.
CNN: What were you thinking when you named the album “I’m Gay?”
Lil B: It was something that was going through my mind for a while. I feel like I’m man of the people: meeting people, respecting people and accepting people. I hope that I can turn some of my fans that might be homophobic or supporters that might be homophobic and say, “You know what, we’re all one people. This is love.” It’s just respect, and I did that to bring people together and bring more love and to spark the minds of people and not let words and judgments and stereotypes stop you from loving.
CNN: I read that you’ve gotten some death threats.
Lil B: Mainly, a lot of them are on Twitter, saying that they’re going to kill me for being gay, and they’re going to kill me for being homosexual even though I’m not homosexual. I don’t like men. They’re saying they’re going to bash my head in. They’re calling me f—–. That’s all right, because I did this with the pure intention in my heart to help people, and I didn’t do this for promotional reasons. I did because there needs to be someone brave enough to do it, brave enough to speak up and have the right reasonings of doing it.
CNN: What’s your response to people who say this is all a gimmick?
Lil B: I’m not here just doing stuff just trying to do it or outsmart somebody and try to do something witty. I call myself the human sacrifice, because I look at it like, no one else is going to do it and push that line for the people, and I’m going to do it, and they’re going to look at me and say, “Well, you know what? If that guy can do it, I can be myself too, and if that rapper can be himself and be free and be happy and still hold masculinity and love people and love flowers and just be happy being alive, well then, I can do that too.”
CNN: You’re big Twitter fan, and recently rapper Rhymefest tweeted that after he spoke to California artist Xzibit and listened to your music, his response was, “Homeboy needed a dad in his life.”
Lil B: I’m going to say, who is Rhymefest? So he needs to work on promoting and marketing himself, because I don’t know him. But what I feel about his comment is that it’s true, I needed a father figure in my life, but I’m not complaining about that. What do you mean, I need that? Tell Rhymefest I’m very happy. Tell Rhymefest I actually wake up and I’m happy, and I’m positive and I love people. Ask Rhymefest, does he feel the same way?
CNN: How influential are your parents in your career, and what do they think about your music?
Lil B: I can say they’re not very influential in my career, but I’m motivated; I work hard to show my mother that her child has a purpose. My father has played a part unconsciously when I was younger, which he probably didn’t know,. But he was giving me a lot of good music, (and) my mother played a lot of good music. So I will always forever show respect to both of them on that. They might not be listening to my music all the time because there’s stuff that they don’t agree with. I don’t expect them to agree with my language and stuff like that.
CNN: You’ve called yourself rap’s Lady Gaga. Care to elaborate?
Lil B: It’s just because I’m fearless. I have a huge support base of people that love me around the world: millions of fans and supporters and growing. You know what, it’s just me putting what I want to put out and me just being an artist, a true artist to myself. I go to sleep happy. I wake up excited because I give the truth.
CNN: On Twitter, you threatened to sexually assault Kanye West if he didn’t respond to your tweets. Why threaten Kanye West with sexual violence?
Lil B: You know, really, it’s just my jokes. I have a funny sense of humor. If I was a comedian and I was up on stage, people would think that’s funny, because I’m a funny comedian. I’m an entertainer. Throughout the years I feel if God promotes me to stay alive and have more years to live on Earth, which I pray and I would love to, people are going to see my personality, and they’re going to see more of me and be able to understand me more.
CNN: Do you think of a lot of the hate/confusion is a generational thing?
Lil B: There’s a disconnect because they want a disconnect. When you want to read the book, come read the book. When you want to come talk to me and be my friend, come talk to me. They want that disconnect. They want to seclude themselves. The generation gap, they don’t want to understand.
CNN: What’s your response to folks who say you’ve pushed the progression of hip-hop back a few steps?
Lil B: They’re just not paying attention fully, and I forgive them. Not everybody has time to pay attention fully, or not everybody has the time to read a book. Some people refuse to read books, and I’m just an unread book. Open me!
A Black Feminist Writer Asks A Question: Is Slut Walk Really Just A Movement For Middle Class White Women & Not Women Of Colour?
By Guest Contributor Crunktastic, cross-posted from The Crunk Feminist Collective
Today, we had initially planned to bring you a review of the new groundbreaking bookHey Shorty: A Guide to Combatting Sexual Harassment in Schools and on the Streets. And you can read it here. But in light of the SlutWalk movement that broke out in Toronto earlier this year and the embrace of the movement in U.S. feminist mainstream over the last few months, I would like to add a few more thoughts to the discussion, in light of recent and much-needed calls on the part of feminists of color for a much more critical race critique in the SlutWalk movement.
SlutWalk Toronto started as an activist response to the ill-informed, misguided words of a Toronto police officer who suggested that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Women in Toronto were enraged and rightfully so, and SlutWalks have become a way to dramatize the utter ignorance and danger of the officer’s statements. And on that note, I fucks very hard with the concept and with the response, which is creative, appropriate, and powerful.
What gives me pause is the claim in SlutWalk Toronto’s mission statement of sorts that because they are are “tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result,” they are reclaiming and reappropriating the word “slut.” Um, no thank you?
Here’s the source of my ambivalence: as I read the mission statement, I was struck by the righteous indignation these women had over being called slut. While that indignation is absolutely warranted, it also feels on a visceral level as though it comes from women who are in fact not used to being fully defined by negative sexual referents.
Perhaps my cynicism reflects my own experience as a Black woman of the Hip Hop Generation in the U.S., or a Black woman who’s a member of the Western World period. It goes without saying that Black women have always been understood to be lascivious, hypersexed, and always ready and willing. When I think of the daily assaults I hear in the form of copious incantations of “bitch” and “ho” in Hip Hop music directed at Black women, it’s hard to not feel a bit incensed at the “how-dare-you-quality” of the SlutWalk protests, which feel very much like the protests of privileged white girls who still have an expectation that the world will treat them with dignity and respect.
The first activist response I ever heard to such mistreatment was Queen Latifah’s 1993 Grammy-winning song, “U.N.I.T.Y.”
It energized a community and opened a space for much needed conversation. But sisters did not line up to go on symbolic, collective ho strolls. And for good, and I think, obvious reasons.
So maybe the best way to deal with the debates about re-appropriating the term “slut” is the way I deal with the whole n-word debate. As a Black person, who occasionally uses the n-word (with an ‘a’ on the end), I am admittedly ambivalent about whether or not the use of the term among Black people really does constitute a reappropriation. I’ve heard and read most of the arguments, and I remain…ambivalent but generally think the word is unproductive. That said, I balk at older Black folks who act as though the Hip Hop Generation are the first Black people to toss the word around. Read any 19th century Black literature and you’ll know different. What I’m clear about, however, is that to use or not to use is a decision that lies solely within Black communities. White people simply don’t get a say; the word is off-limits to them. Black folks have surely won the right, long held by white folks, to struggle and determine amongst ourselves how we will refer to and define ourselves. Period.
For me, so it is with the word slut. It is off-limits to me. But for those who have been shamed, and disciplined, and violently abused on the basis of its usage, they have the prerogative to determine whether to reclaim or not to. As a word used to shame white women who do not conform to morally conservative norms about chaste sexuality, the term very much reflects white women’s specific struggles around sexuality and abuse. Although plenty of Black women have been called “slut,” I believe Black women’s histories are different, in that Black female sexuality has always been understood from without to be deviant, hyper, and excessive. Therefore, the word slut has not been used to discipline (shame) us into chaste moral categories, as we have largely been understood to be unable to practice “normal” and “chaste” sexuality anyway.
But perhaps, we have come to a point in feminist movement-building where we need to acknowledge that differing histories necessitate differing strategies. This is why I’m somewhat ambivalent about accusing my white sistren of being racist. If your history is one of having your sexuality regulated by the use of the term “slut” for disciplinary purposes, then SlutWalk is an effective answer.
What becomes an issue is those white women and liberal feminist women of color who argue that “slut” is a universal category of female experience, irrespective of race. I recognize that there are many women of color who are participating in the SW movement, and I support those sisters who do, particularly women who are doing it in solidarity and coalition. But rather than forcing white women to get on the diversity train with regard to the inclusivity of SlutWalk, perhaps we need to redirect our racial vigilance. By that I mean, I’d prefer that white women acknowledge that they are in fact organizing around a problematic use of terminology endemic to white communities and cultures.
In doing so, this would force an acknowledgement that the experience of womanhood being defended here–that of white women– is not universal, but is under attack and worthy of being defended, all the same.
Perhaps, also, if white women could recognize SlutWalk as being rooted in white female experience, it would provide an opportunity for them to participate in coalition and solidarity with similar movements that are inclusive and reflective of the experiences of women of color.
One example is the Stop Street Harassment movement– a multiracial movement that has led to “Stop Street Harassment” campaigns throughout the U.S. and abroad. It is that movement which is the subject of Hey Shorty! This movement, too, works from the premise that streets and schools should be safe for women, but it recognizes that challenges to that safety while similar in some respects, can differ across race and class. And as I said, earlier, different histories necessitate different strategies. In that regard, I don’t think sisters will be lining up to go on a symbolic “Ho Stroll” anytime soon.
We’d like to hear from you. What are your feelings on these two movements and the connections and divergences between each?
I am very impressed with the British TV show Hollyaoaks! I just discovered the program on You Tube yesterday. I really like the gay love triangle storyline between Noah, Ste, and Brendan. I notice that Noah is a confident, young, gay black man he is not conflicted with his homosexuality. It is very refreshing to see a young gay black man not be a tortured, depressed, character.
However, Ste the white British youth is very conflicted about his sexuality. Ste loves Noah and Brendan. Brendan is an older gay man and he clearly is not good for Ste. Ste and Brendan have a codependent relationship they basically are manipulating and hurting each other. Ste is clearly very attracted to Brendan but he realizes Brendan cannot give him the kind of homosexual relationship he wants. Meanwhile, Noah is a good person, he is a well adjusted young gay black man. Ste desires a loving relationship with Noah but he is conflicted about his feelings for him. Who will Ste choose Noah or Brendan? I think the British are more progressive in dealing with race and sexuality issues on television than North Americans. I wonder, would a storyline between two gay teens in an interracial relationship ever occur on North American television?