Is All Fair in Rap?

Syd the Kyd is a lesbian hip-hop artist, but is her message worth embracing?

Tyler the Creator didn’t make too many gay fans last year after his songs were found to be littered with misogynist and homophobic rants. But as a member of Odd Future Golf Wang Kill Them All, the controversial hip-hop collective that boasts Creator as a member, and one-half of The Internet (with a new album out last month called Purple Naked Ladies), Syd the Kyd could become the next, most controversial hip-hop artist on the scene.

Courtesy of Syd the Kyd

On the recent album, Kyd raps about her girlfriends, love affairs and life, but her defense of Tyler the Creator and the homophobic climate in the rap world has fans questioning whether she’s all that great of a spokesperson for LGBT rappers, which – let’s face it – are few and far between.

Kyd was recently profiled in Out magazine, where she says: “Most of the homos I know use homophobic slurs, and it’s never a problem unless someone who’s not a part of the group is using the word. But a lot of people take things out of context, and you’ve got to understand that there is a difference between saying, ‘Hey, you faggot’ and ‘Hey, faggot.’ When Tyler says ‘faggot,’ he’s not referring to gays, he’s referring to lame people. And in our vocabulary, that’s what the word ‘faggot’ means. I’m not offended by the word ‘faggot’ – and I am one.”

We’ve always understood that unspoken rule about slurs being reversed and used positively within a community for which they were once hated – a form of taking back an insult and making it one’s own (the history of the “N” word suggests as much). And we certainly get that some folks are offered a kind of carte blanche over these otherwise offensive words, using them as a way toward empowerment rather than as the slurs they were once meant to be. But as far as we can tell, using a word like “faggot” to describe a lame person is, well, pretty darn lame. It’s more than lame – it’s downright nasty. And we would like to think that someone who identifies as being L,G,B or T would know better than to defend a straight guy using the word in such a derogatory manner.

It seems at though Syd the Kyd – while a groundbreaker for being one of the only out lesbian rappers on the scene otherwise dominated by straight men (not to mention noteworthy for her fresh sound and solid arrangements) – has adopted much of the act that these overly macho rappers have used for years – one that demeans women, celebrates violence and basically subscribes to the “I am the king of the world” mantra and all the swagger that comes with it.

Gangsta rap from years gone by may have told legitimate stories about what it was like growing up in the hood, poetically so, but when a female rapper like Kyd – who, too, has unique stories to tell and has (as far as we can see) the power to do so in a memorable way – starts aping the boy’s club, we have to wonder about her credibility. This is especially true for the song “Cocaine” and the video (definitely NSFW) that shows the rapper meeting a girl, doing lines and then tossing her unconscious body out of a car.

Not exactly empowering.