Stick to Your Day Job

“This is about the time, when I start talking about politics, that the internet trolls tell me to stick to my day job–so I’d like to talk about my day job. My day job is as the chairman and the co-founder of Thorn. We build software to fight human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” said Ashton Kutcher to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Feb. 15th.

We know him as Kelso on That 70’s Show, or maybe as the host of Punk’d. We do not question his authority on stoner comedy or celebrity pranks. So why, when we discover that Kutcher also plays a leading role in combating human trafficking, do we ask that he stick to boob jokes and prank calls? Why should celebrities have a say in issues other than new fashion trends and diet fads?

We consume more media every day than we may even be aware of. Some days, college students hear more from the stars of their favorite Netflix show than they do from their parents. Celebrities tell us what lipstick to buy or what shoes to wear. Their songs affect our mood and their social media posts affect our timelines. Prominent figures have voices of varying influence in the lives of thousands, and in some cases millions of people. Now, with so many issues coming to national attention as we combat an oppressive White House administration, those voices can change the way we think about social justice and equality.

In February 2016, Tomi Lahren emerged as a well-known conservative figure when she critiqued Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show, saying that the use of Black Panther imagery in Beyonce’s performance of “Formation” was “not about equality, [but] about ram-rodding an aggressive agenda down our throats and using fame and entertainment value to do so.” Lahren is not necessarily wrong; Beyonce did wisely use her own staggering fame and new catchy tune to spread a message. From Lahren’s perspective, that message had no appeal. Lahren has never been a woman of color in a white man’s world. Yet to the young black girls who grew up in a country that treated them as a second thought, Beyonce’s message of black female power was encouraging. With this performance, Beyonce told women of color that they are worthy, strong, and absolutely unstoppable. Beyonce realized the platform she had, and used it to empower black women on a national level. All while working her “day job”.

A celebrity is, by definition, someone who is widely known. What they do with that influence is up to them. Some shy away from the responsibilities of having an amplified voice in a rebellious society. Yet others understand that it is a part of their “day job” to influence the consumers of media. We are all have different parts to play in today’s tumultuous political landscape. What if those cast in the starring roles didn’t deliver the lines needed to resolve the conflict? How would we ever be able to understand the perspectives of others and work towards a resolution?

Homophobic Hip Hop

If you’re like me, the release of Migos’ new album was the highlight of your week when it came out, and you’ve been blasting it ever since. At the gym, in your car, walking through campus; it really doesn’t matter, because the album is consistently lit enough to get you through any part of your day.

Following the release of their album, Migos interviewed with Rolling Stone, during which the interviewer asked how they felt about iLoveMakonnen coming out. Apparently this was news to Migos, and there was an awkward silence before Quavo expresses his surprise. Even more, they express distaste with the fans and others who supported iLoveMakonnen’s decision, with Offset saying, “This world is not right.” Along with many others, Migos seem to believe that not being cisgendered and heterosexual undermines the credibility of a hip hop artist.

This attitude is not at all new to hip hop culture. While some artists have been accepted in mainstream culture recently, for the most part the hip hop culture and lifestyle is seen as incompatible with anyone whose identity lies outside of gender norms. This credibility issue continues to come up, with even artists that say they support LGBTQ artists not wanting to have ties with them. When giving statements supporting the LGBTQ community and the artists that identify with some part of it, straight hip hop artists often preface their support with, “I’m not gay but…” Why is this qualifier necessary? Why is hip hop so determined to separate itself from certain groups of people?

Some artists don’t believe hip hop culture will ever fully accept LGBTQ artists in their ranks, because, according to an interview with Snoop Dogg, it’s such a “masculine” genre. Migos themselves have often raved about the diversity of hip hop in Atlanta, yet cannot reconcile the idea that diversity can include personal identities about sexuality. With hip hop lyrics often littered with slurs about gay men, artists who don’t identify as straight men are often disinclined to be real about their sexuality, in fear of losing “credibility” in the hip hop culture.

In a Vulture article earlier this month, the writer posits that rejecting the idea that anyone who is not straight can be a “real” hip hop artist is simply bigotry used to protect the hierarchy in hip hop culture. To be a “real man” means certain things, and for the most part, hip hop doesn’t seem inclined to work to change that.

There have been a train of artists working to provide more inclusion for LGBTQ artists in hip hop. Many, like Jay-Z, have changed their tune concerning old lyrics spouting homophobia, apologizing for them. The recent uptick in artists coming out has forced many hip hop artists to grapple with their own homophobia, and if they are still going to discriminate against artists, and other individuals, who don’t fit their idea of a “real” hip hop artist. While hip hop has often been used as a tool of social activism to fight against injustice, it seems that a glaring blind spot has existed with LGBTQ rights, and will most likely exist for a long time until many more artists within hip hop work to change that aspect of culture that discredits artists who aren’t straight men.

 

For further reading:

Snoop Lion Talks Homosexuality in Rap Music, Frank Ocean’s Coming Out

Migos’ Wild World: One Night Inside the Studio with ‘Bad and Boujee’ Trio

Rap is Less Homophobic Than Ever, But It Has a Long Way to Go

How Homophobic is Hip Hop in 2016?

Has Hip Hop Outgrown Homophobia?: A Timeline

From A$AP to Jay Z: 15 Hip Hop Stars Who Think Homophobes are Muthaf*ckers

Hey Drake, Depression Isn’t Just a Phase

Telling a Black parent about struggling with depression or anxiety will typically warrant a response of this nature: “It’s just a phase,” “Just pray about it,” or my personal favorite, “Just think about all the good things you have.” This is largely due to the stigma that surrounds mental health in the Black community: A stigma that either denies mental health as a real illness or categorizes it as a weakness that the victim can simply “get over.”

Popular Hip Hop artist Drake reinforced this belief in his new song Two Birds, One Stone. Drake made the song as a diss track in response to comments made by Kid Cudi, another Hip Hop artist. Soon after Cudi’s original diss, the artist took to twitter and apologized for the unnecessary comments about Drake and other artists. Cudi then revealed that he is fighting depression and suicidal thoughts and will be checking into a rehabilitation center to seek professional help.

Over the weekend, Drake decided to release a response to Cudi’s criticism towards him, but instead of criticizing Cudi’s music, Drake attacked Kid Cudi’s struggle with depression. In his lyrics Drake writes You were the man on the moon//Now you just go through your phases//Life of the angry and famous”.

It was hurtful to listen to someone I look up to reinforce everything that is wrong with the way the Black community views mental health issues. Drake supported the destructive idea that depression is not a serious illness, but rather a weakness and a fault. Drake’s behavior is harmful because as an influential black male, his opinion on this subject matters more than most. Black males are the most marginalized in expressing their struggles with mental health issues because they must deal with the stigma of “weakness” that surrounds the subject and how this intersects with the expected gender roles for black males.

So, to Drake and any other person who does not understand mental illness: depression is NOT like that emo “phase” you went through when you were 13. Depression is not someone just choosing to be angry and sad all the time. Thinking about all the good things one has won’t cure the chemical imbalance that causes depression. Depression is not Child’s Play and it’s definitely not something you can use to prove you’re a better rapper than another person. Get it together, Aubrey.