A few weeks ago, cultural critic and City College professor R. L’Heureux Lewis recently posted an article on hip-hop’s “No Homo” phenomenon. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a series of run-ins with people who punctuate their sentences with “No Homo” or “Pause” in order to reassert their heterosexuality. Here are a few examples:
I was hanging out with two multi-platinum selling rappers who shall remain nameless. I asked the first rapper why he was able to sell so many records. He replied, “I couldn’t have done if [rapper#2] hadn’t gotten behind me on the project. Pause. No Homo!”
My brother and I were playing basketball with some young guys in our neighborhood. One of the guys, who was 6’5 and cocky, demanded that we pass him the ball on every possession. Each time our team had the ball, he would scream “Feed me! No Homo… Give it to me! No Homo”
I stumbled into a local restaurant during karaoke night. One the men, who was apparently a regular, decided that he would depart from his normal catalog of disco covers. He grabbed the mic and said, “Tonight, I want to try something different. No Homo!”
A few hours after the NBA draft, Spike Lee was asked about Dan Dickau. Spike replied, “I love Dick!”. Gus Johnson, the uber-professional interviewer, interjects by saying “Pause.”
In some ways, “no homo” and “pause” are part of a long tradition ghetto language games that evince the quick-wit and linguistic sophistication of Black and Brown people. I must admit that it took me a few seconds to understand what the brother was talking about during karaoke night. Once I did, I laughed out loud at the childish absurdity of his decision to clarify that he wasn’t planning a gay rendezvous.
More importantly, the no-homo discourse is further evidence of hip-hop’s obsession with queer identity. After all, in order to punctuate even the most sexually non-suggestive sentences with a homophobic disclaimer, one has to constantly be thinking about homosexuality. While there’s nothing wrong with this position (pause) per se, I would think that hip-hop’s hypermasculine ethos would suggest that brothers don’t even consider “gay shit” when they’re talking. On the contrary, they seem to be thinking about little else…