What is the origin of the 90's/00's "gay rapper" rumor?
July 13, 2017 1:49 PM   Subscribe

Among rap fans, before rap music crossed over to its current level of cultural ubiquity, there was a constant conversation about how it was widely known in the rap industry that there was a gay rapper, and that his identity was yet to be exposed. (This was variously said to be Eric Sermon, Raekwon, Busta Rhymes, Redman, Keith Murray, eventually Ja Rule . . .) Does anyone know the early sources where this rumor appeared, either in print, the Web, or rap songs?

A few additional comments:

1. I'd like to state up front that (1) I get that the concept of a single gay rapper in an industry of hundred of signed rappers is obviously preposterous on its face and that (2) obviously the entire content of this conversation was steeped in the anti-gay bigotry of the music at that time and, to an extent, still today.

2. Google-fu fails me because googling "the gay rapper," which was the exact phrase that anchored this old conversation, tends to link more recent news from the ongoing era of rap's too-gradual opening to LGBTQ people - pro-gay comments by Kanye or Common, people like iLoveMakonnen coming out, and of course, current acts who arrived on scene open about being LGBTQ (Le1F, Cakes da Killa, etc).

3. I'm really talking maybe 1997 to 2007 here, something like that - from the rap and graffiti magazine era through the hey day of rap blogs. Some examples of what I'm talking about -

- This old NORE interview from Life Sucks Die (excerpted at Nah Right) is probably from something like 2000 (I think it's in the Winter 2000 issue but can't find my old copy). It doesn't mention "the gay rapper" but it's an example of the tone of the conversation and the sorts of places where I used to come across it.

- These old links from Unkut.com, and the comments therein, are also representative.

- This Gawker article from 2008 calls the question "a parlor game in hip hop for years," and I've not read the book reviewed there, "Hiding in Hip Hop," to see whether it sheds light on the origin of the sub-cultural meme itself.

4. For what it's worth, in my mind the stir caused by the 2006 Lil Wayne/Birdman kiss really marks the end of this era for some reason. I can't say why, and maybe I'm wrong, but that's how it seemed to me. Though recent googling indicates that it's still a conversation on some sites.

5. I'm not interested in knowing who was the subject of the rumor, and I presume there is no single person who was. Just interested in tracking down where this conversation, and the specific language of "the gay rapper," as opposed to "gay rappers" or "so and so is gay" came from.
posted by kensington314 to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know the answer, but I bet hip-hop historian Jeff Chang does. Here's the contact page from his website. Can't hurt to try.
posted by Dr. Wu at 3:05 PM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

A mere fragment but Canibus' 1998 freestyle "It's Logic" (Tony Touch tape #55) has a mention: "Yo! you can even admit, you know who the gay rapper is!"
posted by Lorin at 5:56 PM on July 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Prodigy (RIP) from Mobb Deep always had gay rumors swirling around him. The origin is one dude has rumors around him and then it's a thing lots of people talk about.
posted by so fucking future at 7:06 PM on July 13, 2017

I know exactly what you're talking about and I am pretty sure I googled it in the past couple years trying to find out who "the gay rapper" turned out to be. It's not something that seems to exist on google. I don't think the rapper's identity ever came out and probably was made-up. Anyway, I seem to recall reading an article in The Source (or maybe even Vibe? something else?) that seemed to be about it, but as I recall (I was young at the time!) it didn't necessarily sound like the first time the idea had been discussed in the hip-hop community. The timing of that article would've probably been somewhere between 1996 and like 1998. If I were you and I were serious about tracking this down, I'd maybe check back issues of The Source.

It's so weird thinking about things that aren't googable because the internet didn't exist in the same way yet but these things slipped through the cracks of what people still talk about or saved records of.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:47 PM on July 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

This question really piqued my interest, so I googled some more specifically re: the origins of the rumor itself to answer your question and this looks like your answer:

In 1997, One Nut magazine, the now-defunct Connecticut based hip-hop magazine, released a series of interviews with a famous rap artist who acknowledged that he was gay but insisted upon remaining anonymous.


That same year, gossip journalist Wendy Williams also announced that one of hip-hop’s most famous artists was gay.


This article from Vice also mentions it started with "One Nut" and then Wendy Williams.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:01 PM on July 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

According to Suge Knight, Dr. Dre is 'bi'.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:38 AM on July 14, 2017

Could it be Luke Caswell, aka Cazwel?
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 7:57 AM on July 14, 2017

Jay Smooth also identifies the One Nut interview as the origin
posted by Prunesquallor at 8:24 AM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh wow, reading these links it does seem like One Nut was the specific smoking gun you're looking for. There were certainly rumors before then (Eazy-E died in 1995 and that set off quite a bit of talk about HIV/AIDS and homosexuality), but the interview in question seems to be a reasonable point of origin for the idea that a closeted gay rapper had self-identified as such. Neat thread!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:07 AM on July 14, 2017

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