“[Hip-Hop] started with the alpha males. And now it’s being given to the beta males to try to flex their shit,” says Bran Nubian Lord Jamar in his recent New Yorker profile. Jamar has been releasing inflammatory statements on a weekly basis for a while now, firing shots at Kanye West for wearing a leather Givenchy skirt on stage and now at openly gay rapper Le1f for straying from hip-hop’s macho roots.
Musically, Lord Jamar is irrelevant. However, the spotlight turned to him recently after he released a song entitled “Lift up Your Skirt,” insulting West for his “pioneer[ing] of this queer shit.” Lord Jamar believes that “in order to preserve a culture there are certain guidelines and boundaries that have to be there.”
Hip-hop culture is not about xenophobia or fear of the unknown; it is about combating those issues and more. Lord Jamar’s hateful messages turn him into an oppressor. His actions go against the philosophy of the movement he is trying to “preserve.”
Le1f is primarily known for being an openly gay MC, but he is first and foremost and creative artist who brings the all-too-often homophobic hip-hop world a new flavor. He recently performed live on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” advertising his latest project, Hey. Following his performance, Lord Jamar responded to a fan on twitter who sent him the video of Le1f’s performance, exclaiming:
Lord Jamar sounds and acts like a conspiracy theorist obsessed with the “feminization” of hip-hop. Le1f performing on a nationally-televised late-night show will always be positive for the culture. This kind of exposure is another in a long line of steps towards acceptance and respect for hip-hop.
Le1f released an inspiring statement in response to Jamar. In it, he breaks down the struggles he has faced and highlights the ignorance that fed Jamar’s judgements. It reads:
Dear Lord Jamar,
Choose your battles. If the whitening of rap is a concern to you, please leave my name out of it. If you think being gay is the same as being white, you are as ignorant as your enemies. I’m darker than you. I’m african. I’m a black man and I experience all the same racism you do, if not more, on top of homophobia, including from black men just like you. Are you proud of being a hateful member of a majority? Rap started out as a creative response to oppression, and no matter my outfit, I know oppressions you will never understand.
“Alpha males” do not speak down on others based on their appearance or dress. They do not keep hip-hop from growing by using negative stereotypes. “Alphas” are game changers, leaders, and innovators. Chance The Rapper, who is using a vibrant and refreshing sound to call attention to Chicago’s murder epidemic, is an “Alpha.” Nicki Minaj, who is bending the definitions of masculinity and femininity, who is destroying rap patriarchy, is an “Alpha.”
“Alpha” artists prove to the less enlightened that femininity and masculinity are not based on who puffs their chest out the most or who dresses differently. Being an “Alpha” and being a part of hip-hop are about empowerment and representing voices that need to be heard. Le1f is one of them.
by Julia Schur '15