Way back in March 2011 I attended a symposium at Morgan State University where the keynote speaker, Dr. Antonia Randolph, did something radical: she talked about “queerness” in Hip-Hop. ::gasps:: ::clutches pearls:: She discussed at length, the premise that although Hip-Hop has long been labeled one of the most homophobic music genres, there is an awful lot of “gayness” happening within the lyrics. She talked about the infamous kiss between Lil’ Wayne and Baby (although, the kiss seems to have been magically erased from the memories of people who loved Cash Money circa 1999). She discussed hip-hop “couples” and their “breakups”: Pac and Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas. She talked about the “queer” bro-mance that’s pervasive in hip-hop but never gets talked about.
Well guess what? We ‘bout to talk about it. Right here, right now! And every Friday, we’re going to talk about music, lyrics, and sex(uality). Now, this isn’t going to be a “let’s bash Hip-Hop/rappers/female MCs for the stuff they say,” as much as it’s going to be an adult approach to lyrical analysis. We’re going to have fun and we’re going to reminisce (because some of the stuff we were listening to in the 90s… my gawd!).
So, without further ado, the first song on the block is “My N!gga” by YG*.
There are so many levels to this song that represent the depth of male relationships, love and loyalty, and sex. I’m going to lay out the themes I’ve found and analyze them. Feel free to agree with me, disagree with me, jack me up (with a perspective I didn’t see) and everything in between.
“First things first, I love all my n!ggas.” POW! The first line outlines what this brother expects from his male relationships: LOVE. YG then goes into what we call relationship modeling by providing examples of what love looks like to him: “This rap sh!t cracked and I involve my n!ggas.” For YG, becoming successful is measured by the involvement you extend to the dudes who have been in your corner; it’s the reward complex at it’s finest. Next, YG hits us with, “Take a n!gga case, yeah that’s my n!gga.” BOOM! This is the supreme display of love: self-sacrifice! Agreeing to a criminal charge that he may or may not have been a part of shows extreme affection. I mean, isn’t that what being a good parent/spouse/partner/employee is all about?! Now how about this one, “F!cked my first b*tch, passed her to my n!gga.” In this very moment, YG is answering a fundamental question the world has had about folks sleeping with the same girl and everyone being cool with it: sex becomes one of the strong bonds that hold the friendships together and displays loyalty. And to further make that point clear, earlier in his verse YG says, “He trippin off a b!tch, no that ain’t my n!gga.” It’s as if to say, how you gon’ be mad now that I’m having sex with the same chicks you’re having sex with when we’ve been doing this from the very beginning?! Sex and the emotions around sex serve as a benchmark for when the male friendship/relationship is deepening or experiencing change.
Rich Homie Quan’s Verse:
“… My n!gga fronted me, he the reason I’m straight.” This is a theme that runs through many lyrics by male MCs: the notion that it’s not his family, his girlfriend/wife/mother of his children, or even his job that keeps him above water, it’s his homeboy. And as this friendship/relationship grows between the two men, the more time they spend doing almost everything together. It almost becomes a necessity, “I fucked a n!gga b!tch with my n!gga,” and “I’ve been grinding all day outside with my n!ggas (YG’s verse).” It’s just as Dr. Randolph’s work shows, these men spend the vast majority of their days and nights with each other, not making sweet, slow love to their partner. And I am not saying that these men are wrong for not spending intimate time with their partner, rather this is meant to show that these men do understand what intimacy is because they display it everyday with their homeboys! Rich Homie Quan sums the entire thing up by saying, “Shawty seein’ me and want to leave with a n!gga/But it wasn’t enough room cause I came with my n!ggas.”
This may be comical to some and offensive to others, but when you truly analyze the lyrics we get answers to some of the deepest questions asked within our communities. People ask me so many questions about “why” we do the things we do, sexually or otherwise. I say, look to the music for the answers. When people ask why men and masculine-identified people act (sexually, romantically) the way they do, I am quick to remind them that men and masculine-identified people are learning to perform intimacy in a way that they have been taught. If you don’t like the way they perform, then (re)create the lesson-plan.
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Court is now in session, …
P.S. – YG and Rich Homie Quan, if y’all are reading this, I am not calling you two gay, I’m just saying there is some serious intimacy shared between you and your homies.
*For the sake of brevity, I only included YG and Rich Homie Quan’s verse in this analysis.