Digging in hip hop’s closet is a pitiful sport.
This Tuesday I published a column on bet.com recapping the by then confirmed rumors that Biggie's former DJ and mentor had been arrested for public lewdness. I wrote that I was more interested in a discussion about decriminalizing sex work than I was in one about Mister Cee’s sexuality or any same-sex sex habits he may have. As with so many stories that happen in the world today, the Mister Cee story broke for me on Twitter.
As for many, Twitter for me is a place that invokes a buffet of feelings. A political news junkie, the thrill of breaking stories has me both checking my Twitter feed hourly and tweeting my observational predictions about unfolding revolutions or as I perhaps a bit glibly called them on Twitter when demonstrators in Yemen began protesting as March Madness was wrapping up, my ‘North African bracket.’ I “follow” on Twitter a deeply engaged, brilliant and witty group of everyday intellectuals, sports fanatics and rare groove enthusiasts. The idea that my small, eclectic group of friends were some tiny Black exception was blown out of the water when I “met,” through Twitter hundreds of folk who watch The Boondocks, memorize Zeppelin, world travel and are as passionate about Sudan as they are about Ntozake Shange. And then there are the people on Twitter, generally a generation younger than me, who have some (mostly misguided) idea of me as someone “in the industry” and send me links to mixtapes. Or worse. I've closed a Twitter account that had become for me too public, @dreamhampton, and restarted under another name. I've locked and unlocked this new account, in useless attempts to manage how public I am. Still, I am on Twitter. A lot. Because these things are on record, I know that I seldom tweet about hip hop.That my timeline, random and impossible to call one particular thing, places hip hop at its center maybe ten percent of the time.
After publishing my piece on Tuesday, the conversation about Mister Cee resumed on my Twitter feed. I received some homophobic tweets directed at me, some very legitimate responses from Black women who didn't like that I seemed to blame them for down low behavior, and a lot of support for my article. I then remembered on my timeline that Big had a friend from his neighborhood, who always appeared gay to me, but whom Big would always ‘defend’ as simply being ‘feminine.’ A few weeks before Big was murdered, when he came to L.A. where I was living, Big told me this friend had come out of the closet with no verbal announcement, but by quite boldly bringing his boyfriend on The Ave. (Fulton St., in Brooklyn) as if it were the most natural thing in the world to introduce his boyfriend to the men he'd grown up with, the boys who'd become Junior Mafia. Big’s exact words were: “Yo, you were right.... that n---a brought his man on The Ave.” I asked Big at the time, in January of 1997, if his friend bringing his boyfriend back to the hood bothered him. Big told me “Whatever, that’s still my n---a.”
The remembering of that moment between me and Big, who in 1997 had been one of my closest friends for six years, was unpacked in three or four tweets. Those tweets were captured as screen shots and used by Bossip and then allhiphop with sensational headlines that apparently poor readers took to mean I was questioning Big’s sexuality. Even if read correctly, it became an opportunity to speculate about Big’s sexuality, offering his lyrics as evidence. As I wrote in Tuesday's column about Cee, digging in hip hop’s closet is a pitiful sport.
For my part, I apologize to Big’s friend. I always admired the open way he was in his hood. Young New York Black LBGT and/or those merely exploring, often leave their neighborhoods for Manhattan’s West Village and West Side Highway piers to openly be themselves. Big’s lifelong friend, who later became Lil Kim’s stylist, impressed me when he brought a lover on The Ave. It was not only brave of him, but revealed how much he trusted the men he grew up with to, if not ‘support’ his love choices, at least not treat him anydifferently than they had their whole lives. I was inspired when Big didn't have a homophobic response to his friend’s coming out of the closet. I remembered that story on my pubic timeline because I was saddened by the discourse around Mister Cee. Still, by naming him, and tweeting a pic that was readily accessible on the Internet, I have put a spotlight on him that I never intended. As an LBGT ally, I support the position that ‘outing’ is wrong.
That the discussion has further devolved to my receiving rape threats or worse is only so much more misogyny to add to the heap of homophobia from kids who can barely read or even Google.
This Monday I received a copy of Manning Marable’s epic, definitive biography of Malcolm X. I asked my 17 thousand followers on Twitter: “If Marable’s two decades of research yields evidence that Malcolm X had same-sex sex would you abandon him as your hero?” Last week, when statistics were published that show there are more Black men in prison than there were enslaved in early America, I began a Twitter conversation about sex and silence about sex in prison. I won't stop thinking aloud about these issues. I try to do so thoughtfully.
And finally, I never called Big gay. Though calling someone gay, will never for me be an insult.