The Sexist

How Censoring “No Homo” Will Help Hip-Hop

Listening to Hot 99.5 yesterday, I was interested to hear the radio station bleep out the latest trend in hip-hop homophobia: "no homo." "No homo," for the uninitiated, is a little piece of wordplay which works to neutralize any potentially "gay" interpretations of a rapper's lyrics. For a full review of the term, check out Bryan Safi's informative piece, above.

Recently, Hot 99.5 washed the term out of Kanye West's contribution to Jay-Z's "Run This Town." In the track, Kanye employs the phrase in order to insist that he does not regularly engage in gay orgies. "It's crazy how you can go from being Joe Blow," Kanye says. "To everybody on your dick—no homo."

Generally, radio censorship only inspires listeners to imagine the offensive term in their head. In the case of "no homo," however, bleeping may also serve a valuable and unintentionally hilarious function!

Apparently, bleeping out "no homo" has become pretty standard for radio stations. Recently, a poster on the IGN hip-hop message boards voiced his concern with no-no-homo radio programmers: "They bleeped out 'No homo'. What's that all about?" he writes. "No homo meaning, no gay intended. Why is that so wrong?

The IGN message board was an interesting place to raise the issue. At IGN, working "no homo" into a comment can cause a poster to be banned—unless the post is employing "no homo" in order to discuss "no homo" from a critical lens. This poster's critique amounted to an outright denial that "no homo" is a homophobic phrase. "Surely, stating that he doesn't mean anything gay by the line doesn't equate to anti-gay," he writes. "I think gays are over-protected. I really do. . . . I was banned for saying 'no homo' and I felt it was petty."

Another commenter concurs: "No homo," he writes, is "blanked out b/c it sounds Anti Gay even if the word isnt the true meaning."

Of course, the straight guy who types "no homo" with impunity isn't the best person to argue that "no homo" is unoffensive to gays. According to another IGN poster, "no homo" is "pretty wrong, kinda like saying i could go for a watermelon, 'no negro.'"

However, some more impartial "no homo" scholars have argued against the pure homophobia of the phrase. Kanye West, Slate's Jonah Weiner notes, has crusaded against homophobia in hip-hop when he's not telling everyone he's "no homo." Weiner goes on to argue that there may be a progressive lining to the term's anti-gay slur. "No homo" is "progress," Weiner writes, as it allows rappers to "smuggle in a fuller, less hamstrung notion of masculinity":

No homo . . . allows, implicitly, that rap is a place where gayness can in fact be expressed by the guy on the mic, not just scorned in others. In the very act of trying to "purify" an utterance of any gayness, after all, the no homo tag must contaminate it first—it's both a denial and a flashing neon arrow. This isn't to suggest that saying no homo is a radical act, but there's an appealing sense in which the phrase refuses to function as tidily as some of its boosters might like.

According to Weiner, the homophobia of "no homo" is somewhat mediated by the term's ability to incorporate traditionally "gay" or "feminine" sentiments into hip-hop's fold. The popularity of the phrase itself has even encouraged rappers to heighten the homoeroticism of their lyrics—in order to use "no homo" more. Weiner writes, "Often, no homo appears not just as a disclaimer but as a punch line, a See what I did there? that flaunts one's cleverness."

The radio censorship of the term poses a problem for rappers who have amped up their gay euphemisms in the name of "no homo." Writes one IGN commenter, "If they censor it, and someone hasn't heard it uncensored, doesn't that completely ruin the meaning?" In other words, when radio stations censor "no homo" following a rapper's intentionally homoerotic verse, won't that make rappers sound kind of, well, gay?

If the point of "no homo" is truly, as Weiner argues, to slowly make hip-hop less heteronormative, censoring "no homo" can only speed up the term's intended progress. Why not encourage rappers to express alternate interpretations of masculinity without an easily deconstructed verbal safety net? As for the commentators who profess that "no homo" truly has no relation to homophobia—if they're really OK with being gay, this form of censorship shouldn't chap their asses too much—no "no homo" necessary.

  • knitmeapony

    My favorite take on 'no homo' was, no surprise, Jay Smooth: http://www.illdoctrine.com/2008/08/a_beginners_guide_to_no_homo.html

  • Former Staffer

    You listen to the radio? How 90's.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    I was driving to Home Depot.

  • Truelive

    Love thy Brother. NOT TO LOVE THY BROTHER! What is the misconception here? YOU'RE GAY, FAGGOT, BITCH ASS, GUNK, FUCKBOY...WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM WITH EVERYBODY ELSE, MR./MISS/MRS. THANG? The general public is fed up with you ass, lip and dick hunting problems. Lets move on!

  • match

    100% agree with truelive.

  • big tony

    True Live I would sure love to stick my tongue in your ass. No Homo

  • http://blogs.chicagoreader.com/chicagoland/ whet moser

    @knitmeapony that was awesome. jay smooth is one of my heroes.

    i personally like "no hetero."

  • kza

    @Truelive

    You forgot to put "no homo".

  • Sarah Godfrey

    It's amazing that Cam'ron was able to popularize the phrase "no homo" and at the same time make it acceptable for men in hip-hop to wear head-to-toe pink outfits and women's jewelry. Was it some kind of subversive statement on gender, or is he just clueless?

  • http://hillratdc.blogspot.com Hill Rat

    @Sarah Godfey

    I'd go with clueless.

  • http://soulrific.theinfiniteink.com Soulrific

    I always found it strange how some people can justify saying the words "No Homo" excludes them from being gay. That's like me saying "No Black" and I am Black. Just the words alone don't hold weight.

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  • Miguel Voight

    ok so if its petty to bleep out "No homo" then if i make up a wrap and say "no negro"(im not racist just a point to be given to the equivalance) and just simply to myself change the meaning of negro....it must be ok right?? Kanye lol just do us all a favor and shut your mouth. It really is good for nothing.....and your part of "run this town tonight" is the least artistic peice of rap crap i have ever heard... and i love love love me some hip hop man. you disgrace hip hop with your blind convictions and ignorance.

  • Johnson

    I love bagles. No Jew.

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  • pogo

    When I heard that line in "Run This Town" I though it was satire. I think that he was making fun of homophobia in hip-hop, especially because he has spoken out against it in the past.

  • NO HOMO DARG

    “no homo” is “pretty wrong, kinda like saying i could go for a watermelon, ‘no negro.’”

    Dats stupid as fuck, mentioning watermelon and connecting it wit the word negro is the use of an offensive stereotype, whereas no homo is simply reassuring the lack of sexual intention.

    Although it might be offensive to others that you feel you must reassure your no homosexual, which implies you dissaprove of homosexuality they take two words way too seriously.

    FUCK HOMO'S, ALL YOU FAGGOTASS NIGGAS SUCK MY DICK

    NO HOMO

    BATTYBOI FI DEAD

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  • jb

    "No homo" is generally used after a line that could be interpreted as endorsing a gay sex act or engaging in a gay relationship, not taking on the attributes of a gay stereotype. Therefore, your "watermelon" comparison isn't very apt. To use an admittedly weak example, since I'm not really up on my gay stereotypes, you wouldn't say, "I love Sex and the City - no homo." You'd say "My boss has been on my ass all week - no homo." Homophobia is definitely a major problem in hip-hop, and "no homo" certainly stems from that problem, but on its own, I don't think it's directly homophobic. Actually, if you can put on your blinders (which you often have to do to appreciate the completely awesome but often frustrating world of hip-hop), it can be pretty damn funny.

  • http://moviereviewed.wordpress.com Gregory A. Butler

    As Jadakiss put it "A real man NEVER has to say No Homo" - in other words, if you feel the urge to use that phrase, there must be a REASON [not that there's anything wrong with that!]

  • urwifeismyhoe

    If you say "no homo" then guess what YOU ARE HOMO!!
    i dont even listen to current mainstream rap music, its not even worthy to be labeled "hip hop". hip hop is dead as far as mainstream goes, rap music is what you hear nowadays. total nonsense coming from every fuckin rapper. being gay is being advertised as something cool by big name rappers who have a lot of influence on their young fans, like lil'wayne and baby, kanye west, dipset and many more. dressing up like women and callin it "swag" in preety homo to me. listen to the beginning of the song "lollipop" by the gay midget wayne "i say HE so sweet think i wanna lick the wrapper", and grown ass men who swear they goons bob they head to that shit. personally i listen to 2pac all day, cuz even in 2010 hes the realist modafucka u could ever play on your radio.all dem gay, retarded soundin rappers could burn in hell for dumbing down our youth and turning em out to be faggots in the process.

  • celeste

    DC is not a safe place for kids in any way shape or form anymore. Homo, lesbian, it's all perversion and soon they will be having sex with their dogs. The gays who hold high positions in government are very nasty and have sever mental problems, yes thier true face has been revealed (pure evil)
    That picture is in fact pornography!

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