You might think that after the Migos’ first brush with accusations of homophobia, which provoked an outcry that in turn prompted an apology, the hip-hop group’s three members would do their best to avoid another headache. But here we are, united by headache over a lyric that seems homophobic and its shoddy ensuing apology/excuse.
But first, a flashback: In a Rolling Stone profile that ran last year, the group’s three members shared what seemed to be disparaging words over fellow recording artist iLoveMakonnen’s coming out:
I mention support I saw online for Makonnen’s decision. “They supported him?” Quavo asks, raising an eyebrow. “That’s because the world is fucked up,” says Offset. “This world is not right,” Takeoff says. “We ain’t saying it’s nothing wrong with the gays,” says Quavo. But he suggests that Makonnen’s sexuality undermines his credibility, given the fact that “he first came out talking about trapping and selling Molly, doing all that.”
He frowns. “That’s wack, bro.”
Migos then issued, via their Twitter, what was presented as a clarification (but really just seemed like a revision, if we’re taking Rolling Stone at its word) and one of those “sorry if you were offended” apologies:
Okay. This incident trailed the group for a bit—a rumor circulated in May that the group refused to perform alongside drag queens on SNL even though photographic evidence told a different story—but the Rolling Stone flap didn’t seem to do much damage to their reputation. They’ve had hits. Quavo is on every other fucking song released. Migos love all people; all people love Migos. Harmony restored.
Fast forward to this week. Tuesday saw the release of the video for a month-old song featuring Migos member Offset. On YFN Lucci’s “Boss Life,” Offset raps the following lines: “Pinky ring crystal clear, 40k spent on a private Lear/60k solitaire/I cannot vibe with queers.” Seems like a pretty straightforward retraction of their “We love all people” retraction!
Not so fast, says Offset, who posted an Instagram explaining that he didn’t mean “queers” as in gay—he meant “lame people who film you, post it, and stalk you”:
This seems like a load of bullshit on its face, but I think there’s some logic behind reading this credulously. Turning around less than a year after your first homophobic controversy and saying something negative about gay people and hoping no one will notice makes zero sense since you’ll only have to apologize again and, god, who has the time to waste. Today means we’re another day closer to our death. Time is running out. Of course, there is also the possibility that the cynical lesson Offset learned from the Rolling Stone gaffe is that talking recklessly about gay people yielded multiple opportunities for press. I don’t want to think that someone might think that way, but someone just might and, depending on the priorities at hand, there are very clear reasons to do so within an attention economy.
But let’s give Offset the benefit of the doubt, which means that he didn’t realize “queers” meant what virtually everyone else knew it did. It’s possible, I guess? Offset was born in 1991 and by then, “queers” had largely been reclaimed by gays and today it’s rare to hear someone use the word outside of the context of a self-identifying label. So if he hasn’t been around many conversations about LGBTQ+ identity, he may have missed the common usage of “queers.”
But look, it’s this guy’s job to be good with words. The public has put its hard-earned money behind his verbal acumen and to try to make something that is as meaningful and loaded to people “queers” mean something else is sloppy work. If what he’s saying is true, it reveals a huge blind spot in his vocabulary and cultural awareness.
On the other hand, “I’m offended I offended anybody,” is kind of a perfect way to express exasperation at backlash—even if it, too, is less than admirable.