On Monday morning, rapper DaBaby became a trending topic after footage of someone throwing a shoe at him during his Rolling Live festival set that weekend made the rounds. DaBaby dodged the shoe and tried to play it cool, asking, “who the fuck threw that motherfuckin’ busted ass goddamn Adida?” But this wasn’t necessarily the work of a drunk and disorderly member of the crowd; timing is everything. The incident occurred just after DaBaby made a slew of homophobic and sexist remarks: “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up;” “Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up;” “Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up.”
The statements came after DaBaby’s brazen move to invite Tory Lanez to the stage, a rapper who is arguably most famous for allegedly shooting rapper Megan Thee Stallion last summer during a domestic dispute. DaBaby even performed both “Cash Shit” and “Cry Baby,” two Megan Thee Stallion songs that included DaBaby as a feature. And as if the optics couldn’t get worse, Megan performed on the Rolling Live stage just before DaBaby did.
There’s more backstory still: In June, DaBaby retweeted a joke mocking the shooting. In an apparent subtweet about DaBaby, Megan wrote, “Support me in private and publicly do something different. These industry men are very strange. This situation ain’t no damn ‘beef,’ and I really wish people would stop downplaying it like it’s some internet shit for likes and retweets.”
Such brazen disrespect warranted a shoe-throw, but it also speaks to a larger point about the state of hip hop in 2021. Or, rather, straight men’s place in hip hop, and the ways in which the vilest misogynists and homophobes are bristling against the increased visibility of women and queer people in the genre.
The long male-dominated genre has seen women rise to the top of the game in the last few years, with people like Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Cardi B quickly becoming household names with a speed that their contemporary male counterparts can’t lay claim to. For the better part of the last decade, only Nicki Minaj has managed to reign supreme in what often feels like a boys’ club of a genre, but there is no one token woman in hip hop making major moves today; now we have City Girls and Saweetie, Rico Nasty and Flo Milli, BIA and Latto. And openly gay hip hop artists have also risen to prominence, like Young M.A and, most notably, Lil Nas X, who has released viral hit after viral hit from “Old Town Road” to “Montero.” His most recent song “Industry Baby” includes the line, “I don’t fuck bitches, I’m queer, hah” and also features a video full of Black men twerking butt naked and thotting it up with no reservations. Naturally, it made Black conservative men blather on about gay agenda conspiracy theories, which Lil Nas X, a social media genius, batted away with ease.
When Loud Mouth social commentator Dr. Boyce Watkins accused Lil Nas X of “marketing the sexual irresponsibility that’s causing young men to die from AIDS,” Lil Nas X replied, “y’all be silent as hell when niggas dedicate their entire music catalogue to rapping about sleeping with multiple women[,] but when i do anything remotely sexual i’m “being sexually irresponsible” & “causing more men to die from aids.” He added, “y’all hate gay ppl and don’t hide it.”
Lil Nas X lives for controversy, but the constant push for him to justify his existence in the public eye and in hip-hop must be taxing. But taxing is the best description for plenty of the contradictions that plague women and LGBTQ artists in hip hop. If it isn’t Lil Nas X supposedly acting as part of a conspiracy to turn Black men effeminate, it’s Megan Thee Stallion being accused of lying about domestic abuse or Cardi B getting hate for not being a good role model. The girls and gays might be putting a solid foothold in hip hop that hasn’t been seen at this volume before, but they’re still surrounded by constant reminders that they will always be more heavily scrutinized and treated with far less respect than their straight male peers among both fans and artists alike.
It’s worth noting that DaBaby seems more interested in aligning himself with a forgettable rapper who allegedly shot Megan than Megan herself, a star whose rise appears limitless. That, alone, underlines the lasting appeal—the sheer normality—of the outdated and patriarchal dominance that still has a hold on hip hop’s major players. Getting with the winning team, so the thinking goes, isn’t worth having their masculinity threatened—and considering the bluster required in hip hop, all this insecurity is oozing with irony.