Rap and Homophobia - what do the stats say?

Yung Pug

Yung Pug
July 1, 2015

"If I was gay I would think Hip-hop hates me", a line from Macklemore's landmark songSame Love, gives a sense of the relationship Rap has had with the LGBTQ community. Meanwhile, marriage equality has gained increasing acceptance from the general public culminating in the recent Supreme court's historic decision legalizing same sex marriage across US. So how has Rap evolved? To answer this Rapalytics searches for homophobic words in rap lyrics over the past 25 years!

"If I was gay I would think Hip-hop hates me" - Same Love, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Introducing Profanity Explorer from Rapalytics

Rapalytics has currently processed lyrical content of over 10,000 songs from over 150 artists. To quantify profanity, Rapalytics simply counts the number of profane words using this list and computes its percentage of the total words. There are 8 categories of profane words: N-word, Misogynistic, Homophobic, F*ck, A*s, Sh*t, Sexual and miscellaneous. This is available as a browsable visualization that lets users compare rappers and look at profanity usage over time.

Update : Readers of the article have expressed concerns about the shallowness of keyword search and ignoring context. While looking at emotionally "charged" words in isolation is not 100% accurate, it is still a strong indicator for most of the cases. The site is in its infancy and this will be refined in the upcoming versions as distributional representations (context) will replace keywords.

Homophobia over time

So lets take a look at how homophobia has changed over time. From the graph below it can be seen that homophobia rose during the Gangster-rap era, peaked during the 2000's and is on a decline since then.

% homophobic words between 1987-2013

You may notice that even during the peak, homophobic words were only about 0.025% of the total words. Compare this to misogynistic words in the graph below and you'll see thatRappers are more misogynistic than homophobic!In fact, misogyny in Rap has been on the rise from the past 6-7 years!

% Misogynistic & Homophobic words between 1987-2013

At the center of this issue is Eminem! Right from Marshal Mathers LP in 2000 to its 2nd part in 2013, his lyrics have featured several homophobic slurs. However, during the same period, Eminem has performed live on stage with Elton John and endorsed marriage equality. So lets take a look at how the above graph looks without Eminem! The red line shows the same curve excluding Eminem's lyrics. The difference is especially significant in 2013, where the homophobic levels would've dropped to pre-1990's if it wasn't for Eminem.

% homophobic words with & without Eminem between 1987-2013

So is Eminem really the most homophobic rapper? Not quite! Here are the top 10 rappers ranked by homophobia that have atleast 15,000 words processed by Rapalytics!

Artist#Words#Homophobic% Homophobic
Billy Danze37096230.062%
Kool Keith53415330.061%
Big L1561580.051%
Obie Trice24425100.041%
Styles P2489890.036%

So who are the one's with no homophobic content? Several! To get a better idea, here is a screenshot of the Artist Comparison chart for 75 most popular rappers from the profanity explorer. You can click on the image to navigate to the interactive visualization. Most notable rappers with no homophobic content include Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Tyga, Yo Gotti, T.I, 2Chainz and a hoarde of other new school rappers. By the looks of it, most of the new school rappers refrain from using any homophobic lyrics!

Click to view the interactive visualization

Click to view the interactive visualization

Its quite clear that homophobia is dying in Rap, atleast in mainstream Rap lyrics. What about the fans and the Hip-hop community? I'll leave you with this line..

Have you read the YouTube comments lately?
"Man, that's gay" gets dropped on the daily
- Same Love, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Tagged: homophobia profanity

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