WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU! You know the Tyra GIF.
I don’t need to explain that moment in Tyra Banks history. Tyra, standing on a pedestal and screaming, “I was rooting for you!” is the first thing that came to mind when I read the seemingly homophobic comments Migos made to Rolling Stone about openly gay rapper iLoveMakonnen.
Before I get to the specifics of those comments, let’s start with breaking down the magic of Migos. Lainey and I have wanted to celebrate Migos on the blog for a while. Until yesterday, any time I thought of Migos, I smiled. I mentioned the Atlanta trio briefly when Donald Glover won his Golden Globe and declared Bad & Boujee the “best song ever.” If you’ve heard Bad & Boujee, you know this statement is only a slight exaggeration. Bad & Boujee was the reigning #1 song in America for weeks (it’s currently #2) and in the first week of their album Culture’s release, Migos landed their first number 1 album. After years of being that group Atlanta hip-hop fans were yelling at you to pay more attention to, Migos is everywhere. They are on top of the world. And it means something that three related black boys—Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle and Offset is their cousin—who grew up in Gwinnett County, Georgia are garnering this much industry respect and mainstream adoration.
Migos is not only dominating the charts right now but they are also dominating, inventing and redefining the culture. Migos popularized the dab. Now, 60 year old white men are dabbing. Your grandma probably knows the dab. Since their breakout 2013 hit Versace, the “Migos flow” has been dissected by music blogs and imitated in almost every club banger of the past few years. No, they aren’t the first to rap in eighth-note triplets but since Migos, this flow has become a staple in the trap songs that are ruling the charts. As much as their signature style has been celebrated, it has also been maligned for its simplistic and somewhat silly nature. Migos raps about sex, drugs and nice cars, the sh-t people make fun of rappers for rhyming about. Full disclosure: I’m usually more into the Kendricks and Commons of hip-hop, the rappers who prove the genre can be intellectually superior to any other art form, evidence that politics have a place in a prose created by black people and that rap can be a way to protest.
But, for me, Migos is the current exception. I can't deny the black boy joy that Quavo, Takeoff and Offset radiate. Their protest is rooted in their audacity to be authentic and jubilant. Migos songs are infectious and intoxicating. I was on a tight deadline for this piece and I literally took a 10 minute break to listen to Culture for the millionth time and chair dance at my desk. They have also perfected the trade-off verse-for-verse lyrical style that reminds me of the Fugees, my all-time favourite hip-hop group. The Migos flow is more sluggish and lazy than anything Lauryn, Pras and Wyclef did but their chemistry is similar. If you need the ultimate explanation of how big they are right now, Migos have, jokingly and then quite seriously, been called the black Beatles.
I say all of this because I want you to understand how excited so many hip-hop fans were about Migos. Then came the Rolling Stone profile. Here's the full excerpt:
I’m surprised by Migos’ reaction when I mention iLoveMakonnen, the local MC who just came out as gay on Twitter. “Damn, Makonnen!” Quavo bellows after an awkward interlude. 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.”
So yeah, these comments are f-cked up and SO disappointing. Migos and iLoveMakonnen are both from Atlanta. The question is valid. The writer was hoping for an acknowledgment of support for a fellow rapper for the courage it takes to come out to the world. Instead, Quavo implies that Makonnen loses credibility because he is gay. Plus, as Micah Peters writes at The Ringer, “you can’t gesture at homosexuality being against the natural order of things and expect to broad-stroke over it with a half-hearted qualifier.”
Since these comments, Migos posted a half-hearted apology in which they claim they “have no problem with anyone’s sexual preference.
I don’t think it’s enough to ease fears that these three won’t continue to perpetuate the horrible stereotype that rappers are intolerant. Quavo and Offset are both 25. Takeoff is 22. I’ve written before about the hope that the next generation will not carry forward the f-cked up views of the generation before them. I’ve written that young millennials are the hope we cling to when times are exceptionally bad. Times are exceptionally bad so when you hear young men speaking like this so freely, it’s upsetting to say the least. We also have to acknowledge the climate and culture in which these young men have been raised. When I wrote about the homophobic reaction to a photo of Michael B Jordan and his director Ryan Coogler, I noted the shameful history of homophobia in the black community. I should clarify to say that homophobia in hip-hop has an even more shameful and obvious history. Lainey has written about the backlash Rae Sremmund received for sharing an intimate moment on the cover of The Fader. There is also countless lyrical evidence of the anti-gay rhetoric that has been prevalent in rap music. So, do we just chalk this up to impressionable young boys saying dumb sh-t based on the values they learned through the very genre they owe their livelihood to? Or do we ask more of Migos? Like I said, they are leading the culture. They hang with Kylie and Tyga. Say what you will about those two but they have influence over millions of teens. And now, so do Migos. Even though they are so young, actually ESPECIALLY because they are so young, I think we have to ask Migos to be better. We should expect and demand it.
Last year, I wrote a glowing piece about Kevin Hart. Shortly after it was posted, I got an email from a gay reader about how disappointed he was that I praised a man who has said some shady sh-t about the gay community. This reader was calling out my ignorance for not knowing about Hart’s past comments. He was right. Hart’s comments – as they should – will follow him for his whole career. It might be the same for Migos. No one gets it right all the time but something like this should be a moment for Migos to take a step back and realize their own ignorance. I’ll leave you with something Lainey said when we were emailing about this topic:
If we’re reluctant to be the first to call ourselves out, how will we ever move forward?
So, call me naïve but I will continue to root for Migos and hope that moving forward, they will do better.