Last Monday Jason Collins went from being a journeyman NBA center at the tail end of his career to a media darling, and a hero depending on who you ask. His announcemnt that he is gay put a face on the "active gay athlete" and garnered him praise and salutations from peers in the NBA all the way up to Presidents Clinton and Obama. To me the announcement was ironic because a month ago, I met the original gay NBA trailblazer, John Amaechi, who confirmed his homosexuality shortly after retiring. In attendance at the talk that Dr. Amaechi gave at Harvard Westlake was Jaron Collins (pictured right with Dr. Amaechi making me look short), one of HWs proudest alums, twin brother of Jason, and former teammate of Amaechi. I came to find out last week that part of Jarron's reason for catching up with his old teammate was to put him in contact with his brother, who he knew was thinking about coming out. As the media circus unfolded last week, I couldn't help but think how lucky the NBA is to have Jason Collins be that "first". He's not someone who's had trouble of any kind during his career. To a man, those who have played with him over the last decade have had positive things to say. Knowing Mr. and Mrs Collins, I felt that Jason wouldn't face the type of questioning that others would because of the "Huxtable-like" family he comes from. As this week has unfolded, I'm sure Hot 97 Mister Cee wishes he had such a support system.
The famous NY deejay, noted for his relationship with the Notorious B.I.G (RIP) was arrested this week for soliciting an undercover cop posing as a male prostitute, his third such arrest. While he instantly become a popular hashtag topic and rival radio personalities like Power 105's Charlamagne tha God called for him to "come out" the DJ continued to identify as heterosexual. Much of the discussion around whether or not a homosexual athlete could confirm their sexual orientation and therefore affirm their full identity centered around the response that would come from the lockerroom. The lockerroom, in these discussions is characterized as the "chapel of true manhood" and Chris Culliver of the 49ers confirmed that line of thinking during Super Bowl week when he spoke about not wanting "that sweet stuff" around him. While ex-NBA player Larry Johnson has been one of the few voices to echo Culliver's sentiment of being uncomfortable, many in the NBA, such as Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace expressed support and noted that a players sexuality meant little to the ultimate goal of getting buckets and winning. The response of the hip-hop community has been far less welcomng, and it is no wonder that even if Mister Cee is homosexual, that he would feel the community where he makes his money would accept him.
In his 3:00 "Donkey of the Day" Charlamagne calls for Mister Cee to "live his truth", but also calls him "sis", "boo", and a "serial purchaser of penis"for all of NY to hear. Can we really be surprised that while Charlamagne was ranting, Mister Cee was defending himself on Hot 97 spinning a tale of how the police are out to get him? You can tell me all you want that the hip-hop world is ready to except homosexual figures like Frank Ocean. I think the evidence proves otherwise. So while Jason Collins can come out in a league where it is now bad for the bottom line to be a homophobe, bolstered by the cache of where he went to school and the people he knows, not to mention the cocoon of a loving family and millions in career earnings, Mister Cee will be material for memes, tweets and hip-hop lyrics for years to come. Damn shame because no matter a person's orientation, they should be able to feel fully human. Unfortunately, being a mainstream male rapper still means having to sport an ultra-masculine persona. Success and prowess in hip-hop is gained by "battling" aka "manning up". Being a homosexual does not fit that archetype.
On Another Note
Lil' Wayne lost his deal with Pepsi over lyrics in a song where he invoked the name of Emmit Till in a manner that the Till family didn't find to respectful. This comes on the heels of Rick Ross losing his Reebok deal over lyrics deemed to be cosigning rape. I hope rappers in particular and entertainers in general are starting to understand that they can have all the freedom of speech they want, but it will affect their pockets at some point. I don't agree with what Pepsi did because I could write a paper on damaging Lil Wayne lyrics before this one set the Till family off, but I do understand the rules of the corporate game. So rappers have a choice to make: bring the lyrics within the boundaries of what big companies are willing to throw money behind or take full advantage of freedom of speech and unapologetically tell the stories you want? The answer will show how truly street smart some of these cats are.