Hip-hop/Spirituality/Freethinking. Speaking for all underdogs!
Keep the Kilt! Damn the Demagogue! (Answering Lord Jamar)
By Khalil Amani
Confession! I bought a black Scottish kilt in 2004. That shit was baaaad! It was pleated all the way around with a over-sized silver bobbie-pin and a leather belt attached to it. I never wore it though. Ended up giving it to this white dude who was into that Gothic shit. My fashion sensibilities were like that--at 44 years of age! LOL!
As gay hip-hop's self-professed "straight advocate/ally" I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't take Lord Jamar to task for his angst over kilt-wearing. Since we are both part of the Hoodgrown familia (not to mention that he's an old guy like me, so I wouldn't wanna give him a heart attack!), I'm gonna walk on semi-cracked egg shells with tha god, but I'm still gonna get it in! To put it bluntly, Lord Jamar's critique of the kilt in hip-hop is a patriarchal-centric, homophobic, infantile bromide (hackneyed statements or notions), which is devoid of any substantive historical rigor. (i.e. It's some bullshit!) Now leggo!
(Rapper Lord Jamar of the 90's rap collective Brand Nubian)
Having taken many college courses on speech, debate, English and literature allows me to see both sides of any given argument and root out the bullshit and get to the crux of the polemic. I’ve actually written blogs on both sides of the kilt-wearing debate. (See "A Kilt is Just a Kilt!," "A Kilt is Still Just a Kilt!," and "Looking Up Hip-Hop's Skirt" [in the current issue #25 of DJ Kay Slay's Straight Stuntin Magazine and @ www.khalilamani.ning.com) Having said that, I watched the Lord Jamar video on Vladtv.com (and heard his Kanye diss record) to see what his perspective was. He is a staunch opponent of rappers wearing kilts. He believes that kilt-wearing (or dress wearing) is another step in the feminization and emasculation of the black man and hip-hop. It very well may be, but excuse my "side-eye."
The questions I have are, “Are we overreacting to kilt-wearing?” “Do you really think that kilt-wearing will become as prominent as sagging?” What should we do—kill the kilt or destroy the *demagogues—those rabble-rousers who would stir up the emotions, prejudices and ignorance of the hip-hop body politic—those quasi-homophobes of the Lord Jamar ilk who have taken up the cause of destroying any semblance of kilt-wearing, while steadfastly ignoring one of the most heinous and horrendous hip-hop fashion statements evaaaar—saggin’? One has to go!
*A demagogue (//) or rabble-rouser is a political leader in a democracy who appeals to the emotions, prejudices, and ignorance of the poorer and less-educated classes in order to gain power. Demagogues usually oppose deliberation and advocate immediate, violent action to address a national crisis; they accuse moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness. (From Wikipedia)
In this kilt-case, Lord Jamar is acting as a demagogue--trying to incite fear that wearing a kilt will turn a man into a faggot homosexual. Demagogues rely on your ignorance of a given subject and if they are famous or popular people tend to think they know what they're talking about and believable. I know you don't know my ass from a hole-in-the-wall, but I'm here to throw some water on the flames of ignorance.
Very few, if any, rappers took up the mantle of dismantling niggas saggin’. Some old dude on America Idol made the biggest statement on saggin’, but was looked at as a joke because of his age and his non-singing ability. Saggin’ was allowed to persist because it took on a masculine, macho, uber-male persona. Saggin’ was gangsta! Saggin’ was cool! Saggin' represented the streets of the hood. Saggin' came from prisons the penal institutions when dudes were letting other dudes (who were presumably heterosexual, but needed a sexual release) know their ass was available for fucking! Saggin' is homo-erotic than a muthafucka!
(It took some old Negro to sing "Pants on the Ground" to make niggas see how foolish they look!)
I look at niggas drawhs just so I'll know what are the newest, in-style underwear I should be rockin'! I finally stopped wearing them G-Unit drawhs and wife-beaters and got me some shit I seent Young Jeezy wearing! (I'll take a "No Homo" with a side of "Pause" right about now! LOL!)
Do you know how many niggas ass-cracks and panties I’ve seen over the years? (Should I inject another “No homo” or “Pause” here? Hell no! You know what the fuck I mean!) There was a time when the only male ass-crack we saw was the plumber when he came by to fix our project toilet.
What Lord Jamar is not saying to us (and we're gonna keep it real, with respect to tha god)—Kilt/skirt-wearing is feminine and therefore must be attacked. Saggin’ is masculine and therefore allowed to be some hip-hop fashion statement. Kilt-wearing pulls at the heart-strings of hip-hop’s masculine aura, so it must be condemned. It all boils down to Masculinity versus Femininity, which translates as “hetero” versus “homo.”
I am no fan of anyone dictating what is or what is not hip-hop. I loathe anyone defining and dictating what hip-hop culture is and is not! It’s not like the Scottish kilt is the first time hip-hop has “borrowed” from another culture! Practically everything rappers rap about is some other folks shit—from “Beamers, Benz, and Bentleys” to the designer accoutrement of Louis Vuitton and Gucci to the Audemars watches on their wrists to the gold and diamonds rappers drape themselves in (which have been stolen from the Motherland and forged in blood) to the weave-wearing video vixen who cops her hair via the Koreans and Indians. (Not to mention how rap music “samples” music from other genres/cultures.)
It is a self-serving and moot argument, which Lord Jamar makes. Hip-hop has always been an amalgamation of cultural-borrowing right on down to the Kangols, Cazals and Shell Toes Adidas and Air Jordans, which were all created, not by the hood, but by white companies outside of the hood and co-opted by the hood.
Furthermore, Lord Jamar makes this kilt-wearing thingy a sexual preference issue when he tweeted #halfafag. Now you have left the realm of hip-hop fashion and entered into the homophobic zone. Jamar doesn't say #halfawoman! Nay! He goes for Kanye's jugular and calls him halfway gay! (Even though Kanye has had some of the hawtest [female] asses on the planet!)
Lord Jamar lays out the evolution of kilt-wearing, starting with rappers wearing earrings in both ears, followed by the love of diamonds (which used to be “a girl’s best friend!") to skinny jeans and now kilts/dresses. I don’t see it so cut-and-dry. Hip-hop is the bastard-child of Disco who, like the short black male life-span, thought it would implode after a few years. Our mother was wrong!
Hip-hop, like any other culture is not immune from “cross-cultural borrowing!” (i.e. Acculturation)
Hip-hop/rap was birthed on the tail end of the Disco era, which we know was homo-friendly. The (gay) Village People embodied that era of music. Disco alongside of Funk music was all about theatrics/costumes and so, the first hip-hop/rap groups were costume laden.
But even more than that—the psyche of the black man—the brashness of rap music has always been arrogant, something that Lord Jamar seems to not understand. Lord Jamar says Kanye is "arrogant" for wearing a kilt? A man who calls himself "Lord" (with a capital "L") is in no moral position to cast aspersions on another man's character. I'm just sayin'... It’s always been about “Sucker MC’s” vs. “We the Best!” Couple that with niggas getting money and you’re gonna have rappers making outlandish fashion statements! Not only were Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s wardrobe outrageous—but so was Run DMC’s—big gold dooky chains, shell toe sneakers without strings, Kangols and Cazals became the new flashy swaggerific thing to wear.
Hell! If I were filthy rich I’m sure I’d get tired of conventional, standard fashions! I’d be out there on a limp with Kanye rockin’ some bell-bottom pants with a bitch-zipper in the back (for example). Since when did hip-hop put a cap on “self/artistic expression?” Hip-hop is dynamic, not static! Hip-hop is about movement—some shit that is straight-up whack and some stuff that’s cool, but to say kilt-wearing isn’t hip-hop because it belongs to the Scottish is hip-hop picking & choosing—invoking the nationalistic/cultural race card when that fashion statement steps over the line of masculinity.
Black people are flashy by nature (or is it by nurture?). Whatever the case, you can trace black people’s flashiness back to Africa, Egypt and beyond! We are a colorful people and hip-hop/rap is an extension of our African-ness. Unbeknownst to many Negroes (but I’m sure Lord Jamar knows this!), African men have their own version of the kilt/dress and there are tribes in Africa where men wear make-up to attract females. Hip-hop heads didn’t create swag! Hip-hop heads didn’t create fashion! It is in our DNA! We African peoples in the West have a certain “je ne sais quoi” (French for something that cannot be adequately described or expressed) when it comes to our fashion sensibilities.
Would you call these African men "effeminate?" I don't think so!
(Beautiful African Wadaabe man applying make-up to attract a female)
So hip-hop may be exploring the androgynous (male/female) side of things. Don’t get your panties in a bunch Mr. Jamar! This too, shall pass. What we have here is the old biblical scripture being fulfilled; "One [hip-hop] generation passeth away and another [hip-hop] generation cometh..." (Ecc. 1:4). Hip-hop will neither be emasculated or feminized by the kilt; for to think so would mean that those gentlemen in Scotland are thus. Hip-hop will keep the kilt and dispose of it like any other fad, just as hip-hop will damn the demagogue who would try to steer hip-hop's movements. Hip-hop is without labels and boundaries and no one person within the culture has the right to define it for us! Let us just face the reality of being from another hip-hop era Lord Jamar. Let hip-hop breathe! Ooh Sah! One.
Khalil Amani writes for DJ Kay Slay's Straight Stuntin Magazine. Amani also writes for Hoodgrown, Maybach, and Sext Magazines Follow on Facebook/Twitter @khalilamani. On YOUTUBE at Khalil Amani