Right now DaBaby is on a hot streak. Three albums – two back to back number ones – have placed him at the forefront of American rap music, with the Cleveland born artist becoming a bona fide hitmaker. Whether its shooting up the charts under his own name or aligning with Dua Lipa, DaBaby is rapidly becoming one of the most prominent rap voices of his generation.
Which is why it’s doubly important for DaBaby to use that voice in the right way. A calamitous headline set at Rolling Loud in Miami over the weekend was, quite simply, not it.
Whoever threw that shoe at dababy, you are doing the Lords work.— Jameson (@OnlyFans____) July 26, 2021
Bringing out Tory Lanez while Megan thee Stallion had performed earlier in the evening brought rancour from the crowd, with one person even throwing their show at DaBaby’s head. He dodged it, but that moment seemed to set the mood for his set. Exhorting the crowd to give him more energy, he said: "If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two, three weeks, then put your cellphone light up."
He continued: “Fellas, if you ain’t sucking d*** in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up.”
DaBaby this is weird to say?? Wth. pic.twitter.com/MDBQEZ2NsA— ➰ᴺᴹ (@KingSeanSwae) July 26, 2021
This is, purely and simply, homophobia. It’s disgusting language to use, words that are deeply offensive to LGBTQ+ communities. It also reinforces widely held misconceptions about HIV and AIDS – heterosexual people make up 23% of all HIV cases in the United States, it’s a condition which doesn’t respect the borders Western society chooses to put in place.
Furthermore, there’s no reason for HIV to become a “deadly sexually transmitted disease” – with the correct medication, those with HIV can expect to life a near-normal lifespan.
Campaigns Director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, Richard Angell, told Pink News: "It’s wrong for people living with HIV to be made to feel lesser or excluded because of their diagnosis – it should be unacceptable in the musical industry and in society at large.”
"Comments like DaBaby’s perpetuate HIV-related stigma and discrimination, as well as spreading misinformation about HIV." - Issuing a further statement overnight, DaBaby doubled down on his comments, saying “the internet twisted up” his words. He was, the rapper explained, caught in the moment, attempting to energise a crowd. He said: “Regardless of what y’all motherfuckers are talking about and how the internet twisted up my motherfucking words, me and all my fans at the show, the gay ones and the straight ones, we turned the fuck up.”
It’s notable that the initial comments didn’t bring condemnation. Indeed, even when social media began the process of calling out DaBaby over his homophobic comments, T.I. came to his defence, writing a lengthy response: “If you have a Lil Nas X video, and him living his truth, you gone [sic] damn sure have people like DaBaby who are going to speak they [sic] truth.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that Lil Nas X – an openly and completely unapologetic gay man – is at number one when these comments are being shouted from the stage, and defended by DaBaby’s peers. But the experiences of the ‘Industry Baby’ hitmaker completely undermine the arguments made by T.I. and illustrate how passive, how widespread, homophobia is within the music industry and the media.
Over the weekend – roughly the same time as Rolling Loud was taking place – Lil Nas X was in a Twitterstorm, with People magazine re-phrasing his putdown of homophobia as ‘criticism’. As he put it: “Y’all know exactly what you’re doing with this caption…”
y’all know exactly what you’re doing with this caption :/ https://t.co/iH6eqWwQQD— nope (@LilNasX) July 26, 2021
The title was ratio’d by stans, but the point is that these things happen on an all-too-regular basis. T.I. may believe that Lil Nas X is “living his truth” but in actual fact it’s often the opposite – his “truth” is being distorted by the lens of the media in a way that his straight contemporaries aren’t subject to.
DaBaby’s onstage comments, the refusal of broader music culture to engage in criticism, and the twisting headlines that an openly gay artist is being subject to are all linked, all part of a much wider issue of homophobia within society. We can only progress if we’re vocal, and call DaBaby out – what he said wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, and it was offensive. He should take time to reflect, and apologise.
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