Since bursting onto the scene, Young Thug’s gender fluidity has been a constant topic of discussion. Not only has the rapper’s sexual orientation been called into question, so has his very masculinity. However, much like the character of Gangstalicious in Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks, Thug’s atypical choices subvert ideas of maleness in hip-hop culture. We take a look at what the two have in common.
Not that it should even matter, but the subject of Young Thug’s sexual orientation has been one of fascination to both his fans and detractors for quite some time. Thug, born Jeffrey Williams, habitually, and with a supreme sense of I-don’t-give-a-f**kness, indulges in behavior that many in the hip-hop community have seen fit to deem “sus.” For example, he has a fondness for calling his closest friends “hubby,” and also recently shared that around 90 percent of his wardrobe is comprised of women’s clothing. Of course none of these things are indicative of Thug’s sexuality or gender identity, and by his own admission, there should be no question that he identifies as a heterosexual male. Nevertheless, his gratuitous displays of affection towards his male friends, and unfettered love of blouses and skinny jeans, have managed to generate substantial dispute.
Last week, producers London on da Track and Beatmonster Marc, who are affiliates of Thug, added fuel to the fire when they suddenly found themselves embroiled in a gay porn scandal. During a studio session that allegedly included Thug and rappers Kid Ink and Tyga, Marc posted an Instagram video intended to showcase the crew hard at work. The innocent recording quickly attracted the biting commentary of idle twitter fingers when a few keen eyes noticed what appeared to be a bit of male-on-male action taking place on an oversized television screen.
The conclusion many jumped to was that the group had been participating in some sort of group Netflix and chill scenario that had somehow turned 50 shades of homoerotic. Marc quickly refuted the claims, stating they had simply been watching Game of Thrones, which to be fair, has been known to feature its fair share of same-sex loving.
However, given the curiosity surrounding Young Thug’s sexuality, some took the incident as confirmation that Thug was indeed hiding his true preferences. Even if he is, that is of course his right and prerogative. However, that is only one possibility. Another is that Young Thug is simply so comfortable being Young Thug that heteronormative gender distinctions mean nothing to him.
And then there’s my personal favorite scenario: The one in which Young Thug is basically channeling Gangstalicious in Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks, and he’s intentionally trolling the f**k out of all of us.
One of the funniest things about McGruder’s “The Story of Gangstalicious” episode is the way in which it used the characters of Riley, who is full of youthful ignorance and uninformed posturing, and Gangstalicious the secretly gay rapper, to subvert myths of masculinity in hip-hop culture. Gangstalicious is Riley’s favorite musician, and on the surface he embodies many of the stereotypes associated with rappers, and the genre of hip-hop as a whole.
Those stereotypes in some ways also encompass cultural ideas of what it means to be masculine. Gangstalicious is tough, fearless and unapologetically an alpha male. He also has no time for the frivolities of romance. To him, women vacillate between being trophies, with their good looks serving as evidence of power and influence, and disposable beings who can offer a good time, but on the whole are not to be trusted.
Riley internalizes these ideas and actively seeks to emulate what he assumes is the rapper’s authentic identity…
Until he finds out that “Gangstalicious” is indeed a persona and there’s actually an entirely real and different person beneath the figure. Through his music and public behavior, Gangstalicious has added to the mythos of what it means to be a male rapper, and it has become a double-edged sword; he has essentially become obligated to live up to the role he’s been projecting. Being gay does not fit this role. As a result, his character frequently overcompensates with displays of hyper-masculinity. This is largely because, as Riley exhibits when he finally finds out Gangstalicious is in fact gay, he is aware that many of his fans believe there is something patently un-masculine about homosexuality, or even displaying behaviors not traditionally aligned with a particularly stringent view of maleness.
Through his encounter with Gangstalicious, Riley comes away questioning these assumptions, and in some ways we get the sense Riley feels as if he’s been the victim of some kind of elaborate trolling.
Young Thug incites a similar reaction. However, unlike Gangstalicious, he doesn’t seem to be laboring under the presumption that he has to conform to previously accepted standards of masculinity. He turns up to photoshoots wearing dresses with his nails painted, and as stated, admits to favoring women’s clothing without the slightest hesitation. He toasts his friends wedding style (entwining arms with them), and then posts the pictures on his Instagram. In addition to calling his friends “hubby,” he also been known to address them as “my love” or “bae.” In fact, he’s seemingly so transparent, and also so aware that his actions will cause raised eyebrows, one actually gets the feeling he’s indeed having a little fun at all of our expenses. Especially when his musical output is added to the equation. On the occasions where he actually makes sense–there are a few he doesn’t–Thug’s lyrics touch on the all of the popular standards of today: Money, women, drugs, assertions of realness and street-certifiedness, and more women.
It all combines to make Young Thug something of an anomaly to many. In the same way Riley was forced to reevaluate his perceptions of masculinity and its role in hip-hop, those who come into contact with Young Thug often subconsciously or consciously do the same. With each new outfit or Instagram post, Thug manages to incite debate around what is acceptable as a man, and as a hip-hop artist; he’s also unintentionally (or intentionally) made people question what these supposed acceptable patterns of behavior even have to do with an artist’s ability to make music (nothing, really). And despite, or maybe because of his non-conformist attitude, Thug is successful.
Seeing Thug blur and at times flat out erase the lines of what many perceive as appropriate masculine behavior, and in turn seeing the confusion it causes, is like watching an episode of the The Boondocks play out in reality. But instead of desperately clinging to the status quo in order hide a secret like Gangstalicious, Thug gleefully flouts the status quo. The outcome is still the same in that both the ficitional Gangstalicious and the very real Young Thug cause people to question pre-conceieved notions about gender and sexuality.
main/featured image via YouTube