The Historical Significance of Black Queer Films

By Emerald Rutledge | Black Perspectives

In the context of the reemergence of Black nationalist rhetoric and ideologies in hip-hop music in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ice Cube released his album Death Certificate in 1991. Among the track list is a song entitled “Horny Lil Devil.” Cube spends most of the second verse associating homosexuality with whiteness and marking its subordinate status. Cube suggests that non-heterosexual Black people could not assume an authentic role within the community. According to Cube’s lyrics, “true n—– ain’t gay.”At the same time that Cube’s album exposes and calls into question the violent history of white supremacy, he also fuels homophobia and the exclusion of Black queer folks from the liberation that he argues that all (heterosexual) Black people deserve. As scholar Charise Cheney explains, 1980s and 1990s hip-hop artists, including those within the conscious hip-hop movement like Chuck D and KRS-One, in addition to so-called “gangster rappers” like Ice Cube, embraced the rhetoric of Black nationalism and viewed themselves as building on the legacy of their “forefathers” in a masculinist genealogy of Black Power. In a range of tracks, Black artists sought to influence, empower, and educate Black communities in relation to white supremacy; at the same time, the music centered the empowerment of heterosexual Black men often negating the blackness of Black queer communities altogether.

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