Hip-Hop Guru Kim Osorio Talks Homophobia  

Kim Osorio became a hip-hop legend in 2003 when she became the first (and so far, only) female editor in chief at The Source magazine, regarded as the Bible of hip-hop. After she was fired in 2005, Osorio took her case to court -- and won a judgment in her favor to the tune of $7.5 million. Now in her book, Straight From the Source, Osorio talks about the sexism and homophobia that often shaped her time in and around the hip-hop industry.

BY Clay Cane

October 02 2008 12:00 AM ET

Kim Osorio x 100 (publicity) | Advocate.com 

In September 2007
rapper Ja Rule declared gays were "fucking up
America," a comment that was quickly met by vicious
backlash, the most press he'd had in years. The rapper
later retracted his statement, claiming his words were
"taken out of context" and adding, "I have relatives
that are homosexuals and, you know, they come over for
Christmas, hang out." 

Busta Rhymes and
Chingy are among the list of rappers who have recently
spewed homophobic remarks and quickly pulled
back. Ironically, they're all rappers who have
been the subjects of their own gay rumors. 

"The buying power
the gay community has -- artists are a little
apprehensive about speaking out against the gay community,"
explains Osorio. "Hip-hop isn't selling that
well. Over the last couple of years it's been an
art form that has been motivated by greed
and money. So money is the first thing on their
mind...again, for most of them, I don't think it's
genuine."

As judgmental and
bigoted hip-hop can be, Osorio trusts that
the "voice of the streets" can evolve with the right
artist behind it. "You'd be surprised how hip-hop can
make something so acceptable and cool. You have
the right person coming out and you can change the
whole perception in hip-hop." 

Coming out in
hip-hop? Is that even a possibility? 

While there are
openly gay or bisexual rappers (Queen Pen being the most
notable), none have experienced anything resembling
mainstream success. Osorio strongly believes an
artist can be openly gay in hip-hop and be
successful. 

"Hip-hop has
always thrived off originality," she says. "If
you get the right artist who has the great talent who
happens to be openly gay, I think that it could change
things.  That's not saying it wouldn't be hard or
he wouldn't be faced with a lot of criticism and
bashing. But hip-hop tends to root for the underdog
too, so good music always speaks for itself."

Kim Osorio's
achievement as the first female editor in chief at a major
hip-hop magazine, her challenging the standard when faced
with discrimination, and winning the biggest lawsuit
in hip-hop history are all good signs of social
reinvention for an art form that is barely in its
30s. Furthermore, Straight From the Source
is a reminder that all forms of discrimination are
intertwined. 

"I think the gay
community can appreciate a lot of the struggles that I
went through," Osorio says. "I know there are a lot of
gay people who have experienced discrimination and
struggle in the workplace. Reading this story is
something that can uplift women, gays -- any minority
that has felt oppressed. It's a different type of
oppression when you go to work and someone has control and
power over your job."

Tags: Music

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