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Hip-Hop Guru Kim
Osorio Talks Homophobia  

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.

Kim Osorio became a hip-hop legend in 2003 when she decimated the glass ceiling of one of the most hypermasculine sectors of the music industry. The Bronx, N.Y., native became the first (and so far, only) female editor in chief at The Source magazine, regarded as the Bible of hip-hop.

But when word spread (eventually turning out to be true) that the Latina beauty dated hip-hop superstars 50 Cent and Nas, urban media, artists, and even her own bosses at The Source blasted her talent and reputation.

After unjustly being fired from The Source in 2005, Osorio challenged the toxic machismo of hip-hop by suing the magazine, which resulted in a judgment in her favor to the tune of $7.5 million. The jury found that she was defamed by one of its co-owners, who claimed she slept around with industry bigwigs, and that her termination was retaliation for her complaints about her work environment.

Now, Osorio tells her story in her highly anticipated book Straight From the Source. In a shocking, revelatory, and at times heartbreaking narrative, Osorio recounts her experiences as one of the few successful women in the hip-hop industry.

"I'm not ashamed. No one should be ashamed of their personal life, no matter who you are," insists Osorio to The Advocate.

In Straight From the Source, Osorio states, "Sometimes I think the hip-hop industry is a bit antiquated in its thinking. As if it's 1920 or something. When I look at other industries, what's on television, and what we consume as Americans, I wonder why the hip-hop circle is so damn judgmental."

Osorio was judged, but in revealing her story, she went beyond the confinements in hip-hop, thus resonating with various groups who suffer the same stigmatization (bordering on criminalization) while on the job or in everyday life.

When thinking of sexism in hip-hop, one cannot forget its homophobia, a contagious infection in an art form that once stood for positivity. There are artists who have spoken out against homophobes, including Russell Simmons, Kanye West, and Advocate cover girl Mary J. Blige. But do these select few endorsements change in any way diehard antigay sentiment?

"For Russell, Mary, and Kanye I think it's genuine, but from the rest of the community...I think they're just following," Osorio reasons. "There are very few people who will openly say something homophobic, and if they do...they tend to take it back. They renege on their words because they know how powerful the gay community is."

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."

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