Writer and OutRage! campaigner Brett Lock asks would we be as willing to ignore Trick Trick‘s vile hatefulness if he were a racist. It is, needless to say, a rhetorical question.
To be perfectly honest, until a few days ago I had never heard of Trick Trick, and if things go my way I shan’t have to hear his album either. He has apparently banned me, as a gay man, from buying it. This is a request I’m most happy to oblige. But fear not – you don’t have to be gay to avoid listening to Trick Trick: absolutely anyone can ignore him.
He does seem absolutely desperate for attention though, but don’t feel pressured to give him any.
Now I hear he told AllHipHop.com: “I don’t like it [homosexuality]. Carry that shit somewhere else. It gets worse. It’s just that every time that you turn on the TV, that sissy shit is on.”
One piece of musical theatre (or “sissy shit”, to borrow his phrase) he really ought to watch is Hairspray. Perhaps he’ll absorb one of the central themes of racism in the music industry and pause for a second to reflect: there was a time when images of black people were strictly limited on TV. Does he have enough humility to see his own bigotry reflected in the bigotry of that time?
Through the Stop Murder Music campaign, there has been a lot of focus on homophobic lyrics in the music industry, particularly those that incite violence against gay and lesbian people. Artists like Buju Banton, Bounty Killa, Capleton and Beenie Man have seen their concerts cancelled and their tracks dropped from airplay all over the world. Their stubborn refusal to stop their violent anti-gay solicitations to murder has seriously damaged their careers and I often wonder if, for them, it’s really worth it. Is it worth squandering your talent, your career, your art, your livelihood on promoting hatred and violence? So if homophobia doesn’t pay, why is Trick Trick going down this route? That is a question only he can answer.
It certainly didn’t help his old mentor and collaborator, Eminem, who faced protests and boycotts in the last decade for similar homophobic outbursts. At least Eminem, despite not actually having gone as far as making such extreme statements in interviews, had the good sense to do damage control. He apologised, he performed with Elton John, he took a stand against homophobia in his movie, Eight Mile.
As a gay activist, the question I’m often confronted with is whether I’d support efforts to ban artists like Trick Trick. Generally I don’t think so. I think that free speech is important and that bigots, homophobes, racists and assorted cretins should be allowed to speak. More often than not, they damn themselves, but there’s another reason to let them speak. Driving them underground makes it look like issues of racism and homophobia don’t exist. If we sanitise the public arena, it becomes that much harder to drive home the point that minorities actually do face a lot of shit. I don’t want that shit to be hidden from ‘polite society’.
So I’d say let Trick Trick rant. At least until he crosses a line.
So where is that line? Where is the line where bigotry becomes hatred and hatred becomes incitement? Racist Oi! bands have been flirting with this blurry boundary for decades. Does this verse from a song make you sick?
“Aint no other way to say it He’s a fucking nigger Gonna get my rope and gas Hang him from a tree And burn his nigger ass.”
It certainly sickens me, and is an example of the only instance where I would urge speech to be banned: is when it incites violence. Incitements to violence aren’t examples of free speech, they are the enemy of free speech.
The threat of violence closes down free speech. It is an anathema to free speech. Free speech is valued because it facilitates the free exchange of ideas. Those who threaten to halt that exchange by threats and intimidation are not exercising free speech, they’re destroying it.
In the climate of hostility that such lyrics might generate, it would be impossible for black people’s voices to be heard or for them to defend themselves. Equally, if the song’s lyrics went:
“Ain’t no other way to say He’s a fuckking faggot so I’m lettin’ off my AK Bust ’em in his forehead He ain’t worth lettin’ live…”
then it contributes to the climate of hostility that too often ends in gay-bashings, homophobic bullying and harassment. I should point out at this juncture that the first song extract above is, fortunately, fictional. The second is directly quoted from Trick Trick’s new album.
He has crossed the line. His lyrics directly glorify and seek to justify acts of violence against gay people. And this is not a problem that can be dismissed or underestimated. A recent survey undertaken by the Metropolitan Police in London showed that while there was an overall decrease in reported violent hate crimes, there was actually an increase in homophobic violence. It’s hard to say whether there is a definite correlation between homophobic speech by public figures and actual violence, but it isn’t a leap to say that the mainstreaming of dehumanising talk about gays and lesbians can’t be helping.
Free speech is free speech, and ultimately Trick Trick has a right to make his views about gay people heard. He does NOT, however, have the right to incite violence against them and threaten their safety.
Free speech doesn’t imply the right to have your record played on the radio, or stocked in HMV, or made available on iTunes. If that were a ‘right’ we’d all have a record out. I’d be perfectly happy – in fact I’d positively encourage – music stores and radio stations to scrap Trick Trick from their stock lists and playlists. After all, when last did you see a copy of neo-Nazi band Skrewdriver in Zavvi or hear their white-power rock on Radio One?
I would ask anyone considering buying Trick’s records or going to his shows whether they’d support an artist who complained that there were too many “niggers” on TV while writing songs threatening to blow their heads off. For a celebrity to use language like that would be a career-ender – and rightly so. I would hate to think that while people rightly take racism seriously, that they’re blasé about homophobia and that people who talk about “sissies and faggots” get a free pass.
Let’s be honest, if another celebrity had used what the media euphemistically refer to as “the n-word” there would have been a media storm that made the recent Brand/Ross saga seem like a mild spring breeze. Yet the mainstream media has completely ignored the aggressive use of “sissy” and “faggot”. We’ve seen no announcements for record companies and retailers refusing to promote and stock the album. The hypocrisy is staggering. Trick Trick ought to be a pariah. I hope he is.
I also hope that one day he looks up what a “trick” is. Maybe then he’ll understand why he’s just an anonymous fuck.
From The Quietus, November 2008.