The genre of hip-hop and rap used to be fairly known for lyrics bashing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) but the tides have changed since then, with artists such as Le1f, Azealia Banks and Frank Ocean all coming out to be visible with their sexual orientations.
In the past few years, there has also been a surge of acceptance and openness from allies in the hip-hop world towards LGBTs, with stars like Rick Ross, Snoop Lion and Fetty Wap all voicing their support and even performing at select pride events. Even artists like Macklemore and Jennifer Hudson have produced songs and music videos supporting the freedom to love for LGBTs.
In Singapore, 23-year-old rapper ShiGGa Shay is making the first few steps as part of the hip-hop community here in this regard.
Having performed at last year’s Pink Dot concert, ShiGGa is now this year’s Pink Dot ambassador – the first rapper in the history of the six-year pride event to step up to the plate. He comes on the heels of stars such as Hirzi Zulkilfie, Munah Bagharib and Brendon Fernandez. He tells Popspoken in the midst of a busy schedule about why he decided to be an ambassador and how he hopes others can contribute.
What is your motivation behind performing at last year’s Pink Dot, and now becoming an ambassador of Pink Dot 2016?
I feel strongly against any form of discrimination, and that’s why I really felt the need to contribute in any way I could to make a stand.
Have you witnessed homophobia from your friends and colleagues? What did you do to correct their behaviour?
Definitely. It used to be a pretty common thing but not as much now. People are understanding each other better. When you don’t understand something, you tend to fear it.
Both as a genre and with regards to some of its biggest names, do you think the global hip-hop scene is hostile to the queer community in its lyricism and attitudes?
Hip-hop has always been a pretty homophobic genre in the past. But now I genuinely feel that we’ve already moved past that phase. We’re living in a different time.
What can hip-hop artists do to spark conversation and put an end to its shunning of the queer community?
I guess putting an end to it might still be a long way to go but better understanding (of the community) can definitely help a lot.
What would you like to say to Singaporeans about the PinkDot movement?
Discrimination is the past; love is here to last.
Featured photo: ShiGGa Shay/Facebook by Eric Chen
Pink Dot 2016 happens on Jun 4, 3pm at Hong Lim Park. Admission is free.