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If clothes make the man, do tight clothes make the man a homosexual? A Brooklyn-based rap group thinks the current trend in hip-hop—medium tees and sagging jeans cinched tightly below the hips—is causing some confusion. And they are not alone.
Members of the rap group Thug Slaughter Force—three brothers and two friends calling themselves Drama, Filthy, Tempa, Rebel, and Blanco the Don—walk the streets of Brooklyn in XL T-shirts with the words "Tight Clothes" slashed through with a red stripe: their message of protest against what they see as the move away from traditional baggy clothing and toward tighter-fitting outfits in today's hip-hop. The "No Tight Clothes" campaign is their latest idea in a decade of trying to make it in the rap game.
"Where'd you get that shirt from?" yells Elijah Bilal, sitting outside Lalove Uniform on Fulton Street. "Bring me one!" the 40-year-old adds, and then offers a reporter his own observation about the direction of hip-hop attire: "The tight clothes—what, the boys is gay now? Boys walking around thinking they girls, girls walking around thinking they boys . . . No wonder all the girls are dating girls—because the boys are gay!"
The Video for "No Tight Clothes"
And Bilal isn't alone in his analysis. "I like that shirt," says a 28-year-old NYPD officer on foot who didn't want to be named. "This movement of everyone wearing tight-fitting clothes—it's not nice."
"That's a beautiful thing," says 26-year-old Thug Slaughter Force member Tempa. "You walk through the street and don't have to say nothing—the product sells itself."
Besides the shirts for sale, TSF are also promoting themselves with (no surprise) a YouTube video, which shows scores of young people wearing their own shirts and leaping to the lyrics of TSF's anthem, "No Tight Clothes."
The video opens with an over-the-top "Slaughter General's Warning": "Wearing tight clothes by men may result in feminine tendencies, homosexuality, possible yeast infection, severe hemorrhoids, permanent wedgies, and genetically inherited transsexual characteristics in your son."
And then come the lyrics:
Take them tight-ass fuckin' clothes off
That shit ain't gangsta, nigga
We don't wear tight clothes . . . we let it hang!
. . . Shirt extra-small and you six feet tall
Lookin' like you got your pants off a Ken doll
Silk speedo cheetah-print Superman drawers . . .
. . . And what the fuck is this shit?
Rude boy rockin' Prada
Rhinestones on his collar
Cowboy belt buckle with a chain like a rocker
You forgot you was Rasta
You need to puff on the ganja. . . .
Are these rappers for real? "It basically boils down to: You are in a homosexual attire, and you are claiming to be something else," says 28-year-old TSF member Blanco the Don. "That's what I have a problem with—not the homosexualism. You're a front artist, and you're promoting homosexuality with your actions and dress code, but you're promoting gangster lifestyle with your lyrics. The two don't match up."
To be clear, the "you" he's referring to are the artists who set trends—the ones who wear rhinestones, big belt buckles, tight shirts, and small jackets, and carry "man bags."
"It's a string of rappers with the man bag . . . calling it a 'man bag,' but you're wearing a purse," says Tempa. Blanco and Tempa both say that the language of the "Warning" is meant in jest, but not everyone is convinced.
"I think it's offensive," says Park Slope resident Jenny Brauer. "It's homophobic, inflammatory, and highly prejudicial." Although, she added, "there is a humorous aspect to this; it's not lost on me."
Blanco, for his part, insists that "it's not a gay-bashing movement." On the other hand, he added, "if you are homosexual, you are not gangsta. There's nothing gangster about being homosexual."
Homophobia in rap is nothing new, of course. And there's a growing awareness of homosexuality in hip-hop.
"You walk in urban communities [like] Harlem, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and you see these young people walking around with pants sagging way down below their ass cheeks and underwear showing—what are you selling? That's much more homoerotic than fitted jeans," says Terrance Dean, author of Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry—from Music to Hollywood, a book that electrified the music industry when it was published last month and hinted at the homosexuality of numerous unnamed music figures.
"It just so happens that heterosexual people are always emulating gay style," Dean says. "Most stylists are gay," and, he points out, those styles then make their way from international runways to inner- city neighborhoods. "I don't think it necessarily correlates with people being gay or feminine," he adds. "I think it's just fashion and hip-hop go hand in hand."
But he doesn't share TSF's fashion sense: "It's about time that people started wearing clothes that fit."
Among some residents of Brooklyn, however, this is a minority view. One such young man, emerging from the Brooklyn Courthouse in a Boston Celtics jersey stopped briefly to talk with Blanco and Tempa and, upon hearing they were rappers, even kicked a little rhyme: "As I reminisce/with two of my bros/tell them niggas/don't wear no tight clothes!"