Following up on issues related to homophobic lyrics in music:
I have yet to hear how it turned out but last night a group of people were supposed to hold a protest outside the House of Blues in Chicago where rap-performer and actor DMX was performing (as Keith Boykin reports in his blog). They were objecting to lyrics in songs such as "Where the Hood at?" and "Touch It" (sang with Busta Rhymes) which call in no uncertain terms for the shooting of gays [UPDATE: Here's Keith's report on what went on in Chicago yesterday]
The action follows ongoing efforts to highlight homophobic content in lyrics by popular music artists, most recently taking the shape of a successful effort by a number of bloggers to challenge the LIFEbeat foundation for hiring dancehall reggae singers Beenie Man and TOK to perform at a HIV/AIDS services benefit (btw - novalism has some choice words about media representation of the action here)
Now, if you remember, that particular event was supposed to take place at Webster Hall in NYC (LIFEbeat cancelled the show despite calls to replace the performers with dancehall stars without a history of calling for the death of gays). Now comes word that a band that also has called for the death of gays in their lyrics will be performing there next week on August 1st and this time it's not a dancehall act or a rap act but a Mexican rock band called Molotov.
In "Puto" (closest translation: fag or man-whore) from Molotov's 1997 album "Donde Jugarán Las Niñas," the band sings in Spanish:
So you are macho man, no? Ah, so macho, no?
Faggot, girly, you're rather a little male-whore, no?
Background chorus: Fag, Fag, Fag, Fag, Fag. Fag, Fag, Fag
FAG!! He who doesn't jump up and down
FAG!! He who doesn't shout and swear
FAG!! The guy who remained in conformity
FAG!! He who believed the official reports
FAG!! He who takes away our food
FAG!! Also he who covers it up
FAG!! He who doesn't do whatever he wants
FAG!! Born a fag, dies a fag
Love the killer
Kill the faggot
And what does that son of a bitch want?
He wants to cry, he wants to cry
According to Wiki-Pedia (which is not always trustworthy), the original album first came under-fire upon its release in Mexico for its cover which depicts "a young woman's legs seductively displayed in school uniform" (I might ad that the young girl is depicted in the front seat of a car with her underwear lowered around her legs). "Puto" did not actually come under fire until the band traveled to Europe where it met resistance from protesters in Germany (according to the Wiki-Pedia link) and Spain (according to the band's MySpace.com page).
In the past, Molotov have denied that the song is in any way, shape or form homophobic. In an article published in Uruguay's Ultima Hora on February 19, 2004 (which is no longer online), they were asked about the lyrics during a press conference. Band member Randy Ebright, who was actually born in the United States, was the one who came to its defense telling reporters that the song was meant to attack Mexican government officials and not the gay community. According to Ebright in Mexico the word "puto" meant "queer, someone who is fearful, who doesn't want to confront certain things."
"They cannot censure our presentations; the ones who censor us are radio stations and television. That is why we like to invite people to come to our presentations so that they get to know the group, the type of music we put out there, what topics we address and how we are in reality" (the argument that it's simply a protest song against the government has striking similarities to dancehall star Beenie Man's defense of his homophobic lyrics which, at one point, he said were not directed at gays but at Jamaica's Prime Minister).
The British monthly magazine The Economist certainly didn't make those distinctions when they published a piece on LGBT rights developments in Latin America back in December of 1999 that begun with an anecdote that involved the song playing at bars in Mexico City.
And then there are Molotov's fans which seem to skew towards the younger side and mostly male segment of the Latino community. I'm not sure they make those distinctions either judging by this, this, this, this, or the audience requesting that the band perform it here.
Back in 2004, some of us complained to the organizers of Central Park's Summer Stage after another Mexican band, El Tri, covered "Puto" at their presentation that year. After raising the issue, Summer Stage promised that they would be more careful about scheduling bands that promoted hateful violence.
If you actually read the lyrics above you can actually see how they do reflect a blistering attack on those who might be passive to conformity and official corruption. But, as a Mexican friend of mine told me, why is it that when bands seek the worst thing to call anyone they immediately grab for the homophobic language? Daniel, my friend, says that in Mexico it's directly related to macho culture and the fact that bending over is seen as the worst thing a real man can do (not that it doesn't happen in the United States as the DMX protest shows). But, whether we actually take Molotov's defense of the song at face value and recognize it as a critique on government, it doesn't mean that the crowds who have embraced the song haven't done so because it allows them to embrace the calls to kill a faggot.
Believe me, I have been at concerts where the song has been played over the speakers before the actual show, and the crowd reaction is immediate, aggressive, loud, violent and extremely homophobic.
Molotov will begin their 2006 US tour at Webster Hall on August 1st, 2006, and end at Austin Stubb's in Austin, TX on August 19. In between, they'll be touching base at Chicago (at the House of Blues), Denver, Los Angeles and Dallas, among other cities.
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