Popping the Marks

Kanye West in a Kilt Has Lord Jamar So Hard Right Now

By Michael Muhammad Knight

“Y’all Cee where the Kanye sh*t is taking us right? #halfafag.”
                  —Lord Jamar

Because it’s time to “rebuke all this gay shit,” Lord Jamar has buried himself on Twitter over another man’s clothing. The issue is that Kanye West wore a kilt (that Jamar considered a skirt) at the 12-12-12 benefit, which Lord Jamar took as the destruction of hip-hop culture. “This has nothing to do with sexuality,” Jamar said, “Who they choose to be with and all that, I’m not even talking about that. I’m talking specifically about, what is hip-hop? And that’s not hip-hop.”

Somehow, the kilt or skirt or whatever you want to call it is connected to skinny jeans. I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but apparently skinny jeans paved the way for men to wear women's clothes. Referring to Kanye’s role in the early promotion of skinny jeans, Jamar stated, “He was the one who tried to steer our sensibilities down those roads.” What roads? Gay roads? So the skinny jeans are perhaps #quarterfag?

Lord Jamar has denied that his criticism of Kanye has any connection to homophobia. In the midst of his hundred or so tweets on Tuesday, he repeated in all caps, “SEXUALITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS.” It’s an important point to remember because otherwise you might not understand what Jamar meant by the hashtag, “#halfafag.” You could miss the point of his new diss track, “Lift Up Your Skirt,” in which he calls Kanye the “pioneer of the queer shit” and declares, “I rebuke all this gay shit,” or when he charges that men would only dress like that because they lack “knowledge of themselves.” If you assume that this beef over what men should wear has anything to do with sexuality, you might misread Jamar’s string of tweets on the crucial differences between hip-hop and rap:

So Lord Jamar is not homophobic, but hip-hop is heterosexual. If you are not heterosexual, you are not hip-hop, but there is a place for you in rap, because rap stands for lies, class inequality, and the destruction of morals. If Jamar is not being entirely consistent here, and his problem with Kanye’s kilt/skirt is a matter of sexuality, then there are bigger questions. If heterosexuality is natural, as Lord Jamar seems to suggest here, and Jamar—as a real man, with full knowledge of himself—is himself resolutely heterosexual, then seeing Kanye West in a skirt shouldn’t make Jamar want to give blow jobs. But if a man’s fashion is enough to cause other men to stray from their natural inclinations, then our whole definition of what’s “natural” has fallen apart.

Here’s the thing about Jamar’s "natural/unnatural" argument: Clothing itself is not “natural.” Knowledge of pants and skirts is not embedded in our genetics. We actually had to invent them. People today make clothes using materials, tools, and machines that were themselves made by people using materials, tools, and machines. Moreover, on every continent—not just Europe as Jamar suggested—there are humans with penises who wear what might look like skirts. There are men in skirts and dresses all over Africa and the Middle East, and I’m sure that many of these men could embarrass Lord Jamar by whatever he claims as the defining criteria of masculinity. Before speaking on what’s natural or unnatural or European or African, Jamar needs to hit the books.

At the low point of Jamar’s Twitter rampage, he was asked whether we should be concerned more with men wearing skirts or gun violence, and Jamar answered, “BOTH.” At the risk of projecting cultural assumptions onto ideas of nature, I would suggest that protecting life is more natural than policing fabric. Unless, of course, Jamar is equating these two issues because the feminization of young men from seeing Kanye West in a skirt is going to make these young men have sex with each other instead of women, thus reducing the birthrate. See? Homosexuality is like death for the human race, and Kanye West wearing skirts is thus as urgent a concern as mass shootings.

Late Tuesday evening, Jamar explained, “Women wear skirts & dresses for easy access to use the bathroom, I guess these dudes wanna sit down when they piss. #LiftUpYourSkirt. [sic]” Jamar, do you know who else sat down to piss? The Prophet Muhammad. I don’t want to play into a neocon cartoon image of the Prophet here, and I also don’t want to play into your sexism by arguing on its terms, but Muhammad left bodies on the battlefield and, according to some accounts, made the rounds with each of his wives every night—again, each of his several wives, every night. Hadith literature claims that he had the sexual stamina of 30 men. And he sat down to piss. I’m not going to try to speculate as to how many of this world’s Muslim men, seeing Muhammad as their ultimate model of masculinity, choose to sit down to piss, but I’ll reasonably assume some hundreds of millions. However, Muhammad also prohibited men from wearing gold; in the Prophet’s understanding of gender and fashion, gold was for women. I do hope that there’s not a photo somewhere of Lord Jamar wearing gold, because someone would have to check him on that gay shit. In case there are any cultural contexts on this planet in which long hair is associated with femininity, I especially hope that we don’t find a photo of Jamar with long hair. Because that would hurt. See how the gender thing works, Jamar? What you call “natural” is made up. It changes from place to place.

I find all of this disappointing because Lord Jamar’s work has been personally significant for me. I loved Brand Nubian and was honored and thrilled at the opportunity to contribute text to the booklet accompanying his 5% Album. Whenever I’ve had the opportunity to build with Jamar in person, he has been entirely cool. Brand Nubian had come under fire for homophobic lyrics in the 1990s, but in 2004 or so I heard Jamar explain that while he did not approve of homosexuality, he believed in treating everyone with respect. I took his words at face value and was wrong.

Lord Jamar, I sit down to piss. If that makes you see me as less of a man, I don’t know what to say, except that perhaps we can find an alternate means of assessment.  Maybe we should just take off our shirts, get oiled up, and wrestle until the truth is known. That seems as scientific as any of this.

Michael Muhammad Knight (@MM_Knight) is the author of nine books, including Why I am a Five Percenter.

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