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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Hip-hop star attacks homophobic rappers
MC Shystie
MC Shystie is one of only a handful of female rappers
Rising UK hip-hop star MC Shystie has criticised rappers who write homophobic lyrics in their songs.

The anti-gay content of a number of songs has come under the spotlight recently with protests by groups such as Outrage! against artists such as Elephant Man, Beenie Man and Vybz Cartel.

But 21-year-old Shystie - real name Chanelle Scot Calica - called for rap artists to be "more open-minded."

"It's 2004 - a lot of things are going on out here," she told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"There's boundaries and lines not to cross, and I think some people are crossing those lines.

"Keep your thoughts to yourself. It's your personal opinion, and another man's preference. So it's not really got anything to do with you."

'Iffy' apology

The controversy surrounding homophobic rap music has been greatly stirred by the nomination of Elephant Man and Vybz Cartel for the Music Of Black Origin Awards (Mobos).

Both artists have previously recorded homophobic songs, such as Elephant Man's We Nuh Like Gay, although a Mobo spokesman said that these had been from "years ago".

I'm not then going to go out and disrespect people that buy my music and like what I'm doing
MC Shystie
Meanwhile Beenie Man - whose lyrics have provoked similar controversy - was this week banned from an MTV concert in Miami after gay activists planned a protest.

The reggae star recently issued his "sincerest apologies" for his past lyrics. Shystie, however, dismissed this apology, speculating it may have been issued in part as Beenie Man has an album coming out.

"The apology to me seemed a bit iffy," she said.

"He's done so many [anti-gay] songs, it must have hurt him to have to come out and say that he was wrong.

"It's hypocritical - you've said all that stuff, and then you come and apologise. Does he really mean it? I don't know."

The hip-hop world is notorious for homophobic attitudes.

In the early 1990s, rapper Shabba Ranks called for all gays to be "crucified" - although Shystie argued that this subsequently led to his music being boycotted. Ranks was eventually dropped from his label.

Meanwhile Andre 3000 of Outkast has gone on record as saying "One of the worst rumours I heard about myself was that I was homosexual. Especially in the hip-hop world, that ain't a cool rumour to hear."

And Eminem, arguably rap's biggest star, generated a lot of early controversy prompted by his allegedly homophobic lyrics.

Freedom of speech

Shystie did stress, however, that it was important hip-hop was controversial and that its artists had the right to speak.

"It's freedom of speech," she said.

Andre 3000
Outkast's Andre 3000 fiercely rejected claims about his sexuality
"In pop music, you can't really say what you want to say - whereas as an MC you can say whatever you want.

"But don't cross the line. As an artist, I'm here to do good music and sell albums. I've been to clubs where I've had homosexual people come up to me and say 'I really like your music.' I don't feel offended by that.

"So I'm not then going to go out and disrespect people that buy my music and like what I'm doing."

She added that she suspected that there were a lot of gay rappers "behind closed doors".

And she also argued that were they to reveal their sexuality, it may not necessarily damage their careers.

"They're good producers, they're good rappers. You can't know them whether they're gay or straight... you liked them before you found out, so what's the difference?"

Beenie Man banned from MTV gig
26 Aug 04  |  Entertainment
Gay group protests over Mobo list
25 Aug 04  |  Entertainment
Gay group seeks Mobo awards ban
23 Aug 04  |  Entertainment
Police study 'anti-gay' reggae claims
18 Sep 03  |  Entertainment



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