“Chozen’s” weak take on homophobia in hip-hop

The show -- about a white, gay rapper -- tries to be provocative and funny, and fails on both counts

Topics: TV, cartoon, Animation, Chozen,

"Chozen's" weak take on homophobia in hip-hop

Does this make me racist? I’ve heard the question posed in jest. I’ve heard it asked in all seriousness. Consider this occasion to be a little of both. Next Monday, FX begins airing a new animated series, “Chozen,” which revolves around the mishaps and outrageous machinations of a gay, white, ex-con rapper desperate to ascend to the commercial heights of music celebrity. Gauging from the manner in which the titular character, voiced by “SNL’s” Bobby Moynihan, gleefully oversells hardcore hip-hop slang, peppers his threats with references to nonconsensual prison sex, and spits graphic verses, “Chozen” is intended to be both funny and very provocative. In the former, it succeeds infrequently and, in the latter, fails utterly — at least as far as I’m concerned.

As a filmmaker who has written and directed a movie that engages the issue of homophobia in hip-hop, I am certainly interested in the subject matter. Hip-hop is 30-something years old, so the fact that there are virtually no openly gay, commercially viable male rappers strikes me as so absurd as to be comical. Generally, I am all for any emergent representation of this nonexistent archetype, even if it is drawn in thick, cartoon strokes. But the fact that “Chozen,” among his many fraught descriptors, happens to be white somehow lessens the impact of the character for me. So, yeah, I have to ask: Am I being racist?

Probably, but here’s why:

I know better than to assert that homophobia is greater among African-Americans than any other group. But I think it’s safe to say that hip-hop  has historically channeled anti-gay bias to the forefront as much if not more than any American pop culture movement I can think of. And because hip-hop is so intrinsically — and rightly — linked to African-Americans, when you observe hip-hop, it often seems as if we’re way more homophobic than anyone else. That being the case, I have been eagerly awaiting the emergence or the revelation of a mainstream gay black male rapper for most of my adult life. (Please do not bring up Frank Ocean. That guy is an R&B singer, not a rapper. While, musically, the distinction may have blurred in the last 10 to 15 years, the two types of artist are traditionally distinct.) I am still waiting …



The musical segments of “Chozen,” wherein the buffoonish character raps over half-baked tracks, are essentially the only moments in the show that feel vaguely sincere. While the boasts of homosexual activities are blunt, the delivery is relatively earnest. The writers have at least processed the notion of what a gay rapper might sound like if he approached his sexuality with the same one-dimensional bravado and transparency that the great majority of highly visible straight rap artists.

Behold a hip-hop genius,

Lyrical master with a smooth-ass penis

Straight out the pen where it gets no rougher

Hard-ass brothers get spread like butter

Still, as you can probably tell, “Chozen” mostly mines the idea of a gay rapper for obvious, even cheap laughs, making the show seem thin and crude. On top of that, and for the reasons stated above, the fact that the protagonist is white makes the whole thing seem like an extremely soft pitch. Would it ultimately be more provocative if the “hard-ass brother” in question were actually a brother? Am I being racist for thinking so? Like I said, probably. (Although now I’m not sure against whom.) But would the show be any funnier? Probably not, and that’s really what matters.

Neil Drumming

Neil Drumming is a staff writer for Salon. Follow him on Twitter @Neil_Salon.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...