President Barack Obama isn’t the only prominent figure whose views on gay marriage may have undergone an evolution. Jay-Z went on the record yesterday in support of Obama’s recent announcement that he personally believes same-sex couples should be allowed to wed. The rapper’s comments on gay rights come as polls have shown African-American Democrats are generally more skeptical of same-sex marriage than white Democrats are, and the remarks also stand in contrast with homophobia-tinged lyrics from earlier in Hova’s career.
“I’ve always thought [of] it as something that’s still holding the country back,” Jay-Z told CNN when asked about the lack of legal recognition for same-sex couples. “What people do in their own homes is their business … It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”
Jay-Z, whose ties to the president go back to the 2008 presidential campaign if not earlier, said Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage in an ABC interview last week was correct regardless of any potential political impact. “It’s really not about votes, it’s about people,” Jay-Z said. “Whether it cost him votes or not I think it’s the right thing to do, as a human being.”
The rapper’s comments arrive as polls have shown African-Americans are, like the rest of the population, sharply divided over same-sex marriage, and as the community’s religious leaders have offered conflicted responses to Obama’s stance on the issue. Jay-Z’s remarks appear particularly significant because his lyrics on the subject have not always sounded fully “evolved”: On the Doors-sampling, Kanye West-produced diss track “Takeover,” for instance, from Jay-Z’s classic 2001 album The Blueprint, Jay-Z responded to allegations of homosexuality by calling Nas “a fag model” (alluding to Nas’s appearances in hip-hop clothing ads). In fact, Jay-Z used anti-gay slurs across a handful of his older albums, including on such songs as “Jigga What, Jigga Who,” “Lucky Me,” and “22 Twos.”
Jay-Z, who referred to himself as “the hood’s Barack” in a 2008 remix of Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” and visited the White House in 2010 with wife Beyoncé, might be speaking with the president again soon. As Jay-Z gets set for next week’s announcement of his Made in America festival lineup, he told Rolling Stone, “I’m gonna tell you guys right now: I’m gonna give him a call and I’m gonna try to get him to perform — do a little rendition of Al Green — but I doubt it. I think that opens up the political season. He’ll be so far into helping the world that he probably won’t have time, but I’m absolutely going to ask him.” Obama, for his part, invoked the rapper’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” move during his presidential campaign and has listed Jay-Z among the musicians on his iPod.