‘We Don’t Wear Tight Clothes’: Gay Panic and Queer Style in Contemporary Hip-Hop

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

Popular Music and Society


This article examines the tension within contemporary hip hop between the rising popularity of queer-inflected style within the genre and its corresponding backlash, fueled by those who continue to conflate hip hop with a hyper-masculine black identity. The author begins by exploring both the aesthetic and the economic motivations for hip hop's recent embrace of queer-influenced music and dress styles. He then analyzes two recent media controversies, involving online video clips of rappers Thug Slaughter Force and Beanie Sigel, in order to deconstruct contemporary hip hop's gay panic moment. In these clips, the performers direct their verbal aggression towards fellow rappers who wear tight clothes and other forms of dress associated with queer style, even threatening violence towards them. The author demonstrates how these attempts to police the boundaries of black masculinity connect with a long history of homophobia within African-American culture. He concludes by arguing that these reactionary and alarming incidents highlight the need for further transformations within hip hop's conceptions of black masculinity.



Published Citation

Penney, J. (2012). “We Don’t Wear Tight Clothes”: Gay Panic and Queer Style in Contemporary Hip Hop. Popular Music and Society, 35(3), 321–332.