When we asked hip hop supergroup Slaughterhouse about Frank Ocean's recent admission that he was once in love with a man, member Joe Budden summed it up succinctly with "This is amazing that this is even a question."
Hip hop has overwhelmingly reacted positively to Ocean's revelation, but it's refreshing to see Los Angeles rapper Murs continue the discussion with "Animal Style," the latest video from Love & Rockets Volume 1: The Transformation detailing the doomed relationship between Roderick (played by Murs himself) and his boyfriend Jonathan. (And to those who will inevitably accuse the rapper of hopping on a bandwagon, keep in mind "Animal Style" was recorded in 2011.)
In the video description on Murs' YouTube channel, the rapper explains "Animal Style. "With this one I wanted to challenge the listener to ask themselves: Is the love shared by two people of the same gender really that different than the love I have for my partner of the opposite sex? And finally, I just felt it was crucial for some of us in the hip hop community to speak up on the issues of teen suicide, bullying, and the overall anti-homosexual sentiment that exist within hip hop culture. I felt so strongly about these issues and this song that I had to do a video that would command some attention, even if it makes some viewers uncomfortable. Even if it came at the cost of my own comfort."
That "own comfort" is a same-sex kiss with Jonathan at the end of the video, a gesture that's both innocuous and a landmark: the first renowned rapper to kiss a member of the same sex on film. In an interview with Out magazine, Murs noted that his wife's grandmother, who recently passed away, was gay and that "it was really important to her; we have friends and family that are gay, so it was important to make a statement... Even if I reach one person, I’m willing to take everything else that comes my way. If I get called a couple of names on the Internet, or some people don’t like me now, if I can help one person, it’s worth it."
Murs and director Hobostewed don't flinch from the realities of homophobia, showing its full effects via the video's tragic, Shakespearean ending. It's hard to watch—worlds away from champagne bottles and club hoochies—but props to Murs for humanizing what can seem like an abstract issue to those not personally involved.