Is Lauryn Hill's New Single Homophobic?

5.24.2013

By Andrew Belonsky

Do you hear 'guru men' or 'girl men?'

Three days before being sentenced to three years in jail for tax evasion, singer Lauryn Hill released a new single called "Neurotic Society." It's the former Fugee's first single since 2010's "Repercussions." And in true Lauryn Hill fashion, the track, an anti-establishment, anti-celebrity harangue, is causing controversy, particularly what's being read -- heard? -- as Hill's apparent anti-LGBT rhetoric.

In a litany of examples of how society's crumbling, Hill lists "social transvestism," "drag queens" and what sounds like "girl men," all three of which have Monica Miller at BET.com wondering if the singer's mixing her messages:

"'Neurotic Society' proclaims again that Babylon is falling — thanks in part to tricksters like 'girl men,' 'drag queens,' and the lies of 'social transvestism.' Whether or not Hill is merely using these comments as examples of the smokescreens and sleight-of-hands that pervade this 'Neurotic Society' is unclear. Beyond intention, these sorts of statements suggest that society is in a shambles because it’s been taking too many cues from the LGBTQ community, acting like 'girl men,' 'drag queens' and 'transvestites.' Is her beef with oppressive society or is her issue with people who don’t abide by a traditional family structure?"

But is it homophobic? The phrase "social transvestism," when coupled with the next line, "subliminal dressed up as piety," could be read as a commentary on the government's misrepresentation of itself or perhaps as a jab at organized religion, especially the Catholic Church, which Hill has denounced in the past.

As for "girl men:" that particular line, delivered right at the beginning of the quick fire track, is being interpreted by some as "guru men." The website Lyrics Debut hears "guru men," as does the producer of this fan-made video. But the site Rap Genius agrees with Miller and translates Hill's rant into "girl men." Here's the track, with the "guru" interpretation. Do you hear the same thing?

But what about the "drag queens" line? It comes almost immediately after a smear against "pride fiends." That could be interpreted by some as a vilification of gay pride. But, then again, it could also be interpreted as the simple ramblings of a compicated woman known for making outlandish comments.

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