Careful who you tweet for.
Councilman and avowed hip–hop fan Jumaane Williams (D—Flatbush) raised eyebrows over the weekend when he tweeted a photo of himself with old-school rapper Lord Jamar at the 10th annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Famous in the 1990s as a member of the rap group Brand Nubian, Lord Jamar returned to the national stage last year when he began a one-man crusade against gay influence in hip hop, releasing a diss track titled “Lift up Your Skirt” targeting Kanye West’s choice to wear a leather kilt at a televised performance.
Williams’s tweet contained the message “Lord Jamar will live long,” a lyric from the Brand Nubian song “Punks Jump up to Get Beat Down,” which Jamar insists is not homophobic despite repeated uses of anti-gay slurs and this proclamation by his music partner Sadat X: “Don’t understand their ways and I ain’t down with gays.”
Williams, for his part, claims to have only ever have heard the radio edit of the song, which omits the offending language, in one case substituting “sissy” for a cruder slur.
“Like many in the 1990s, I heard Brand Nubian’s music as edited for mainstream consumption, and did not hear versions containing explicit material,” Williams said in a statement. “I was unaware of any controversy associated with him, and do not endorse or condone the sentiments brought to my attention.”
The song, released in 1992, quickly drew the ire of the Gay and Lesbian Allance Against Defamation, who threatened to boycott Brand Nubian’s label Elektra Records, according to the rapper. Lord Jamar’s recent quest to combat what he calls the feminization of rap was the subject of a New Yorker piece online.
The Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival in Williamsburg on Saturday was a who’s-who of New York rappers and African-American artists, including Jay Z and Spike Lee. Williams took the stage at the concert briefly to call for a halt to gun violence, erroneously stating that the National Guard had been deployed to the streets of Chicago.
Williams is a member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, but regularly declines to share his views on gay marriage, including when a reporter asked for this article.
The gay Brooklyn political club Lambda Independent Democrats endorsed Williams in his reelection bid last year. The group’s president said he hopes the tweet is not representative of the councilman’s world view.
“We would just hope that all of our elected officials are accepting of everyone,” Michael Czaczkes said.
Pressed about Williams’s position on gay marriage, Czaczkes acknowledged that the pol is against it and said he hopes that will change with time.
“People’s positions have evolved over the years,” he said. “Some just evolve faster than others.”