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Tanene Allison Headshot

Straight Rapper Takes On Homophobia (With Some Michael Jackson Mixed In)

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When was the last time you heard a rapper start a track quoting Harvey Milk?

This video would be the first time that has happened.

If you've followed my writing a bit, you know that there are two things I think are incredibly necessary and powerful as far as creating change.

One is the use of culture and the arts to push the public discourse beyond standard political rhetoric. This form of work so often creates cultural change that precedes any related electoral or policy change.

The second thing history has shown to be particularly powerful is when diverse groups find unity and overlapping support in the fight for all of our rights and equality. (A good example of that work is expanded on in this piece about the organizing around the votes on both the Dream Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell.)

Adair Lion's new video -- "Ben" -- smashes a prior cultural taboo, brings together diverse communities and, on top of all of that, throws a hot Michael Jackson remix into the whole thing.

As a straight, Texan, Latino rapper, Adair approached this work with the full understanding of the risk involved. But his understanding of the need for, and potential power within, the message was a stronger force for him. (For his full thinking behind this track, and the story lines in the video -- breaking down the three dollar bill and why Adair's character isn't acting so decent in his own relations -- he's written up his own background piece.)

This is how things change in our country. Piece by piece or relationship by relationship or, sometimes, by an unexpected hip hop track or country song. (Holla to Brad Paisley's 'Welcome To The Future' as an awesome country song pushing for a more diverse and equal America. Or the Court Yard Hounds' 'Ain't No Son', a country pro-LGBT song.)

Culture and the arts are always on the front line of where things in the country are headed...and then the other forces of elections and lawmaking eventually catch up. I look forward to the day when the message of this video isn't considered groundbreaking. But right now it is. So watch it and get a glimpse of the better country we're in the process of becoming.