(Tight)Pantshall & Metro Cool, or “How Mi Look?” “Gay!”

I’d like bring something from the comments into full view here, as it has sparked a lotta thought for me in recent days. Let’s begin w/ Brian’s response to my note about Assassin’s “Dem Nuh Want Nuh Gal” (an anti-gay anthem) ascending to the #1 on the JA charts —

Assassin – is telling gay people to run away better than threatening to find and kill them? I dunno, but somehow it’s not as scary to me as Mavado’s “Dem a Fag” on the Self Defense Riddim.

These songs aside, there is SO MUCH gay style goin on/being integrated into Dancehall (Ravers Clavers, I’m looking at you guys in particular)



to which I replied,

Wow, they’re practically vogueing in that first one. (And is that Elephant Man employing a Ricky Blaze chant? That’d be interesting. To my knowledge, stuff doesn’t typically travel that way. YouTube diaspora boomerang!)

[ok, now watching the second one…]

Ah, I see that you were pointing out the vogue style. Unmistakable, for sure.

I’m pretty curious about the current cultural politics in JA (and the JA diaspora, but there I’d expect a little more, er, deviation from the norm — not to get all Foucaultian) around what gets marked (often aptly) as “gay” style. As I mentioned back here,

a friend told me recently that while in JA this spring, his friend — an ol rasta chap — remarked about the recent trend toward tight pants, oversized belt buckles, and ‘metro’ fashion among young men, “me never know jamaica would have so much gay”

And there’s no question that part of the perception in JA — not among the “tight pants bwoy” who, presumably (and I can’t say for sure since I haven’t asked), don’t think of their style as queer — is that this effete affect is an imported, yankee, babylonian ting.

From what I can glean via YouTube, there’s some interesting friction a gwaan right now between Jamaican (/JA-American) youth who have embraced rockstar/nerdcore (racial?) crossdressing and those who reject it as battyboy bizness. Take, for example, the video you and Kevin embedded recently —

The top comment currently is by some dude (calling himself “MrJama1ca” no less!) who says/threatens —

my yuth f u come a see breeze wid dem handicappp dancing deh u will dead

& I love how the guy dancing (and the owner of the YouTube channel posting this video), 225MILO, replies —

OH GEEZ MAN!! thanks fi di advice i was bout to go over there with ma handicap moves too lol…..

I think it’s pretty clear who wins that one.

Interestingly, a quick search shows that there’s been some anxiety around this fashion turn in JA dance circles for a little while now, judging by this piece in the Gleaner from last summer.

And as I’ve noted before, this anxiety about tight pants style has also motivated some rudeboy/crunky protests in the diaspora (i.e., Brooklyn) as well. To wit (?) —

What is of most interest to me in all of this is, to put it clunkily: the increasing and vividly/video-ly mediated exchange between yard and foreign, JA and BK(etc.), and the way that Jamaican and black (youth) cultural politics have been changing as a result of this greater degree of (digital) cultural production and p2p exchange. Jamaican (countercultural) style, at least since independence, has been very much animated by cosmopolitan/metropolitan movements and strivings. It’s not surprising that as black (American) youth culture has embraced rockstar/nerdcore/racially-transgressive style — often marked by what might be labeled “metrosexual” fashion — so have Jamaican youth in Brooklyn and Kingston alike, an ambivalent development for many observers/participants but nothing truly beyond the pale as far as JA-appropriations of foreign steez go (just check 70s reggae photos for tight clothes that put today’s fashions to shame).

The fact that Elephant Man — no sloucher when it comes to homophobic calls-to-arms — can now chant along to hip BK catchphrases while dudes in tight white pants essentially vogue for the camera is, well, interesting to say the least. But that’s kinda the price of an omnivorous (if distinct) approach to global/metro culture. Note as well that the first guy dancing in the video to which Brian points not only sports a white-n-blue mohawk, but, in a nod to recent hip-hop/metro trends (as one of my Palestinian/Arab-Israeli students pointed out last week), a kufiya as well.

To make one more connection, if a bit of a stretch (pants?), how easy would it be to distinguish one of these super-stylee Ravers Clavers from, say, this Nawlins Sissy Bouncer?

And though some of us might be tempted to dismiss, as with kufiyas and jihadi-chic, such fashion statements with cynicism, I think that would be a mistake. There’s something subtle and important about these (semi-ironic) performances of selfhood (and nationhood?), something that undercuts essentialist orthodoxies and embraces more fluid, fun notions of the art of the possible. This is pretty clearly evident in another set of comments around that “handicapp” video embedded above —

Low him indeed !

Moreover, as Rachel notes in a follow-up to my and Brian’s musings, change is in the air. The anti-tight-pants brigade are fighting an uphill battle, alongside racists and sexists and other policemen —

those comments remind me o the gay riotz in mexico. the haterz cant fight it tho, gays are sneakin up on yall.

and though Rachel is clearly being a bit cheeky here — they were “emo riots”, not “gay” riots; let’s not validate the haterz’ perspective — I agree that there are obvious parallels a gwaan, and not only in this hemisphere. Rachel brings West Africa into the convo too —

even mbalax videos of late seem to be more female gazey

Ah yes, teh gaze.