VH1’s new drama series The Breaks explores the world of hip-hop in the '90s, and the latest episode deals with the issue of homophobia and suicide within the genre.
In an interview with Advocate, the show’s executive producers and showrunners—Seith Mann and John J. Strauss—spoke about their decision to include a storyline that focuses on a gay rapper.
J-Mic (played by RJ Brown) goes into hiding after losing a rap battle where his opponent accuses him of being gay.
“The importance of having J-Mic in the show for us is back in 1990 and I would say even up until now the notion of an MC or a rapper in the industry whose sexual orientation was different from what people said was normal would not have been acceptable,” said Mann.
"There was a lot of homophobia in the business and in the music," he continued. "For me, it wasn’t really a question of if there was an MC or rapper that was gay or bisexual and didn’t have the opportunity to be their true self because of their involvement in the industry. For us, it was a very compelling story to see what that would look like.”
In one scene, J-Mic is shown handling a gun, ready to take his own life, tortured by his sexuality.
Strauss says that the takeaway from the scene is that “one should never feel so alone or so desperate and so isolated that they feel that they have to take their own life.”
He added that the scene was also a message for those “still caught up in homophobia” and hoped they could see the humanity in J-Mic’s character.
Mann added that “it hasn’t been easy for hip-hop to make strides toward diversity”.
“Some would argue that Frank Ocean was the first gay or bi artist to be true to himself in the mainstream hip-hop world, but even he has faced backlash for his coming-out.
“In recent years, some out and proud gay rappers have carved out its own lane in order to blaze a path where everyone has a seat at the table.”
You can read the full interview here.