An awkward moment between A$AP Rocky and out NBA player James Collins will forever be part of the collective internet memory of the 2013 MTV VMA awards. In a video you can watch here, A$AP Rocky had an uncomfortable time standing next to James Collins as he talked about being an out gay man.
The two were paired together to introduce Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert who were performing “Same Love,” the pop summer hit that celebrates gay equality. Naturally, James Collins, who’s the first out NBA player, talked about the importance of LGBT equality and being an out homosexual.
“Just before I came out, my grandmother told me she was afraid I would encounter the same prejudice and bigotry she experienced growing up in the segregated south,” said Collins in his introduction to the performance of “Same Love.”
A$AP Rocky looks visibly put off, and distances himself from Collins as he speaks.
In an interview with Stashed from September 9, A$AP expressed regret that his actions and facial expressions have been interpreted as homophobic.
“I’m mad that my facial expressions was like that because I’m not homophobic at all, and that whole thing just came off real homophobic,” Rocky said at the Made in America festival this week.
A$AP explained that he has no problem with gay people—“truthfully I got gay people in my family”—but he implied that being potentially associated with gayness made him uncomfortable: “I just found it odd that MTV wanted to stand me next to this nigga when they are talking about gay people, that’s all. You know what I’m saying?”
Hip-hop and homosexuality is not a match made in heaven, although openly gay performers such as Mykki Blanco, Frank Ocean, and Big Freedia are making long strides in changing the way queerness is talked about in the genre.
While apologies like A$AP Rocky’s show the trend towards acceptance of homosexuality, his explanation—that he’s uncomfortable being on stage with an out celebrity—shows there is still a lot of work to be done.
In the video from the 2013 MTV VMA awards, Collins says “I knew that hating people for their sexual orientation is the same thing has hating people for the color of their skin.”
As the crowd cheers, A$AP looks away, visibly uncomfortable.
“The only way things change is to stand up for what you believe in,” ends Collins.
A$AP Rocky responds by promoting his new album.