I’ll admit I underestimated Adair Lion.

His new song, “Ben,” features the message “Gay is Okay,” making it the first pro-gay hip hop song by a straight rapper. But with lyrics like, “Gay is okay / the number one thing a rapper shouldn’t say / I said it anyway / and I made history,” I figured this was the boastful swagger so common in hip hop, an ulterior motive to stir up controversy for the sake of stirring up controversy.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Dialogue, not controversy, is what Lion wants to stir up.

“If you open up dialogue, people will understand that it’s okay and eventually come around,” Lion says. “Even my mom, with her very conservative views, she listened to the song and was like, ‘Yeah, I saw it.’ She wasn’t very happy with it, but later on, she came around. It’s really nice that the dialogue can be opened.”

Lion is making a difference in the only way he knows how — through music — and he feels that is the best way to do it.

“You can be a TI or a Jay-Z and be like, ‘gay is okay,’ even Lady Gaga’s pretty open about gay being okay, but their power of influence is in music,” he explains. “I’m a painter; I’m going to paint a picture of two women holding a baby. I’m not to go out and do an interview in Time magazine and be like, “Yeah, I’m a painter and I think that gay is okay.” It’s not as powerful as you doing your art. If their power of influence is in music and they’re not making a song that says ‘gay is okay,’ then they’re not doing all they can do for that cause.”

Lion is also very clear about “Ben”’s intended audience: “When I was making the song, it wasn’t for the LGBT community to spin around and say, ‘Look, look!’ It wasn’t for that. It was for hip hop and people in my genre and people that are Christian and people that are like me that listen to the same stuff that I listen to, that go to the same hood places and clubs.

“I thought it was very important for a straight rapper, even though I’m nobody,” he adds. “I spent more time on this song probably than I have on any other song I’ve ever done, because the issue is so much bigger than who I am and so much bigger than the length of the song.”

Even though Lion considers himself a “nobody,” “Ben” has made people take notice.

The Huffington Post, Perez Hilton, and Gawker have all picked up his video. Of “Ben,” Gawker’s headline states, “The World’s First Pro-Gay Hip Hop Song is Actually Not Half Bad,” and it’s true. It’s a legitimate hip hop song. Obviously there’s a very political message, but it doesn’t feel like the song couldn’t exist without it. However, the underground hip hop blogs where Lion first gained popularity have basically ignored “Ben.”

“I’ve taken a lot of criticism,” he says. “A lot of the blogs that used to follow me, that’s where I had my popularity before. Those guys, I’m thinking they’re my homies, my friends, they’ll be down for whatever. But there’s still a lot of ugly views towards the LGBT community, especially in hip hop. It’s just not cool.”

“Ben” has made an impact on the ground level as well.

“I can’t even tell you how many messages I’ve gotten that have said, ‘Adair, your song, ‘Ben’, saved my life,’” he says. “Even if it’s just helping those kids, it’s well worth it for me. I don’t really care if people are going to shun me out of hip hop for that. I believe this in my heart, so I felt like I had to share it.”

Adair Lion’s LP "Michael and Me" drops on June 25th, featuring the single, “Ben.”

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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