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Macho music that puts gays in fear for their lives: James Cusick meets homosexuals who are targets of hatred that ragga rouses among the young

'HE WAS only about 12 or 13. Small. He walked up to me, looked into my face and said 'Give me money, battyboy'. I wasn't frightened. I said 'No'. He put his hand inside his jacket, as if threatening to pull out a knife, and said 'Money or you'll get it'. As an insult I threw a 50p piece on the ground for him.'

The description, by a homosexual man of being threatened, was told in a calm, measured voice. 'I'm worried. Everybody is worried. It was a verbal insult last time, a physical threat this time. Next time someone is going to be killed.'

The large homosexual community living in the south London districts of Brixton, Stockwell and Kennington say they are facing a new epidemic. While the rest of Britain's gays experience increasing levels of homophobia, the problem in south London areas has an added ingredient - ragga music.

Ragga, which evolved out of Jamaican reggae and Afro-American rap, has lyrics that pETHER write erroray homage to macho virility. One song is blamed for rising tension and fear. The BBC banned it, but on the pirate stations jamming the FM wavebands in south London, a ragga record by Buju Banton advocates listeners to 'Boom bye-bye inna battyboy head' (shoot homosexuals in the head).

The record is three years old, written when the performer was 16. A representative from his record company, Phonogram, said: 'He's changed his mind about things now . . . He doesn't believe that anymore.'

However, since the record began to receive exposure about a year ago, gay organisations say levels of insults and attacks have correspondingly increased. One visitor to The Yard, a smart gay bar in Soho, central London, said that Brixton is black, and the gay community is predominantly white. But black youths do not only shout 'battyboy' at white gays. 'Black homosexuals probably have an even tougher time,' a beat policeman near Brixton tube station said, voicing the view that the problem is not simply racist.

Recent incidents include a young gay man followed by a black youth and beaten with a baseball bat; another had his trousers pulled down in the street and was beaten by black youths wielding a shovel; yet another was kicked to the ground and a road sign dropped on him. There have also been reports of assaults on lesbians.

Many homosexual men living in Brixton, Stockwell and Kennington will now not walk in the streets alone or with their partners.

At The Yard, discussion centres around the danger to the homosexual community that ragga presents: 'Young blacks are being told in music that killing 'battyboys' is culturally acceptable. It's gone past fashion. Someone will be killed.'

(Photograph omitted)