As you understand, all rap is hip-hop, however hip-hop shouldn’t be solely rap. And queer rap (or homo hop) is a lot extra than simply rap artists figuring out as LGBTQ. Queer rap is an act of rise up. It’s expression, and it’s empowerment, and it actually is activism.
And that, my pal, is political. As Distinctive Mical Robinson, a queer rapper and poet from Baltimore, says, “Queer rap is the last word act of freedom and liberation.”
Extra from Spin:
- Frank Ocean Not Taking part in Coachella Weekend 2; Blink-182 To Fill In
- Frank Ocean Suffered Ankle Damage Forward of Coachella Set
- Frank Ocean Reworks Songs and Salutes Late Brother at Coachella Comeback
As a homosexual white boy rising up in Apartheid South Africa (circa Nineteen Nineties), rap music got here from a number of wellsprings. Firstly, my many ventures as much as Europe, the place I’d cling at Virgin Data in London (carrying Nike Max pumped-up kicks, evidently) into the late hours of the evening, shopping for as many CDs as my little arms might carry. Or to Berlin, the place I’d slip out of the dad and mom’ lodge and discover a membership I used to be far too younger to get into, simply to hearken to music that I had by no means heard earlier than. Like German hip-hop pioneers Superior Chemistry, who even rapped in English — however, alas, have been very a lot not homosexual.
There was additionally a large warehouse in Johannesburg known as CD Warehouse (began by a Mozambican Jewish couple who smuggled CDs into the nation throughout sanction days). They offered rap, and I’d sit within the listening cubicles with a secret flask of whiskey, listening to all the pieces the entrance desk human would advocate, hours and hours poured into this love. That’s after I was launched to Kwaito, a form of new style based mostly on home music which developed in South Africa within the Nineteen Nineties, crammed with numerous rap components.
I bopped my head together with this just like the comfortable tyke I used to be. And my associates visiting from overseas thought we have been the cool youngsters as they’d by no means even heard this sound. This was all pre-Die Antwoord (a problematic rap-rave duo that took the nation by storm with their uniquely South African zef type) and likewise pre-Afrikaans boy rapper Jack Parow. Each turned extra effectively often called the Web propelled them within the 2000s.
After which there was the trusty radio. An area Pretoria campus radio station, TUKS 107.2 FM, was all the time in everybody’s automobile. They principally performed native bands, like Simply Jinger and the Springbok Nude Ladies, that sounded far too “rock” to my suave ears. I wished extra. I wished one thing extra subversive, one thing anti-Apartheid, and naturally, unputdownable. I wished one thing queer. And I hunted that down. So I discovered Johannesburg-born YFM, and so they performed rap from eyes open to eyes shut.
It was the late ‘90s, and it was the golden age of hip-hop. To me, most of my wishes have been being fulfilled by Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott. They have been my superheroes. They rapped in a means that twisted my tongue. I listened to them on my Discman and learnt each phrase. However I questioned why the radio –- and each home celebration I went to — performed principally male rappers. Straight male rappers, I ought to tack on. Tupac, Busta Rhymes, Enimem, and 50 Cent have been constants. However the place have been my folks, ones I might establish with slightly extra?
Within the e book Queer Voices in Hip-Hop, Lauron J. Kehrer argues that hip-hop authenticity depends on a development of the rapper as a “Black, masculine, heterosexual, cisgender man who enacts a story of battle and success.” Properly, let’s be clear: I might admire this as music, however I couldn’t see myself in any of that.
However it’s most likely helpful to enterprise into the previous to know how we managed to get from a style that was traditionally one of many least queer-friendly genres of music (with ugly homophobic views and anti-gay lyrics) to Lil Nas X rapping in ways in which flip my coronary heart custard. Afterall, the historical past of queer rap is intertwined with the historical past of hip-hop itself. And as Kehrer reminds us, “brazenly queer and trans rappers not as anomalies or newly rising phenomena however as musicians inside a long-standing Black queer musical lineage.”
However please let’s not skip over Lil Nas X’s horny boy lyrics — “Oh, name me by your identify (mmm, mmm, mmm) / Inform me you’re keen on me in personal.”
Queer rappers have been on the beginning of hip-hop within the late ‘70s. Hip-hop got here from disco, and you understand who was on the forefront of disco? The queer group plus some well-known queer DJs like Frankie Knuckles, and Larry Levan. After which hip-hop went mainstream, the place it morphed into one thing extra heteronormative and sadly homophobic. Queer rappers of the time needed to conceal their sexuality or face discrimination and even violence.
However, however, they endured. In cities like New York, the Nineteen Nineties was residence to “homohop,” the place artists rapped about their genders, sexualities, and likewise the politics of all of it. A few of the pioneers of this motion embody Rainbow Flava,, Hanifah Walidah, Deep Dickollective (D/DC), Medusa, Tori Fixx, Deadlee, Katastrophe, and God-Des and She. Madonna was, after all, pleasant with a lot of them, hiring them, collaborating with them, and championing their creativity.
And that is precisely how queer rap began to seek out its foothold. Queer rappers have been creating group — sure, Madonna helped slightly on the edges –- and gathering their uber followers. Whether or not it was Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz, Muffins da Killa, or Le1f, all who’ve been releasing albums and mixtapes since 2012, the scene was shifting. Rap was debating in its lyrics points that queer folks take care of, from intercourse and sexuality, to equality, to sharing their love tales and struggles. Some themes have been common, and others uniquely queer (like rapping about PrEP, the HIV drug, or discovering your attraction to the identical gender, or the anxiousness of the world not accepting you, and many others.). And sure, as we speak Huge Freedia (the Queen of Bounce) is continuous this custom as she takes her New Orleans sound to have fun queerness and collaborates with Beyonce, Lizzo, and Drake.
And that is how queer rap finally ends up on everybody’s plate.
However Frank Ocean, who wrote in a 2012 weblog publish that his old flame was a person, has develop into a pioneer of the queer rap motion. Even when an old-school rapper like Snoop Dogg mentioned, “Frank Ocean ain’t no rapper. He’s a singer. It’s acceptable within the singing world, however within the rap world I don’t know if it can ever be acceptable as a result of rap is so masculine,” it didn’t cease Ocean from shining his star. (When requested by GQ if he’s bi-sexual, he responded, partly, “You’ll be able to transfer to the subsequent query. I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes together with dynamic experiences, and the identical sentiment that I’ve in the direction of genres of music, I’ve in the direction of lots of labels and bins and shit.”) Since sharing his story, Ocean has used his music, full with these introspective and cryptic lyrics, as a platform to lift consciousness and funds for all types of queer causes. Plus, he pulled in some Grammy Awards en route.
I wish to assume that Ocean confirmed up and revealed that, sure, there’s a door, and it’s for whomever wish to use it. Lil Nas X ignored the door and did a base bounce into the world of rap music.
Web-born Lil Nas X took rap (or pop-rap, relying on the way you see the world) and turned it as queer as humanly attainable. A younger artist out of small-town Georgia, he introduced an overt gayness to the style that had by no means been there — leaning into lyrics and imagery that queer rappers maybe alluded to beforehand, or included however then misplaced out on business success. He battled homophobia, self-acceptance in a “not all the time so queer-friendly” world, and leaned into what queer love might imply. Lil Nas X did all of it and received each worthy music award, broke the charts, and gave male Devil a horny lap dance in one among his music movies.
The very definition of queer rap all of the sudden expanded — difficult these outdated concepts of hypermasculinity, heteronormativity, and misogyny. “And we’re seeing how music is now the forefront of all this queerness — queer artists at the moment are now not simply the make-up and hair behind-the-scenes groups,” shares Distinctive.
With a style so male-dominated, it was additionally prepared for a queer girl to come back in and shake issues up. Younger M.A did precisely that. Asserting her sexuality, she had a breakthrough viral single “OOOUUU” elevating visibility for lesbian rappers to hitch the celebration. (In 2019, when requested if she’s a lesbian, Younger M.A advised Hollywood Unlocked, “We don’t do no labels. I simply wouldn’t date a man.”) And a few of the early icons have been Da Brat and Queen Latifah, each of whom didn’t have the alternatives to completely come out as queer to the world. “Queer artists on the whole aren’t any much less proficient than our straight counterparts, however we’re usually undervalued and underrepresented,” provides Distinctive. “However the Web has helped with a few of this acceptance, and is including to the democratizing of the music world. You’re capable of construct an viewers and your picture — nevertheless you would like.”
And even the full-on business is shifting. It has been traditionally hostile and dismissive of queer rappers, usually ignoring or marginalizing their contributions or subjecting them to ridicule or violence.
And as Baltimore rapper DDM (who began out doing rap battles within the early 2010s) provides, “It was a small community of us underground throughout the nation. All of us knew or knew of one another. It was powerful in these years as a result of file labels didn’t see the cash in signing queer artists at the moment, so we needed to make it work.”
With the present rise of queer tradition in all of in style tradition, there’s a feeling of unstoppability. This tide, oh, she’s-a-shifting. The business has develop into extra accepting and supportive of queer rappers, recognizing their expertise and affect. For instance, Kevin Summary has gained vital acclaim and business success because the chief of the rap collective Brockhampton, dubbed as “the Web’s first boy band.”
Simply have a look at a few of the magic occurring within the fabulous metropolis of Baltimore, the place increasingly more queer rappers are making their mark — like, a few of my now favorites Dapper Dan Midas (AKA DDM), Kotic Couture, and RoVo Monty.
Kotic Couture, dubbed “Queen of the Underground,” shared that she’s seeing how Baltimore particularly is letting the membership scene broaden. Her sound combines components of membership music, rap, each variance of hip-hop, and even ballroom. “Proper now queer rap is expansive, and the sound isn’t getting pigeon-holed. We’re making all of it up as we go, with no guidelines.” And that is evident in golf equipment like The Crown, in North Baltimore, the place they’re switching up the music on a regular basis from rap, to anime, to psychedelic, and ska-fused indie punk all the way in which to reggaeton. “Tik Tok has helped unfold this –- particularly at residence throughout COVID –- and now everybody needs to get out once more, and the underground is the place the motion is at,” provides Couture.
Properly, then, the place is queer rap going subsequent? Distinctive thinks that it’s merely going the place society goes. And that’s main us to extra visibility. “The backlash and the politicians assume it can make us afraid, like what they’re doing in Florida with the ‘don’t say homosexual’ payments. However it can just do the alternative,” says Distinctive. “The oppression received’t work. Extra youngsters will come out in no matter variance they need. And the illustration for queer people will simply be all over the place, a lot in order that extra youngsters can see themselves in these artists. And it’s rap that’s pushing all of this ahead. It is a place the place you don’t must run and conceal. As a result of we’re executed with that.”
To see our operating record of the highest 100 best rock stars of all time, click on right here.