As a hip-hop fan it can be hard to find music that resonates with the queer experience. Kanye rapping about his sexual achievements and Tyler, The Creator’s (pre-Flower Boy) machismo are just some examples of things that sometimes make certain groups in the industry feel excluded. But artists like Kid Cudi, who just recently wore a dress on SNL and Lil Nas X, have been paving a new way for us to perceive rap stars.
In light of this incredible shift in popular hip-hop music, it’s important that we appreciate some of the best artists queering up the once masculine genre. It’s important to note, a lot of the genres that helped shape hip-hop - dance, disco and rock music - were all dominated by queer people of colour. They are the original pioneers of queerness in music and it’s not often appreciated that they began many of our favourite genres. For decades, many of these queer people of colour spoke about their own experiences of queerness and race in their music. Now, the following modern artists are the performers breaking down barriers that are allowing so many queer people to finally be seen and heard in hip-hop.
Lil Nas X
“I’m gonna riiiiiiide it ‘til I can’t no more” is still echoing in the heads of anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2019. And now, nearly two years later, Lil Nas X is back and queerer than ever.
Skyrocketing to popularity due to its, to say the least, controversial accompanying music video, Montero has clearly started a new shift in expressing sexuality in hip-hop. Outside of his music too, Lil Nas X is a fashion icon, totally demolishing the concept of what we used to think a hip-hop star could look like. He’s fabulous and he’s proud of it and has created a brand-new generation of hip-hop fans and artists that will be out and proud thanks to him.
The ‘Good As Hell’ goddess herself has pumped body and sexual positivity through the music industry since her debut in 2013.
Her 2019 album Cuz I Love You pioneered proud sexuality with tunes like Juice and Tempo, quickly proving her knack for loveable wholesomeness. Heavily inspired by Lauryn Hill, Lizzo’s iconic mix of R&B, funk and hip-hop provides a danceable, fresh bedrock for her relatable queer lyrics. Lizzo’s own queerness is siphoned through her music in such a way that makes queer listeners totally euphoric watching her.
BOOGIE is a song that will forever be stuck in all of our brains.
A great modern rebranding of the boy band, BROCKHAMPTON have explored new shores of masculinity thanks to their leading man Kevin Abstract. Kevin puts his homosexuality into his music in an exciting and masculinity-questioning way, seeking to give other young gay people a voice. Similar to acts like Frank Ocean and Tyler, The Creator, BROCKHAMPTON have helped create a space in hip-hop to discuss love in more than just the heterosexual way.
Janelle’s a talented actor, a visionary, conceptual musician and a queer legend, is there anything Monae can’t do?
Featuring in the films Moonlight (2016) and more recently Antebellum (2020), Janelle Monae has also put out three monolith studio albums: The ArchAndroid (2010), The Electric Lady (2013) and Dirty Computer (2018) which all exist in a seven-part epic series about an android. Janelle herself has said that the android character, Cindi (the main protagonist in her music) is a stand-in for herself. This nearly decade-spanning exploration of her own sexuality and identity is a big pull for their music with many queer fans finding affirmations of their own identities in their music.
Every track by this Maryland rapper burns with the fury that so many queer people are burning with on a daily basis.
Rico Nasty’s most recent album Nightmare Vacation (2020) has a passion that only she can rap with. Inventing her own genre, “sugar-trap,” Rico Nasty is making hip-hop only more queer and more punk. As an advocate for women getting into the pit and getting their own safe space to be furious and passionate in the rap industry, Nasty is paving a new way that makes hip-hop inclusive of everyone - which is queer as hell.
The angular sounds of Daisy have already been heard all over TikTok, so chances are you already know this bubblegum queen.
“I gave your girlfriend cunilingus on my couch,” an absolutely iconic line, is just one of the many lines in Slumber Party feat. Princess Nokia that showcases Ashnikko’s distinctive lyrical transparency. It’s so overtly sexual and queer, turning the traditionally masculine hip-hop genre on its head.