Nearing the end of Pride 2020 and in the midst of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, here is a must-listen list of black artists who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community, from Janelle Monáe to Kevin Abstract to Frank Ocean and more.
First, A Plea…
to my community, for my community
Show Support For #BLM
The only two things on my mind lately are BLACK LIVES MATTER and PRIDE.
The important part to remember: Black Lives Matter and Pride are connected. We can’t fight for the equality of all black lives without also fighting for the equality of all black members of the LGBTQ+ community, and we can’t fight for the entirety of the LBGTQ+ community without also fighting for all black members. This may seem like an obvious statement on the surface. But if it was obvious, then why are we still seeing racism within the gay community?
Please, please, please watch this short video from Brandon Kyle Good explaining why the Black Lives Matter movement needs to be addressed within the LGBTQ+ community.
“Let me also vocalize as a black gay man, as a black queer person. To not feel safe in straight spaces because of my queerness is painful. To not feel safe in queer spaces because of my blackness is a betrayal.”
Staggering Black + Queer Statistics
Our black queer community needs us. Simple as that. Here are just a few of the heartbreaking statistics (from the Human Rights Campaign) to prove it:
- Among the 53 known transgender fatal victims from 2013-2015, 46 (or 87%) were people of color. 39 African American and 6 Latino. (a Human Rights Campaign and TPOCC study)
- 1.3 times more likely to experience police violence than their non-black counterparts. 2 times as to experience physical violence. 2 times as likely to experience discrimination. 1.4 times more likely to experience threats. (2014 report).
- 34% of black transgender people are living in extreme poverty. For comparison, it’s just 9% of non-transgender black people. (2012 report).
All lives can’t matter until black lives matter, and all black lives can’t matter until black queer lives matter.
You can’t support equality for all LGBTQ+ rights without supporting all Black LGBTQ+ rights.
Black & LGBTQ+ Pride In Music Today
Here is a list of current artists who are proudly expressing both their black + queer pride. To our black LGBTQ+ members, I see you. I support you. I stand with you. I’m fighting for you. I won’t stop until this country values you. I love you. Happy Pride.
[Click the artists’ name to direct you to their Spotify page.]
In her queer cover story with Rolling Stone in 2018, Monáe confirmed the rumors regarding her sexuality stating: “being a queer black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women- I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.” She further clarified her sexuality with “but then later I read about pansexuality and was like, ‘oh, these are things that I identify with too.’ I’m open to learning more about who I am.”
Though she previously avoided questions about her sexuality until this interview with Rolling Stone, the answers have always been in her music. Songs like “Mushrooms & Roses” from her 2010 The ArchAndroid album and “Q.U.E.E.N.” from her 2013 The Electric Lady album both reference a female as the object of affection. And with her latest album Dirty Computer, 9 songs are dedicated to sexuality. In the interview with Rolling Stone, she dedicated the whole album to the LGBTQ+ community, stating “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullies for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you. This album is for you. Be proud.”
In an interview with Lizzo for them., Monáe discussed the process of making Dirty Computer, an idea that she had been sitting with since before her 2010 album The ArchAndroid. Before working on Dirty Computer, Monáe felt “there were just conversations that I had to have with myself and my family about my sexuality and the impact that speaking honestly and truthful about it through my art would have.” Most predominantly she was worried about how her community would respond stating that she grew up in a very small town attending Baptist church and “to be anything other than heterosexual is a sin in that community, and growing up, I was always told I’d go to hell if I was.” In order to maneuver these fears, she had conversations with a therapist and herself, and “realized it was bigger than just me. There are millions of other folks who are looking for a community. And I just leaned into that. I leaned into the idea that if my own church won’t accept me, I’m gonna create my own church.”
For them., Monáe also proclaimed that “when you walk in your truth, you can inspire and encourage people to walk in theirs’.” Her intimate, exemplary lyricism and artistry for Dirty Computer does just that. From symbolizing society’s view on the origins of queer sexuality (“Dirty Computer“), expressing internalized shame for being queer (“Take a Byte“), empowering black females in male-dominated society (“Django Jane“), explicitly referencing vaginas (“PYNK“), stanning bisexuality (“Make Me Feel“), accepting her own sexuality (“I Like That“), personally asking listeners to accept her true identity as queer and black (“Don’t Judge Me“), being insecure about her sexuality (“So Afraid“), and calling Americans to battle racism, sexism, and homophobia in society (“Americans“), Dirty Computer is the undeniably ultimate black and queer pride anthem album.
I also must take the time to acknowledge Monáe’s candid take on representation in the entertainment industry. When Lizzo asked Monáe about her opinions regarding the level of representation for the LGBTQIA+ community, she was straight-forward, and right on point. “We’re making some waves, but we can do better. And again, it’s about normalizing and telling more stories, and inviting more LGBTQIA+ folks into the conversation on the front end, and giving us a seat at the table early on. Because we can’t afford to see things in a binary way. That’s not how the world works.”
Though this particular article is focused on music, it would simply feel to wrong not to acknowledge RuPaul’s extensive and madly successful career in the entertainment industry. From being an actor since the early 1990s (AJ and the Queen, Someone Great, Broad City, Girlboss, But I’m a Cheerleader, and that’s just naming a few), mega-successful recording artist since 1993, producer and television personality since the early 2000s (RuPaul’s Drag Race), and most recently a TV show runner/writer (AJ and the Queen), RuPaul has been making, and continues to make, a massive impact on every aspect of the entertainment industry. He’s considered the most commercially successful drag queen ever, and was included in the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people in 2017.
As a recording artist, RuPaul has 15 studio albums to date, building one of the most extensive discographies I’ve ever seen. His international fame began with his 1993 debut album Supermodel of the World with the single “Supermodel (You Better Work)“. Though I could list almost every single in his discography for this article, here some that clearly fit the mold: “If You Were a Woman [And I Was a Man]“, “My Love Sees No Color“, “Coming Out of Hiding“, “Love is Love“, “Sissy That Walk“, “LGBT“, “Feel Like a Woman“, “American“. With his all-inclusive music and further production in the entertainment industry, RuPaul will forever be one of the most influential and iconic members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Singer-songwriter Syd’s career began at the young age of 15 as the only female member of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, who formed in 2007 and also featured now prominent artists Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator. As the group’s DJ and shyest personality, her time with Odd Future went relatively unnoticed, as most of the attention went towards the other members. At that time, she was also the only openly gay member in the group; so, when Odd Future was scrutinized for ‘homophobic lyrics’, Syd often took the blow for the group’s homophobia. Because she was the openly gay member, she was expected to speak out about the actions of her group members. She told The Guardian “in the beginning it was tough, especially being part of a group that everybody thought was homophobic[…] then, years later, everybody’s gay! People wanted to talk to me about it the most. Like you have an issue with Tyler’s lyrics, but you want to talk to me about it? Talk to him about it! I started to resent it.” She also reflected on her time serving as the ‘token spokesperson of the group’ with Billboard stating “it’s hilarious…I went through all of these interviews, and everybody was gay the whole time.” Since, Frank Ocean has publicly addressed his sexuality and Tyler, the Creator raps about his, though doesn’t speak about it publicly.
While still a member of Odd Future, Syd formed the band The Internet, alongside another Odd Future member Matt Martians. With Syd’s soft and smooth toned voice at the helm, the group blends sounds of R&B, hip hop, jazz, funk, and electronic music. The band, which now features 5 members in total, received a Grammy nomination in 2015 for Best Urban Contemporary Album for their third studio album Ego Death. Following the Grammy nomination, the group’s members spent the next years focusing on their solo projects and Syd announced her official departure from Odd Future in 2016. A year later, she dropped her solo album Fin.
Syd has recently been addressing her sexuality publicly, though it is something that she avoided at the start of her career. She told Billboard in 2018 that she initially didn’t feel the need to address it since “people can usually tell.” In fact, she “made it a point to avoid those topics of conservation and just normalize it. Being gay is normal.” However, she’s changed her perspective saying “these days I’m not shying away from these kinds of topics. I do want to inspire people — young girls who may like to wear boys’ clothes and who romanticize women and feel nothing wrong with it.”
Syd has also addressed how the industry and culture still view her openly singing about her attraction to women as ‘radical’ in the interview with The Guardian. She responded very candidly, “I’m not going to sing about men when I don’t date men– and I’m also not not gonna sing about love. It was never like, ‘oh damn, maybe I shouldn’t say girl’– it never crossed my mind.” Through her work with The Internet and on her solo project Fin, Syd has been extremely open about her sexuality. So, if anyone out there is looking for a bunch of incredible queer-focused music, her career discography is an incredible source. Just focusing on The Internet‘s Grammy-nominated Ego Death alone, she acknowledges her attraction to and relationships with women in “Get Away“, “Gabby” (featuring previously mentioned Janelle Monáe), “Under Control“, “Go With It“, “Just Sayin/I Tried“, “For the World“, “Girl“, “Special Affair“, “Somthing’s Missing“, “Partners in Crime Part Three“, and “Palace/Curse” — note: this is 11 out of the 12 songs on the album! And for the one song left out of this list (“Penthouse Cloud“), the lyrics are about questioning faith due to acts of racial injustice. According to Syd in an interview with 106 KMEL, the song was written the morning after Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man, was murdered by police in Ferguson.
Frank Ocean’s career began in the rap collective group known as Odd Future, which also featured Tyler, The Creator and (previously mentioned) openly gay artist Syd. During Ocean’s time with Odd Future from its creation in 2011 up until 2016, he was not publicly open about his sexuality. So, when the group was criticized for presenting ‘homophobic lyrics’, listeners did not know that 3 of the group’s members would all address their own homosexual attractions throughout their solo careers. Because artists like Frank Ocean and Syd have paved the way for other black queer artists in the industry, listeners hear the once ‘homophobic’ lyrics from Odd Future a bit differently now. Listener’s perspectives regarding the controversial Odd Future lyrics began to change in 2012 once Ocean released his debut solo album channel ORANGE and posted an intimate letter on his personal webpage.
In the mentioned intimate letter on his webpage, Frank Ocean didn’t exactly ‘come out’, but intimately and openly expressed his first romance at the age of 19 with a male friend who reciprocated, but refused to label their relationship. Though it isn’t exactly a ‘coming out’, the expression of a same-sex relationship is basically unprecedented in the worlds of R&B and hip-hop, in which Frank Ocean is a prominent artist in both. Music writer Gerrick D. Kennedy with the Los Angeles Times referred to the letter as a “glass ceiling moment for music. Especially black music, which has long been in desperate need of a voice like Ocean’s to break the layers of homophobia.”
In an interview with GQ, Ocean reflected on the aftermath of the letter: “The night I posted it, I cried like a fucking baby. It was like all the frequency just clicked to a change in my head. All the receptors were now receiving a different signal, and I was happy. I hadn’t been happy in so long. I’ve been sad again since, but it’s a totally different take on sad. There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness.”
Along with the intimate letter, Ocean has also expressed his attraction to men in his music. Listeners started to speculate regarding Ocean’s sexuality shortly before he posted his intimate letter because he refers to a male love interest on his debut channel ORANGE album. The male love interest is acknowledged as Ocean expresses lingering feelings for a first love (“Thinkin Bout You“), heartbreakingly admits feelings towards an unrequited love (“Bad Religion“), and metaphorically compares the love story from the film Forrest Gump with his own harboring feelings for his first love (“Forrest Gump“). Ocean continues to release tracks featuring queer themes including “Skyline To“, “Good Guy“, and “Pretty Sweet” from his second album Blonde, and his singles “Chanel” and “DHL“.
When asked about their personal journey and expressing their identity, Mykki Blanco told Billboard: “For me it’s been this interesting public journey. When I began making music for the first time at 25, the creation of Mykki Blanco as a musical identity was literally also identical to the discovery of Mykki Blanco, my trans-femme self. That journey was so intertwined.”
In an interview with the The Guardian, Blanco expressed how deciding not to transition was life-changing because “when you’re a trans person but you still have very masculine features, people think they can frown and snarl and look at you as if, ‘how dare you exist?’ That period allowed me to see just how wonderful people can be and just how horrible people can be. I went through this period of hiding my eyes and being ashamed and then I was like, ‘what am I doing? I have a right to be on this earth as much as all these other assholes!’ It gave me a whole lot of inner strength.” Because of this inner strength, Mykki Blanco is a hard-hitting, confident rapper.
When Billboard asked about hip-hop’s notoriously homophobic reputation and its hesitance to embrace LGBTQ inclusion, Blanco’s response is extremely notable as they argue pop, country, or indie aren’t much better. “Just because we have really bright lights [in pop music] like Lady Gaga or Katy Perry or Taylor [Swift]– just because these artists are magnets for the LGBTQ community– it doesn’t mean that their predominant base is LGBTQ-friendly.” Blanco argues that claiming hip-hop is more homophobic and transphobic than other genres “almost absolves” the other genres “and makes hip-hop a scapegoat, when in general we’re talking about an entire music industry that has long been very homophobic.”
Considering the recent headlines, the high rates of murders of transgender women, and the #BlackTransLivesMatter protests, Mykki Blanco has been taking to Twitter to discuss their personal experiences: “as a gender non conforming trans person I know what it feels like to have a target on my back. For years I lived on 135th and Amsterdam in Harlem and there were many times I felt like God was watching over my shoulder because of the violence that people tried to inflict” (@MykkiBlanco).
Blanco’s most blatantly gay and confident song is “For the Cunts“, which Blanco calls a ‘gay club anthem.’ The song “You Don’t Know Me” is about Blanco coming out as HIV-positive and the fallout associated with it. You can also find queer and drag themes in songs like “You Will Find It“, “I’m in a Mood“, “Hideaway“, “Shit Talking Creep“, “Fuckin’ the DJ“, “Lucky“, and the massively successful “Wish You Would” (a collab with gender-nonconforming Princess Nokia which has over 5 million listens on Spotify).
Though her sexuality isn’t addressed very often, Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, known by her stage name Princess Nokia, clarified with Blavity that she doesn’t “put a particular label on” her sexuality, but does “identify more sexually fluid because I think bisexuality may perhaps be limiting”. She is also known to fluctuate between feminine and masculine styles, telling Playboy this year: “Every day I feel different. Every day it’s either masc or femme or in between” and “I’m a gender-nonconforming androgynous person.” Regarding her fashion sense, she told Blavity that even as a kid growing up she “always used forms of eccentric ways of dressing to be resistant to the opposition of judgment around me”, “was always really comfortable with being androgynous”, and “was a self-identified queer child”.
Princess Nokia also spoke with DIY about the current progression of LGBTQ+ representation within hip-hop: “we can definitely see how gender fluidity is progressing […] but there’s still a long way to go too. Non-straight rappers could always use more love. We need to be put on bigger stages.”
Princess Nokia is known for her blatant confidence, rebellious attitude, embodiment of urban feminism, and vigilante actions against social injustice. From video evidence of her physically intervening when a white man acts racist toward a group of young black men on the NYC subway… to physically defending her friend from acts of domestic violence, which you can listen to in “Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T)“…Princess Nokia does not tolerate racism or misogyny. Regarding the subway incident, she told Genius “I let that man have it. And let him know that those choices of words and that behavior was not going to be tolerated in that very moment.” In the same interview she spoke about the defending her domestically abused friend adding that the “mistreatment of women…unacceptable. Violence towards women…unacceptable. Sexism or misogyny towards women…unacceptable. You play with one of my homegirls, you’re gonna get touched. That is on that.”
Princess Nokia has since taken her advocacy for feminism, particularly for women of color, to the next level in founding the Smart Girl Club, which is an ‘urban collective’ that has created a safe space building creative collaboration between all women through art and community outreach. She described urban feminism in an interview with Vice as a “tangible form of feminism that is accessible to inner city women who do not have access to the institutionalized forms of feminism” that are represented in high education. “It’s for women like myself, who identify on such a multitude of planes and need something that is relatable” and emphasized that “we’re gonna create tools of awareness and protection for sisterhood, for education, and for better ways to navigate our lives. It’s our goal.”
Even with all of the information I just presented, this is still barely scratching the surface when it comes to Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, the Afro-indigenous Puerto Rican badass from the Bronx. Princess Nokia’s ultimate road to success despite all of the hardship she has faced is one that deserves sufficient recognition. From losing her mother to AIDS when she was just 10 years old, to being physically abused within the foster care system, to running away at the age of just 15, Destiny Nicole Frasqueri is the ultimate success story.
Princess Nokia’s whole discography practically tells the tale of her entire life. Her mega-successful album 1992 quite literally shares her experiences growing up in the Bronx and gives direct insights into her personality. Songs expressing the more masculine side of her androgyny (“Tomboy” and “Saggy Denim“), being proudly black and Puerto Rican (“Brujas“), her difficult childhood (“Saggy Denim“, “Goth Kid“), her relentless work ethic and ultimate success (“Excellent“, “Receipts“, “G.O.A.T.“) are all included on 1992 alone. And with her most recent double release this year, she explores the dualities in her identity within two distinct musical styles. Everything Is Beautiful presents a more sensitive and feminine side to her personality and music while Everything Sucks is more brash and aggressive in tone and spirit. Back in 2017, she stated “I’m a weird kid. I’ve got so many personalities eatin’ me up inside. And I think that’s the basic of the music and my whole identity.” Her discography and androgyny are outlets for substantially exploring and expressing these dual aspects of her personal identity.
In 2017, a day before his 21st birthday, rapper Taylor Bennett came out as bisexual on Twitter. And a year later, Bennett released “BE YOURSELF“, which pleads others to not allow cultural norms, including those centered around masculinity, to hold them back. In the track, he not only explores the topic of his identity, but also his youth and his family. In an interview with Time, he stated “to be black in America, to come from a background where typical masculinity comes first at all costs and being the first to disrupt the norm, is so scary. You know, it’s very, very, very hard to be yourself– but even more difficult to be yourself and still be the most powerful person or version of yourself in a room.”
In the same statement with Time in 2018, Bennett makes a statement that unfortunately still bears truth today about the issues between the black community and the LGBTQ community. “…Things have become so disruptive that to be black and to be gay or bisexual has kind of become its own race. So there’s many years of anger, confusion, and unspoken words for the black community and the LGBTQ community. That’s why I wanted to tell this story. There are gay black artists who have publicly announced their sexual orientation, but never a bisexual African American artist who not only wants to speak his own truth, but also use his platform to raise a much large conversation that likes and clicks to get to the root of the issue.”
Along with “BE YOURSELF”, Bennett also addresses his sexuality in “Know Yourself (Outro)” and “Fall Back Fools“. Bennett also frequently raps about the black experience in America. These tracks include “Know Yourself (Outro)“, “Everything I Can’t Handle“, “New York Nights“, “Smile“, “Singing The Blues“.
Young M.A’s career took off following the massive success of her break out single “Ooouuu” in 2016 (currently has over 200 million listens on Spotify), which made her a rising star in hip-hop and one of the few successful openly gay women in hip-hop history. Though she’s known her attraction towards women since a young age, she hid her sexuality until she was 18. She told The Guardian that once her family accepted her, she could accept herself and her music blossomed from there. “Once I became myself, the music was a wrap. Music is my expression. Music is my release. Music is my therapy. This is where I’m going to speak about my sexuality. I’ve held it in for so long, now I can express it.”
She addresses her sexuality nonchalantly and confidently in the majority of her music. There’s no ‘coming out’ song, or anything of the sort. She simply is. She raps about her sexuality just as any straight person would and I really love that about her music. Songs where she specifically discusses her relationships and attraction to women include “Karma Krys“, “HennyNHoes“, “Praktice“, “PettyWap“, “Car Confessions“, “Hot Sauce“, “JOOTD“, “Bonnie“, “No Mercy“, “The Lyfestyle“, “Stubborn Ass“, “She Like I’m Like“, “Bipolar“, “Foreign“, “NNAN“, “My Hitta“, “Bad Bitch Anthem“.
Along with her sexuality, Young M.A. also speaks about issues of racism, alcohol dependency, and, most notably, violence. In “Through The Day“, she covers police brutality, the abundance of liquor stores in black neighborhoods, mass incarceration of black men, mental health struggles, and most notably her older brother’s murder when she was just 17. She also raps about ‘street life’ and violence in “No Love“.
An important note regarding her ‘label’. In an interview with Time in 2019, Young M.A discussed her developed dislike toward sexual labels, stating “I’m not a label person. Before, I used to think being a label was cool. With this industry, they didn’t welcome a person like me, what I represent. I busted some doors down, with no hesitation. But then I got to a point where it was just like, ‘I don’t need nobody defining me. Sometimes I don’t even know my damn self.'”
Lil Nas X has become one of the most visual LGBTQ+ artists not only within hip-hop, but the whole music industry. Following his smash hit “Old Town Road”, Lil Nas X rose to the top of the charts and stayed there after releasing numerous remixes for the track (Billy Ray Cyrus being the most popular), gaining him maculate success in a very short period of time. Anyone with a music streaming platform or social media account of any kind has to have heard of Lil Nas X. With almost 5 million followers on Twitter, he has become a Twitter-trolling sensation amongst his fans.
With success comes social media attention and Lil Nas X used his extensive Twitter following to share clues about his sexuality with the world. To tap off Pride 2019, Lil Nas X tweeted a new song, “C7osure (You Like)” with the caption “some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gonna fwm no more. but before this month ends I want y’all to listen closely to c7osure”, which rendered 16.8 million views. The song feature lyrics like “I want and I need to let go, use my time to be free” and “ain’t no more actin’, man that forecast say I should just let me grow. No more red light for me baby, only green, I gotta go. Pack my past up in the back, oh, let my future take ahold/This is what I gotta do, can’t be regrettin’ when I’m old.” He followed it up with another tweet claiming “deadass thought I made it obvious” with 2 pictures of his 7 EP cover art, which features a rainbow colored building in the background. Fast forward to April 2020, he opened up to The Guardian stating “the honest truth is, I planned to die with the secret” followed up “but that changed when I became Lil Nas X.”
Kevin Abstract is best known for founding the popular rap group Brockhampton, who began releasing music in 2015. However, Abstract’s career didn’t start with Brockhampton. The group actually began under the name AliveSinceForever, which was formed in 2011 when Abstract was in high school. Though not all of the current members (which currently includes 5 vocalists, 12 total) were not a part of AliveSinceForever, Abstract was one of the 4. During his time with the group, Abstract also released his first solo album titled MTV1987 in 2014. Then, that same year, AliveSinceForever disbanded in order to rebrand the group to today’s BrockHampton. In 2015, Brockhampton released their first single and has since rendered almost 10 million monthly listeners on Spotify. To put into perspective how popular this band has become, their most popular song “SUGAR“, released in 2019, has over 218 million plays on Spotify, while Saweetie’s “My Type“, which also blew up that same year, has 160 million.
The year after Brockhampton’s first single release, Abstract not only released his second solo album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, but also came out as gay. Fast forward 3 years and he released his third solo album Arizona Baby, which also heavily features gay themes. Following its release, Abstract was GQ’s digital cover star for Pride Month. When asked about being on the Pride cover for GQ in an interview given by Jeremy O. Harris, Kevin Abstract got candid stating “I’m going to be honest. I think the face that this opportunity was presented to me is cool, because representation is very important to me. One thing I dislike, though, is that the only time I get these types of opportunities– the shit I romanticized as a kid– is when it’s related to my sexuality. Which, at the end of the day, I don’t want to be the thing that defines who I am.”
When Harris asked about Abstract’s decision to come out, he stated: “I did it to survive. I couldn’t keep hiding stuff. I make music to survive. I couldn’t keep lying to myself or through my work if that’s the root of survival for me. I came out through my music because I came out through myself, which was a big problem.” He also reflected on coming out to his mom explaining that “it sounded like she didn’t know who she was talking to, like I wasn’t her son. That’s what it felt like. She didn’t say that, but it felt like that. It fucked me up a lot. She got mad weird after that. I stopped talking to her. She stopped talking to me”, that was until he gained more success. “More people knew who I was. She’d send me videos she saw online of people singing my song at a show or just proud moments she was having. I started to get really frustrated because I felt like she was only fucking with me because I was able to pay bills and support her financially.” Then his friend Rick Rubin made him see the relationship and situation from a new perspective asking Abstract, “Did you ever think about the fact that maybe it’s easier for her to understand you now because the rest of the world has been able to accept who you are, that maybe that’s helping re-program her?” in which has made Abstract re-examine his previous homophobic claims regarding his mom, “I feel guilty for calling my mom homophobic in the past on songs, because I now believe she wasn’t able to understand and accept me until she saw others doing the same.”
For Abstract’s sophomore solo album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story, he recalls growing up in a predominantly white, American suburban high school that revolves around football. The album is structured in memories, from his most precious, like falling for a boy on the football team, and the most dreadful ones, like feeling victimized by homophobia and racism. The constant inner battle, between self-doubt and self-love // angst and desire // disappointment and bliss, presented in the album exemplifies every high and low a teenager experiences in trying to determine who they are and where they belong. For Abstract, he recalls constantly struggling mentally and emotionally (“Empty“, “Blink“), his up-and-down relationship with a boy from the football team (“Seventeen“, “Tattoo“, “Yellow“, “Suburbian Born“, “Runner“), his personal experiences with racism and homophobia (“Papercut“, “Miserable America“), and more. Similar to American Boyfriend, his third album Arizona Baby also details extremely personal aspects of his life, including relationships and mental health. During his time with Brockhampton, however, he really only references his sexuality in “JUNKY“, but the lyrics are direct and hard-hitting, referencing homophobia, being called ‘faggot’, and the lack of gay representation in rap culture.
For those of you who may not already be aware, Kehlani is a mix of ‘black, white, Native American, Filipino, and Spanish’ and has described her sexuality identity as ‘queer.’ In an interview with MTV while promoting her most well-known queer song “Honey”, Kehlani opened up about her motivation to create more queer music: “I am very openly queer. I thought that my music lacked representation of how my actual life is. I thought it was important to be myself fluidly in my music and not just in my life. My art mimics my life, so you know I have a girlfriend, and it’s only right that that’s what I make music about and that I’m about to put that out confidently.“
Though her most recent, massively-successful album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, doesn’t feature queer-specific songs (as it is about her recent public relationship with a straight man), songs like “1st Position” released on SoundCloud in 2015, “Honey” released in 2017 (both of which are included in my previous article 50 LGBTQ Anthems), and “Nights Like This” from her 2019 EP While We Wait directly express her sexuality and, more specifically, her attraction to women.
Up-and-and coming 19-year-old rapper/singer Kodie Shane has been open about her sexuality since she first started writing and recording her own music at the age of 15 with producer Matty P. She wrote and recorded her first song under the rap name The Don, which she named as a dismissal to gender roles. She told The Fader that the name was a tribute to the film Don Jon, stating “it’s this guy who gets all the girls– he’s the player; he’s the don.” However, when she signed with Epic in 2015, they couldn’t get rights to the name, so she chose Kodie Shane.
In 2015, a video release of her self-written track “In Ya City” was noticed by Coack K, a friend of Matty P who has notably managed the careers of Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane and guided the careers of rappers like Migos and Lil Yachty, out of Atlanta. Coach K introduced Shane to Lil Yachty when she was just 16, and Yachty made her the ‘official First Lady’ of his crew of collaborators known as The Sailing Team. This experience brought her an added dose of confidence as she told SSENSE that “it showed people that the girls can run with the guys.”
Since she started at such a young age, her identity has been growing alongside her career. She told SSENSE “I’m growing up, starting to have real relationships, and finding myself within my sexuality”. Through her personal growth, she tries to be a confident role model for her younger listeners, “I’ve never been hesitant. That’s the one of the things I try and tell the youth. You don’t have to be scared.”
You can hear her personal growth and self-confidence throughout her entire discography. Her latest EP’s, BLOOMING VOL. 1 from 2020 and Stay Tuned from 2019, are both packed full of confident raps about her career and relationships with women. The first song on her Spotify to mention her attraction to women is “A Ok” from her EP Zero Gravity back in 2016. And practically every release in between her first and her latest beams passion, self-confidence, and self-acceptance.
Before the release of what’s considered her debut LP, Young HeartThrob, Shane made a documentary with Red Bull Music during her preparation and performance as the opening act for Kehlani at Red Bull Music’s 30 Days in Chicago in 2018. In the interview before the show, she described herself: “Kodie Shane is passionate. Queer as fuck, by the way, and happy about it. Still all the way trying to figure it out, I’m definitely still figuring out me but I’m a lover, I know that.” Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when her full LP Young HeartThrob was compiled of intimate songs about her relationship with a woman, including hits like “Sing to Her“, “End Like That“, and “Love & Drugz II” (which has over 12 million plays on Spotify).