Hip-Hop is 44 years old, and despite changes to the style of rapping, fashion, graffiti, battling, being a DJ, the technology used to craft, distribute, and market these excellent and timeless pieces of art that will forever be remembered for influencing generations of youth, our beloved genre has yet to embrace emcees that aren’t masculine or feminine heterosexuals.
It’s 2018, and with the annual LGBTQ Pride celebration in NYC just a few weeks away, it’s completely vile that there isn’t a single openly lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender rapper that has won a Grammy, a Billboard award or a BET award, or even has a hot single or project dominating the airwaves at the moment. As an ally for the LGBTQ community and a longtime hip-hop head, I’ve come to a crossroads. I love hip-hop; I love it enough to know that it’s time for it to evolve into the immaculate butterfly that I know it can be. It’s time to open the doors to this great culture to those that have been demonized, ostracized, dehumanized, threatened, mortified and degraded for far too long. One common excuse I hear is that there isn’t enough dope gay, lesbian, transgender or bi-sexual rappers out there. Young M.A, Nitty Scott MC, Kevin Abstract (Member of Brockhampton), ILoveMakonnen, Taylor Bennet, Siya, Syd (member of The Internet), Young Fly Red, Mykki Blanco, Cakes Da Killa, Le1f and Big Freedia prove that couldn’t be farther from the truth, as they all tear down the booth once they walk in it.
Hip-Hop’s homophobic attitude is no different than the corrupt government, racist law enforcement institutions, gentrification, gun violence, poverty, income inequality, drug glorification and appropriation that are often criticized in songs from some of the genres most iconic artists. It’s also ironic that the same genre of music that has a rich history of bashing those that don’t fit the norm of a traditional gender role, manages to appropriate various traits, such as fashion and lingo, from the very same community, with, at times, straight emcees not giving the proper credit to who they received their newly found attributes from.
The most recent example of this is when Drake sampled New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia for his chart-topping single, “Nice for What,” which Big Freedia was paid for, but there was one problem: she wasn’t in the video. If a fellow artist is good enough for you to sample their voice, then they should be good enough to have a cameo in the video as well. Drake could’ve used his platform to make a bold statement by having Big Freedia in the video showing everyone that not only is he an ally for the LGBTQ community, but that he is not conforming to the homophobic ideologies that so many that came before him have.
Let’s be honest, there's always been gay rappers, and always will be. The x-factor is that many have been, and probably still are, in the closet. Aside from receiving the cold shoulder from fellow artists, openly gay and transgender rappers have yet to be on the front cover of any major hip-hop magazines. Yes, you’ve had artist such as Young M.A and Kevin Abstract grace the cover of Highsnobiety and The Fader, but no hip-hop artist from the LGBTQ community has ever graced the front cover of XXL, Vibe, Complex and/or The Source. These four magazines have a rich history for taking hip-hop artist to the next level and elevating careers while pushing the culture forward. Although these four magazines may not be the most popular to the millennial generation, I still find it quite odd that not one of them has stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge of embracing an openly LGBTQ artist, especially from a business standpoint.
Despite the hatred, bigotry and ignorance directly aimed at the LGBTQ community, there is a solution to all of this foolishness that plagues our beloved art form. The first step is to obviously start respecting the LGBTQ community; not because it’s good PR (Public Relations) or to keep an endorsement deal, but because it’s genuinely the honorably right thing to do. Second, all forms of hip-hop media, including blogs, radio stations, magazines and club DJs, need to start giving equal coverage to openly gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual artists, whether it’s radio spins, a blog post, interviews, a front cover of a magazine or spinning records at a local club. Third, there should be more of a platform for DJs and producers that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, as well.
Also, respect the DJs, and producers that identify with the LGBTQ community. The way that DJ Mister Cee has been shamed by rival radio hosts, artists and fans have forced him to feel the need to be exiled from our beloved art form because of his sexual orientation is completely disrespectful to those that paved the way for our culture. Especially since he was the first DJ to drop a 120-minute mixtape, having gone on tour, and being Big Daddy Kane’s DJ. He was also known for those classic throwbacks at noon mixes on Hot 97, he dropped classic best of mixtapes with the Tape Kingz for artists like the Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep and Redman, and he helped the Notorious B.I.G. get his Bad Boy record deal by giving his demo tape to The Source magazine. He's an icon.
I dream that one day everyone that loves hip-hop will be able to fully participate in all aspects of the culture without feeling like a pariah, and being afraid of being judged about whom they love, and their gender.