cakes da killa, goodie goodies, le1f, mykki blanco, lgbtq, gay, hip-hop, queer

Why is Hip-Hop Slow to Embrace LGBT Rappers?

This post is also available in: Portuguese

For 30 years, hip-hop has been a seismic cultural influence — from music, fashion, language and people’s positions on gender, race and sexuality. Unfortunately, homophobia runs deep in the makeup of hip-hop as rappers casually detonate anti-gay bombs.

However this may be changing. Over the past six or seven years, rappers have come forward and spoken about their personal acceptance of an openly gay performer in mainstream hip-hop. Wale, a Washington D.C. hip-hop artist told Larry King that “it used to be taboo to be a part of the gay community; now it’s taboo to speak bad on the gay community.”

Snoop Dogg also altered his opinions about the acceptance of gays in hip-hop. The West coast rapper has no qualms with us gays but he previously stated that it’s hard for hip-hop to accept gay artists because of the hyper-masculine culture of hip-hop. During an interview with VH1’s Big Morning Buzz host Carrie Keagan, the D-O-Double-G stated the hip-hop community will eventually accept it because there is currently an influx of unity going on in music.

Unity, Snoop? Eh, maybe, but there’s definitely been an influx of openly queer rappers who are making their mark in hip-hop. Artists like Cazwell and Big Dipper have made a splash in the underground queer club scenes in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco with their sexually comedic lyrics and NSFW visuals. Now true hip-hop lyricists like Le1f, Zebra Katz, Mykki Blanco and Cakes Da Killa have all given a voice to the gay boy who appreciates rap music’s raw sound and underlining theme of unity.

Le1f, Katz, Blanco and Cakes are all making some of the most progressive hip-hop today and as members of the LGBTQ and Black community, these rappers know all too well visibility and power go hand-in-hand. In a culture that rarely if ever includes LGBTQ people, gay rappers are more than appreciated. Normally we hear straight men talk complete shit about fucking various women and inflated egos. Now that LGBTQ rappers have become more visible we get to hear lyrics like Cakes da Killa’s “New Phone, Who Dis”:

You think this shit is sweet like honey to a bee
I been attracting ballers and actors around me
I been here already
Jersey bred like Fetty
My come up is kinda steady so groupies be flocking heavy

Orthe melanin-loving track, “Swirl” from Le1f:

Look at this brown skin
All of this brown skin
I know it’s arousing
The aura surrounding
My fabulous brown skin
If you keep it cute, then you might be allowed in.

Though it may seem as if hip hop is straying away from its archaic ways, we still hear rappers attribute their sound and lyrics to a dated hyper-masculine culture that requires the use of “no homo” or “pause” after saying anything that may resemble homosexuality. The train of thought that breeds hate and violence is also seen in institutions like politics and sports — even though they’re intended to make the LGBTQ community people feel safe.

Something interesting to note is that both the hip-hop community and gay community, for the most part, praise images of hyper-masculinity and fetishize thugged-out men of color. Luckily, the aforementioned LGBTQ rappers go against these two attributes — not to be defiant but because these artists are hell-bent on remaining authentic as fuck. On Mykki Blanco‘s intoxicating bop, “Wavvy” the rapper states:

I pimp slap you bitch niggas with my limp wrist, bro
What the fuck I gotta prove to a room full of dudes
Who ain’t listening to my words cuz they staring at my shoes.

Moreover, Le1f tells the tale of racist gays in the club who ignore him the way taxi cab drivers do on one of his most lyrically deep songs, “Taxi:”

They always say I’m not their type
I see the evil in their eyes
I’m tired of being denied
I love myself, no compromise
Honestly, I’m happy with
My skin, my hair, my sexy lips
You’ll never know how well I tip
You’ll never know that I’m that bitch

Before becoming a Kardashian, Kanye West sat with MTV News’ Sway Calloway in 2005 to talk about hip-hop’s homophobia. He began with his own experience and recalled on the pressure he got to conform to standards of masculinity jaded his view towards gays.

West also used this interview to criticize the community at large. “Hip Hop seemed like it was about fighting for your rights in the beginning, about speaking your mind, and breaking down barriers or whatever,” he said. “But everybody in hip-hop discriminates against against gay people. To me, that’s one of the standards in hip-hop is to be like, “You fag, you gay.”

West’s self-awareness and big picture perspective gave little hope to what the future held for LGBTQ hip hop fans and artists but nothing has really changed since then. Yes — we have rappers who are gay making unapologetic noise in the hip-hop game, but most of the mainstream hip-hop community remain silent. The more you ignore someone, the more they’ll will suffer unless they speak out.

The LGBTQ community need visibility, allyship and support, from those in places of power and influence and when someone like West or even recently, Kid Cudi, speak up for a marginalized group that doesn’t have power or influence in a community such as hip-hop, speaks volume. Most hip-hop artists will continue to remain silent because they don’t care, or they don’t want their sexuality questioned — a concept that embodies the fragility of a rapper’s masculinity.

(Featured image from “Goodie Goodies” by Cakes da Killa, directed by Ja’Tovia Gary.)