Rap is known for many things, being politically correct towards homosexuality however is not one of them.
Whilst rap is a genre founded on artists expressing their truths, it has seemingly led itself down a path of what that acceptable truth is. Things have been changing and certain things deemed as unacceptable have become mainstream rap content. For example ‘bocat’ used to be an insult that wouldn’t be tolerated, now people sing along to D-Block Europe proudly – although they don’t refer to the act as ‘bocatting’. Homosexuality has been an interesting truth to be expressed in terms of rap.
A lot of old school mentalities and politically incorrect language still permeates lyrics and artist attitudes despite wider societies acceptance of homosexuality. Even on the occasions it has come up in a less derogatory way, such as rappers seeming fascination with lesbianism, it has often had negative or fetishising undertones. That’s before we even get into addressing the outright derogatory lyrics where homosexuality is weaponised as an insult towards others. But that story is widely known and the cultural reasonings behind it are pretty apparent historically.
“I take a dyke chick if she like dick/ I kissed the dyke chick and I liked it/ Fucking each and every Katy Perry for the night bitch”A$AP Rocky – Better Things
What’s also interesting to look at however is rap’s link to fashion. In fashion homosexuality has been open and celebrated, and on this the two spheres have worked together harmoniously for years. Whether it’s a brands design team or an artist’s stylists, there have been prominent artists that have worked alongside openly homosexual people or worn their products with no problems. Yet publicly across the scene those same voices aren’t always vocal in support of LGBTQ+ movements.
What arguably plays a role in this is that there aren’t many openly homosexual artists in rap. This is paired with the fact that even prominent figures who are simply suspected of homosexuality are instantly ridiculed – Young Thug was ridculed as being homosexual for his eccentric fashion choices including wearing a dress, Lil Uzi Vert has equally had homophobic comments thrown his way due to a combination of his dress sense as mannerisms. These passed, and in America there are extremely successful artists that have come out such as Young M.A, Lil Nas X, and Frank Ocean. The UK as it so often is in terms of the music scene is seemingly behind on this, but we have had a few.
Last year Karnage Kills openly expressed that he is the first Grime artist to have come out. More recently a video of artist Mr Strange‘s Bl@ckbox freestyle has been going around social media. In it, he unashamedly and openly raps about his homosexuality as well as some of the responses he’s had to coming out. It is still early days in terms of attitudes changing but the response to Mr Strange‘s video has been relatively positive, and all comments regarding his actual ability as a rapper were positive. That’s something as an audience people need to mature to, we listen to artists for their content and that’s what we should judge them on not on their sexual orientation. The content from Strange is honest and pretty much in line with what everyone else raps about with the addition of him adding in parts about his sexuality. He’s not good for a ‘gay rapper’, he’s just a good rapper period. Artists that come out should never be judged on a different scale or categorised based on their sexuality. Doing so diminishes from their actual ability and talent in the same way that labelling female artists as ‘female rappers’ minimises their skill despite a lot of them being better than their male counterparts.
People like Mr Strange are needed for attitudes to change. If people can see an openly homosexual artist, hopefully existing closeted artists may be more inclined to come out or at the very least up and coming artists won’t feel like they need to hide that part of themselves. It will be a slow process, but this is progress to having more voices represented in the rap scene and new perspectives are always welcome as a listener as they can often bring with them new approaches and sounds.