Once upon a time, hip-hop was a musical genre that wore its macho swagger with stubborn pride. The harder an MC came, the harder everyone else had to be. If you wanted to get under another man’s skin in the rap game, all you had to do was call him the dreaded F-word. In both the hip-hop and black male world, there is nothing more horrendous than being referred to as gay.
But times have changed, and even though hip-hop is still crowded with thugged-out alpha-males, MCs from the LGBTQ community have been sliding themselves in amidst the machismo. Just last month, a couple of MCs went to Twitter to come out of the closet. Taylor Bennett, better known as Chance the Rapper’s little brother, tweeted that he was bisexual. “Growing up I’ve always felt indifferent about my sexuality & being attracted 2 one sex & today I would like to openly come out to my fans,” he says. “I do recognize myself as a bisexual male & do & have always openly supported the gay community & will keep doing so in 2017. #ThankYou.”
Shortly after that, rapper and former Drake cohort ILoveMakonnen made his sexuality known on the social media site. “As a fashion icon, I can’t tell u about everybody else’s closet, I can only tell u about mine, and it’s time I’ve come out,” he posted. “And since y’all love breaking news, here’s some old news to break: I’m gay. And now I’ve told u about my life, maybe u can go [live] yours.” (Loudmouthed rapper Joe Budden used this announcement for comic fodder, tweeting, “Makonnen the only person that didn’t know he was out the closet.”)
In this post-#LoveWins era of understanding and accepting people of all sexual orientations, more and more LGBTQ rappers are proudly popping up. Last year, indie rapper Kevin Abstract dropped his second album, “American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story,” where he talked about his bisexuality in several songs. People have already been comparing Abstract to singer and occasional rapper Frank Ocean, who of course opened up the floodgates when he infamously, publicly addressed being attracted to men in 2012.
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But there have been MCs, such as East Coast dudes Jipsta, Le1f and Cakes da Killa, who have been out and about for a minute now. Unfortunately, openly LGBTQ rappers often get dropped in subgenres like queer hip-hop or “homo hop,” terms which has obviously irritated LGBTQ rappers who don’t want to be known only as LGBTQ rappers. Pansexual rapper/singer Brooke Candy told The Guardian about being pigeonholed as a queer MC: “Why the [expletive] is there a new genre for the same-sounding music? Half of the people rapping up there are gay and people don’t even know it.”
For as long as I can remember, rap fans have always debated who was straight or who was, in fact, faking the funk. I distinctly remember sitting around a table outside a club one Friday night 16 years ago, listening to dudes sound off on who they just knew were gay or at least bi. But that was back when hip-hop was still seen as a genre overflowing with rabid homophobia and hyper masculinity. But now that we have rappers like Murs and Macklemore extending olive branches to the LGBTQ world through their music, the rap world is becoming more sensitive to LGBTQ audiences. And while there still may be some closeted MCs out there, these new out-and-proud kids are making music that’s actually getting a lot of attention. One of the most surprising hits of 2016 was the delightfully ratchet, trap anthem “OOOUUU,” by lesbian MC Young M.A. The success of “OOOUUU” proves that it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight and whatever – as long as you come with that heat on the mic, you’ll always be welcome in hip-hop.