It has been a long known fact that the hip hop industry is chock full of homophobia, many rappers first diss each other by calling each other gay and the “f word” that is more than four letters is often used in different tracks and pop media. Back in the days when Eminem and DMX were at the top of the game, homophobic comments in songs were not only tolerated but coveted. Although homophobia still exists in the hip hop community it is no longer acceptable to be a blatant homophobe. Artists like A$AP Rocky and Jay-Z have spoken out against the anti-gay vibes that are so present among the rap community and that has led more and more acts to speak up about their gender fluidity and sexuality.
In the rap world there have been out and proud acts since the 1990s, but now there is an actual possibility to cross over from the accepting queer community to the judgmental pop rap community. It is no longer a death to a rap career to be proudly LGBTQ, partially because of the changing times in the world and partially because of big rap stars speaking out on behalf of LGBTQ rights. Here we explore the multitude of LGBTQ rap acts that have been gracing the scene since before the millennium.
15 Solomon Ray
The New York City-based artist is not only openly gay but he was among the first openly gay rappers to be featured on Eminem’s Sirius radio station Shade 45. Shorty Roc, Bry’Nt, Soce and JFP were all also featured on the breakthrough series that aired on Shade 45 for an entire month. The Black, Puerto Rican, and Native American entertainer blends club beats with synth-pop to craft a style that is all his own. After making his mixtape in 2008 Solomon put out three more EPs under SolRay Records, Shades of Black (2009), The Love Rocker Project (2011) and Le Garcon (2014) which all explored varying aspects of his love for heavy beats and club bangers. Soloman got his break after releasing street mixtapes and freestyles, his mixtapes (Rhyting Rhymes Vol. 1 & 2) sold over ten thousand copies which led him much attention and stirred up a huge internet buzz that eventually got him noticed.
14 Brooke Candy
This young woman grew up in the public eye as her father is the CFO of Hustler magazine and CEO of Hustler Casino. She was raised in Agoura Hills, CA with divorced parents that led starkly different lives. Her father worked in the lavish Hustler offices where she wanted for nothing while her mother was a pediatric nurse who had very little. For a brief time, the rapper lived in her car while working at a strip club, which is probably where she got her twerking skills.
She’s had an array of jobs around Hollywood including intern to Rachel Zoe and mannequin stylist for the Hustler storefronts but her goal was always to be involved in the music industry. Eventually, her friend Azealia Banks hooked Candy up with Charlie XCX and she got her breakthrough on the track "Cloud Aura". Now Candy is most known for her spot in Grimes’ new music video for "Genesis". She is openly pansexual and is an advocate for legalizing sex work.
This producer, presenter, DJ, writer and rapper is UK based, openly gay and was one of the first to ever be considered a member of the “homo hop” movement of the early 2000’s. The rapper was influenced in his early career by Foxy Brown, Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Kim which was the reason for the tongue in cheek sexual humor often featured in his lyrics. This was how he stood up for his sexuality instead of hiding it like many others in the world of hip hop. In the Summer of 2005 QBoy organized PeaceOUT UK, the first ever gay hip hop festival in Europe and co-organized it the next year as well.
Some of his other work includes writing for gayhiphop.com. He has also written for Gay Times, attitude, The Pink Paper and Exprezo and interviewed tons of fellow industry stars even Salt-N-Pepa.
12 Juba Kalamka
This well-known rapper is also a bisexual African American activist who has set up multiple organizations to support the LGBTQ community. Like our last artist QBoy, Juba was an integral part of the homo-hop scene of the early 2000’s and founded the Deep Dickollective based in Oakland, California to connect openly queer rappers and performers. They were often featured at the PeaceOUT World Homo Hop Festival. Kalamka also developed the small but proud label Sugartruck Records. The activist is well known in the queer East Bay community and continues to be featured on panels, in local papers and articles and even helped to coordinate East Bay’s Pride festival until it became defunct. He found his voice when him, Tim’m West and Duke Deluxe Egner began a project of experimental spoken word over live jazz, this is what started the fire underneath the Deep Dickollective. Kalamka can still be found in Oakland fighting to create an equal scene for all people.
11 Melange Levonne
The openly gay rapper is highly inspired by her sexuality in her music and released her first album in 2008 after touring for the first time with a queer band in 2007. Her first single "Gay Bash" followed Levonne’s fictional best friend Kevin who was battered and killed for his sexual orientation. The moving lyrics paired with the equally emotional video got Levonne featured on MTV LOGO in 2008 which eventually got her onto The Click List of only 10 favorite songs from the channel for the year. She won the Dinah Shore competition Dinah Idol where she won the opportunity to open up for Katy Perry and Uh Huh Her. Her conscious, intelligent hip hop is a huge hit in the community as Levonne tackles delicate topics such as gay parenting, AIDS, the presidential election and even global warming. She continues to take on anyone who is against equality and love through her fantastic albums and has even gotten featured on BET in their “Who’s Who In Gay Black America” segment in 2009.
10 Angel Haze
Haze was born into a military family in Michigan and raised in Greater Apolistic Faith which sounds quite a bit like a cult when she describes it. Until she was 16 her family lived in this community where everyone from the church lived within 10 minutes of each other and no one talked to those outside of the church. When the pastor threatened her mother the family fled and that is when Angel Haze began listening to hip hop. Haze identifies as agender and pansexual meaning that the rapper prefers any type of person as long as love as what lives between them. She, he, they; Angel Haze doesn’t care because the performance artist sees herself as an experience, not a gendered human being. Her main concern is to raise awareness about body dysmorphia which is why she started a positive body image campaign called The Naked Eye to focus on all forms of body dysmorphia in the world.
This American rapper is based out of Los Angeles and is of Mexican American and African American descent. His lyrics take on subjects like class, sexuality, race and police brutality in his first album 7 Deadlee Sins (2001) and the follow-up Assault With A Deadlee Weapon (2008). Deadlee was in the news for attacking DMX, Eminem and 50 Cent for being homophobic and launched his tour entitled “HomoRevolution Tour 2007”. This was all covered by Rolling Stone, The Advocate, LA Weekly, Frontiers and URB in headline news.
Deadlee is even a member of the Screen Actors Guild after his appearance in Daniel Zirilli’s gangbanger drama Vengeance and the film also features a song from Assault With A Deadlee Weapon. In 2013 Deadlee changed his name to Joseph Thomas LeMar from Joseph Thomas Lee and married his partner. The last name is a combination of his partner’s last name Martinez and his, Lee. Their marriage inspired many in the community.
8 50 Cent
This famous rapper is not openly gay but there is so much conjecture regarding his sexuality that we just had to include him on this list. These rumors got real in 2015 when actress Vivica A. Fox and 50 Cent’s ex-girlfriend, implied that both 50 and rapper Soulja Boy were gay. All three of them got into it on Twitter but it seems there’s more to the story than just jilted exes. In 2011 rapper The Game also claimed that 50 was gay on his Twitter account. He also stated in a live interview that 50 Cent was gay and made his own AIDs related homophobic comments on the matter. There have been multiple stories throughout 50 Cent’s entire career that were taken as homophobic and insensitive, a tried and true practice of closeted individuals. All of this information combined makes us think that maybe these are all more than rumors.
7 Zebra Katz
Zebra Katz is an openly gay rapper that came up in the famous underground New York ball culture, he emerged in the 2010’s. In his 2012 show for Paris Fashion Week Rick Owens used a loop of Zebra Katz’s track “Ima Read” which was released on Jeffree’s which is Diplo’s imprint for the huge label Mad Decent. It changed everything for the young artist when the single took off and the video was eventually made by RUBEN XYZ. The song was inspired by the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning about ball culture.
After Paris Fashion Week and the success with Mad Decent Katz was working as a manager for a catering business just making videos and songs as a hobby. He began to further develop the enigma that is Zebra Katz after the song continued to thrive, eventually being named “queer rap’s crossover hit” by The Guardian. Zebra Katz has put out 4 albums and continues to release singles for Mad Decent.
6 Big Momma
At the age of 25 in 2006, Big Momma started getting involved in the music scene by printing t-shirts and helping out with graphic design. By 2010 his own musical stylings were beginning to gain a following and began to full on pursue what was once his small hobby. Big Momma is in an all-out war to become a top rapper and like many other queer artists, he is influenced by Lil’ Kim and Notorious B.I.G. in his work. He uses his deeply toned voice to spit raunchy lyrics with his versatile and often in your face style.
Big Momma grew up in a very Christian household where he felt that in order to survive he had to suppress much of who he was. This developed a twisted, dark and rage filled persona that now creates the music that we love today. Much like Tech N9ne and Hopsin he is fascinated with serial killers and psychopaths which influences much of his lyrical genius.
Producer and artist Le1f runs Camp & Street, a hip hop label and subsidiary of Greedhead Music. After he put out some mixtapes and received good feedback Le1f put out his debut album, Riot Boi, in November of 2015. In his youth Le1f, or Khalif Diouf as his mother calls him, studied modern dance and ballet and eventually got a degree in dance from Wesleyan University. Aside from his own work Le1f is most popular for producing the track “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” for popular rap group Das Racist. Le1f is also well known for criticizing Macklemore, Le1f claims that Macklemore stole the famous single “Thrift Shop” from his single entitled “Wut”. The openly gay rapper went further dissing Macklemore’s single “Same Love” because he believes that it isn’t right for a heterosexual person to exploit homosexual struggles for their own financial gain. Le1f’s album is currently on shelves and he is surely working on new tunes as we speak.
4 BirdMan & Lil’ Wayne
Like 50 Cent, Birdman isn’t actually out of the closet, although he did admit in an interview that he was bisexual at one time before he realized that he was straight. As with many gay rumors started in the hip hop community, this one began during a feud with Lil’ Wayne and a random interview that Trick Daddy did. Since the rumors about him came out Birdman has been consistent in calling out Lil’ Wayne for being gay with tons of popular rap stars. He even went so far as to claim that Drake’s second track on famous album Take Care was written to Wayne. Birdman says that the song titled “Doing it Wrong” is a message to Wayne that Drake can’t take part in a homosexual relationship with him. The reality of this one is that nobody knows the truth except the people involved and they’re too tied up in the drama to tell the truth.
3 Azealia Banks
This famous rapper got her start when she was raised in the same city that Maya Angelou got her start; Harlem, New York. In 2008 Banks started releasing music through then famed social media website MySpace. She eventually signed with XL Recordings at the age of 17 and released her debut single there. She identifies as bisexual but hopes that the world will stop feeling the need to label and judge people’s sexual orientation. She has spoken when asked about her sexuality in interviews that she’s not “bisexual rapper” she’s just who she is. After some conflicting creative ideas, Banks left XL Recordings and signed with Interscope and Polydor Records and has released a mixtape and studio album under the label. Her attacks on Iggy Azalea are well documented mostly through Twitter and the two continue to spar. This has hindered Banks career but despite it all, she is still in the studio and trying to make it in the industry.
Openly gay Luke Cazwell rose to fame as rapper and singer Cazwell after his 2006 album debut Get Into It. He got his start in the late 90’s performing in a duo called Morplay with female MC Crasta Yo before moving to New York City. In 2003 Cazwell released his first solo single and began to get noticed in the neighborhood. He toured with Logo’s “True Colors Tour” with 15 other artists including Margaret Cho as MC and Cyndi Lauper headlining. Most of Cazwell’s music focuses on gay and lesbian themes with urban qualities mixed in. Most of his music videos are played frequently on Logo except for “All Over Your Face” which was banned from the LGBTQ television channel for explicit sexual content. The rapper has also appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Watch What Happens: Live, his last album was released in 2013 and he is currently working on his next one.
1 Frank Ocean
One of the members of popular rap group Odd Future, Frank Ocean also released a widely awaited album quite recently. Back in 2012 the artist came out in what started as a cryptic Tumblr post and ended with a long, poignant letter about his sexuality. The rapper released his first mixtape in 2011 and received critical acclaim for his work. After this Ocean took on some collaborations with Kanye and Jay-Z before linking up with Tyler, The Creator. Ocean first appeared in Tyler’s video for single “She” before performing with the Odd Future crew at desert music festival Coachella in 2011. His most recent album Blonde is redefining queer pop culture as he merges themes of spirituality and queerness so effortlessly. What is so wonderful about Frank Ocean’s coming out story is that he was so widely accepted by the hip hop community when most would think the other would be true. Stars like Jay-Z and Beyonce came out in support of the R&B singer after news came out about his fluctuating sexuality which was a nice bright step for the future.
Sources: usmagazine.com, huffingtonpost.com, allhiphop.com, huzlers.com
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