Queer rap is amazing. From Young M.A to MicahTron to HYM to Dio Ganhdih, the genre is bursting with incredible young lesbian rappers. In the past five years, the queer rap genre has exploded.
So what’s the problem?
“Queer rap” doesn’t exist.
Queer rap isn’t a genre. “Rap” is a genre, “hip-hop” is a genre, “R&B” is a genre, but according to Pitchfork, “queer rap” is a label that homogenizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes rappers who happen to be LGBT.
Popular music website Pitchfork wrote about NYC’s queer rap scene a few years ago. They popularized the term “queer rap.” However, they recently retracted their own article.
The label “queer rap” turns musicians into spectacles.
Queer rappers like Dio Ganhdih and Mykki Blanco aren’t evaluated based on the quality of their work; with songs that are lyrically nuanced and sonically stimulating, their work is obviously stellar. But when people write about queer rap, they don’t write about the structure of the lyrics, the narrative thread of the album or the power of a particular instrumental riff. They write about how crazy it is that someone would rap about two girls kissing. They write about how fascinating it is that Young M.A dresses like a man or that Mykki Blanco defies gender. They turn talented musicians into queer freakshows.
“Queer rap” lumps all gay hip-hop artists into one category.
Labeling someone’s art as “queer rap” invites people to lump together two artists creating completely different types of work just because both artists happen to by LGBT. “Queer rappers” Le1f and Mykki Blanco complain that this happens to them quite frequently. I mean, would you assume that Virginia Woolf and James Baldwin were similar just because they both happened to be queer?
“Queer rap” says that sexuality is the most important thing about a musician.
Labeling someone’s work as “queer rap” also broadcast’s the rapper’s sexuality to world, turning off potential listeners before they even play the song. If someone is straight, he or she will probably not give queer rap a chance. This destroys chances for thousands of artists.
Case in point, the biggest queer rapper of our time is Frank Ocean. But he achieved fame because he stayed in the closet until after his first album became a hit. If his music had been labeled “queer rap” from the beginning, few people would have given him a chance.
So what’s the solution? Should we hide that a rapper is queer? Of course not.
But should we lump all rappers together under the “queer rap” umbrella? No. Let’s learn to evaluate them based on their musical merits first.