Updated: Jun 5
There are a lot of great things about rap – its ability to inspire, its success stories from people who grew up in poverty and are now able to feed their families, songs with messages that have helped pull people in depression out of their slump. There is also a longstanding history of homophobia in the rap industry, which can be detailed in Macklemore’s verse in Same Love: “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately?”
Being yourself isn’t always an easy thing to do, especially if you choose a career that hasn’t necessarily accepted who you are for many years. Thankfully, people are more free to express themselves in today’s age than they were when hip-hop first gained major popularity in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Before, many people sat back in the shadows and hid who they were from the public. For example, did you know there are some accounts of famous painter Leonardo Da Vinci being gay?
In this post, I want to celebrate rappers who have openly announced who they are despite some of the negativity they may have received. I also hope this post can encourage other up-and-coming rappers to feel more comfortable coming to terms with their sexuality. Here are some of the biggest names in rap who are also members of the LGBTQ community.
1. Young M.A
Young M.A is a New York rapper who moved to Virginia with her mom at 7 years old. Her most famous song, 2016’s OOOUUU, peaked at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2016. She has seen great success as an independent artist – in 2020, she collaborated with Eminem in his song, Unaccommodating.
She used to identify as a lesbian, but in 2019, she told Hollywood Unlocked that she doesn’t want to be defined by a label anymore, and she simply doesn’t date men. She told the Breakfast Club that she has been attracted to women since the first grade, but she used to deny being a lesbian. She officially came out at the age of 18, which helped with her writing.
2. Lil Nas X
Unless you’ve been living under a bridge, you’ve heard Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. This song set atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks, which is the longest a song has ever accomplished this in the history of the chart. He won numerous awards in both rap and country categories with the help of Billy Ray Cyrus, who recorded the iconic remix with the rapper.
Lil Nax X came out to his family and the internet in June of 2019. He acknowledged on Twitter that some people are “not gone fwm no more,” and posted a pic showing a rainbow building on his “7” cover art stating he thought he made it obvious. His success didn’t seem to dwindle from this announcement, however, and most of his feedback was positive.
3. Mykki Blanco
I first discovered Mykki Blanco when I heard his collaboration with Princess Nokia, Wish You Would. His debut album, Mykki, came out in 2016 to mostly positive reviews. Born Michael David Quattlebaum Jr., his stage name was inspired by Kimmy Blanco, a character made up by rapper Lil’ Kim.
The gay rapper came out as HIV positive in 2011, with fears that it would end his career. However, the positive reactions he got from the public actually convinced him to continue rapping. Although he once identified as a trans woman, he now just defines himself as a feminine male.
4. Kevin Abstract
Kevin Abstract is one of the founding members of the rap group Brockhampton. The band’s first mixtape was released in 2016 and they signed their first record deal under RCA Records in 2018. Before Abstract was a member of the band, he released solo work, such as the album MTV1987 and American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story.
In 2016, Abstract came out as gay and decided he would be open about his sexuality as long as he knew it would help others who needed a voice in the industry.
5. Azealia Banks
Azealia Banks released her first work online in 2008, but began to see more success with her debut EP 1991 in 2011. It peaked at number 12 on the US Rap Albums Chart though it only included 4 songs. Banks went through several changes in management before signing a million-dollar contract with Entertainment One in 2018.
Banks announced on Twitter that she was bisexual in 2015 following allegations of homophobia. She wrote “Just give the Azealia Banks is a homophobe thing a rest because I’m not. I have a transgender sibling. My whole life is gay. All of my friends are gay, I am bisexual… So please…Stop.”
6. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean joined Odd Future in 2010 and was signed to Def Jam Recordings in 2012. Channel Orange, his debut album, shot up to number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart after its release that July. His second album, Blonde, was released independently in 2016. In 2017, he featured on a wildly successful collab with Calvin Harris and Migos titled Slide.
In 2012, Ocean wrote a note on Tumblr confirming his sexuality, stating that his first true love was with another man who didn’t return his feelings. He went on to say “I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore… I feel like a free man.” Ocean has not confirmed whether this means he is gay or bisexual; instead, he feels that he doesn’t want to be categorized.
7. Brooke Candy
Success for Brooke Candy began after she starred in Grime’s music video Genesis in 2012. Following the release of the video, Candy started to release her own music, eventually signing to RCA and Columbia records before leaving both of them in 2017. Her first full-length album, Sexorcism, was released in 2019 under the record label NUXXE.
Candy releases highly sexual songs and identifies as pansexual. She is a feminist who advocates for the legalization of sex work. This is partly because before she saw rap success, she worked as a stripper in Hollywood. Her sexual image is something she believes is appropriate because it’s true to who she is.
8. Snow Tha Product
A viral success, Snow Tha Product has several hits on YouTube with millions of views. She grew up freestyling in San Diego and released her debut album, Unorthodox, in 2012. She instantly started racking up views, and her song Holy Shit was featured on ThisIs50.com, a site owned by rapper 50 Cent. She signed with Atlantic Records before leaving them in 2018 and releasing her mixtape, Vibe Higher, at the end of 2018 with Product Entertainment LLC.
Snow is engaged to a woman named Julissa, who she has been dating since 2017. Before her, she was married to a man for 10 years with whom she has a son named Drew. She and Julissa run a YouTube channel together called everydaydays.
9. Lil Peep
Unfortunately, Lil Peep passed away in 2017 at the age of 21 from an accidental Xanax and Fentanyl overdose. Before his passing, he was successful for making emo-inspired rap music, having first begun on SoundCloud in 2014. Since his death, several works have been released by his estate, such as Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2, which debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200.
In August of 2017, Lil Peep announced on Twitter that he was bisexual. On Instagram, he even made a joke that he was making “bi-sexual smoothies,” but this post has since been deleted. Around the time of the announcement, Lil Peep was dating Bella Thorne.
10. Big Freedia
Born in New Orleans, Big Freedia helped re-popularize bounce music, a popular form of hip-hop created in the area. You may be familiar with her if you heard Drake’s popular hit, Nice For What – the background vocals were provided by Big Freedia. She began to see mainstream success after releasing her album Big Freedia Hitz Vol. 1 in 2010.
Freedia identifies as a gay male and not as transgender, though she prefers to be referred to as “she/her.” She is unapologetically herself, wearing women’s wigs and carrying a purse. When Hurricane Katrina struck her hometown, she returned from the mandatory evacuations as quickly as possible to perform, raising money for the victims in FEMA Friday shows.
11. Tyler, the Creator
Tyler has seen a lot of success in his career, especially with his 2019 release, Igor. The album won a Grammy award for Best Rap Album and became his first number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Tyler created the hip-hop collective Odd Future in 2007, which includes Earl Sweatshirt and Frank Ocean. He has won a number of awards, including an MTV Video Music Award and a Brit Award.
He has rapped numerous times about his sexuality, mentioning that he has had relationships with men. In 2015, he tweeted “I TRIED TO COME OUT OF THE DAMN CLOSET LIKE FOUR DAYS AGO AND NO ONE CARED HAHAHHAHAHA.”
Homosexuality and homophobia in the rap industry is detailed further in books and movies that tackle the subject. One book is Terrace Dean's Hiding in Hip-Hop, which talks about being black and gay in the music industry. Another notable book by Xinling Li is called Black Masculinity in Hip-hop: Black Gay Men Who Rap. Finally, there's a movie called Gays in Hip-Hop that came out in 2016 that sheds light on the new era.
The point of this post is to show you that even in a genre that hasn’t been the most accepting in years past, it’s okay to be yourself. If you’ve been struggling with coming out because you’re afraid of what hip-hop thinks, I hope this can inspire you knowing that other artists have been in the same situation. On the other hand, if you’re not ready to come out, that’s okay too. Your sexuality is yours to have and yours to discuss.
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