The Noisey Guide To Queer RapBy Aleks Eror
Hey Mykki you're so fine!
Rappers can be pretty unimaginative sometimes. If you took the word "faggot" out of hip-hop’s lexicon, you could reduce pretty much every rap battle, Twitter beef and diss track to a violent stutter, as if South Park’s Jimmy just got hold of the mic.
So, when it transpired that there’s a ghetto-fab collective of gay rappers, producers and DJs living in an underground closet somewhere in New York, the blogosphere quickly descended. Desperate to prove how open-minded they are, the liberal music press launched a campaign of vicious tolerance celebrating the shift from the hyper-hetero sausage-fest that is modern hip-hop. Except the love-in kinda ignored every single thing that didn’t have something to do with anal or crossdressing.
Something's amiss, right? Luckily, I got to knock heads with nearly every major player in the NY scene this summer, from Zebra Katz to Mykki Blanco to Venus X, so I've trimmed the bullshit and compiled a crash course on "queer rap".
The first rule of “queer rap” is…
You DO NOT call it queer rap. I made this mistake and got a proverbial backhander from Venus X for my ignorance. Somehow, she couldn’t see that I was making quotation marks with my fingers on the other end of the phone line and dispensed a swift dress-down that made my wang cower like a turtle. Gay is not a genre. And, c'mon, there’s much more to these guys than hazy, popper-fueled nights down The Eagle. Secondly, they rap, but it’s not hip-hop, they constantly reference the ballroom scene, but it’s not vogue; shit’s confusing. No matter how much you try to fence them in, they’ll always find a way to squirm out. But Le1f called himself a "gayngsta" on his Dark York mixtape, so I guess gayngsta rap is a safe bet.
She’s the outspoken matriarch of the scene, publically laying into Diplo for being a "heteronormative piece of shit…that just capitalizes on whatever is hot at the moment", after he released Zebra Katz's now anthemic "Ima Read" on Mad Decent, also home to famous homophobe Vybz Kartel. She doesn't mince her words.
ANYWAY, why should anyone give a shit about her? Back in the dull ages of 2009, a night out in NY had more in common with a stag-do in Newquay, minus people acting like escaped livestock. So Venus took it upon herself to start a monthly club night where she pretty much subjected everyone to her iPod playlist. Usually, when normal people try that, they’re met with bemused expressions from their friends do that nervous pleading thing of, "WAIT! It gets good, I SWEAR!" That wasn’t a problem for Venus, though. People loved her combination of ghetto beats and gothic soundscapes and the hype grew exponentially with every passing moon.
This is Venus’ aforementioned party that travels around Brooklyn and Manhattan like a catchy Dr. Luke-produced STI. It draws an eclectic mix of uptown trannies, downtown gay boys, Brooklyn hipsters, Harlem thugs, students and probably the odd aging office type prowling for penis while the wife and kids are asleep at home.
The diversity has made it a safe place to vet ideas and push creative extremes. Venus gave performers a creative outlet when no one else would and, as a result, it became ground zero for the scene, with many residents making their debut on the dance floor before transitioning to the big time stage.
The Main Players
Brooklyn duo, House of LaDosha, were another act to sashay into the music world after getting their start at GHE20 G0TH1K. Le1f and Mykki Blanco were just a couple of dweebs in the crowd before making their step up to bonafide "gayngstas" and working their way into the mainstream consciousness. But what all the main players have perfected is avoiding the internet curse of fading from RLVNT to obscurity in half a Tumblr buzz second. Why? A slightly schizophrenic sonic palette that swings from trap rap, Baltimore club, juke, vogue, coldwave, horrorcore and noise. Who even knows what half that shit is? But you can't say they haven't got all their bases covered.
One thing that gets conveniently overlooked is the fact that there are a lot of straight dudes involved. In fact, gay dudes are probably still in the minority—Physical Therapy and Fatima Al-Qadiri are the scene’s straight stalwarts, while AarabMuzik, Brenmar, Nguzunguzu and Kingdom are some of the many hetero guests to grace the decks at GHE20 G0TH1K. But no one’s interested in that; heteros are boring now.
Fight the Power
Again, the media will have you think that this is some sort of anthropological reaction to homophobia in hip-hop, a live-blogged Stonewall riot for the 21st century, but, in truth, nobody really gives a shit. In their eyes, DMX’s opinions matter about as much as David Icke’s . The certified gayngstas have no intention of penetrating the hip-hop lamestream, and more power to them for that.