Are we finally nearing critical mass for queer representation in hip-hop? Two years after Frank Ocean’s Blonde debuted at the top of the Billboard 200, hip-hop collective Brockhampton — featuring openly gay member Kevin Abstract — achieved the same feat with their new album Iridescent.
Abstract, 22, even raves about boyfriend Jaden Walker on “Something About Him,” the album’s fourth track:
“Something about him / His car ain’t nice and flashy. There’s something about him / Yeah, his attitude, it’s like magic / There’s something about him / I know I got to have it / And oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh”
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Brockhampton’s triumph is worthy of celebration, to be sure, but Abstract — born Clifford Ian Fernando Simpson — imagines a future in which his sexuality will be so normalized that it won’t even be noteworthy.
“I don’t want to be labeled as a ’queer rapper,’ I just want to be a rapper,” he told BBC Radio 1. “I have to exist in a homophobic space in order to make change, and that homophobic space would be the hip-hop community. So me just existing and being myself is making change and making things easier for other young queer kids. I want to be me and express that and break new ground along the way.”
Speaking of breaking ground, here are some of the other queer rappers and hip-hop stars who have climbed the Billboard charts over the years:
This bisexual artist’s track “Thinkin’ About You” peaked at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2012. And in 2016, his third album, Blonde, debuted at #1.
Banks is also bisexual, though her relationship with LGBT population is complicated at best. Nevertheless, her album Broke With Expensive Taste reached #30 on the Billboard 200 in 2014.
This lesbian rapper hit the jackpot with her 2016 single “OOOUUU.” The track went triple platinum with more than 3 million certified units sold, and it was remixed by everyone from 50 Cent to Nicki Minaj.
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This gay rapper has been burning up dance floors for over a decade, reaching #31 on the Dance Club Songs chart with three of his tracks and #14 with his 2013 effort “Guess What?”
Boosted by a guest verse from Drake, this rapper’s track “Tuesday” reached ascended to #12 on the Hot 100 in 2014. He came out as gay on Twitter just over two years later.
Never mind that Chance the Rapper is his big brother: Taylor Bennett is becoming a star in his own right. He was featured on the Krewella track “New World,” for example, which rose to #29 on the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.
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This queer rapper earned guest spots on two tracks on alt-rock band Gorrilaz’ 2017 album Humanz — one of which, “The Apprentice,” reached #18 on the Hot Rock Songs chart.
Syd, a former Odd Future collective member, co-founded a soul/hip-hop group called The Internet in 2011, and the group’s album Hive Mind reached #26 on the Billboard 200 in August. As a solo artist, the openly gay artist peaked at #7 on Billboard’s Next Big Sound chart.