Over the last decade, the music industry has slowly begun to change in many ways. Although it was not common for many artists to be out during the peaks of their career, there were black queer artists such as Sylvester, Luther Vandross, or Whitney Houston, that paved the way for the queer artist today. Eccentrics and self-expression have been no distant relative to the music industry, but as times progress so has the spectrum of self-expression in this slippery business.
There are so many artists that could be named and talked about as gay influences, but I want to touch on a few that have currently been on the rise. (And that are my personal favorites). Narrative can get wiped away so easily, but these artists do not shy away from queer lyricism. The point that black queer artists like these make is that their identities, being both queer and black, are interwoven in their music and it is something that cannot and will not be separated.
With their bold and eccentric lyrics, Lil Nas X, Kehlani, and Victoria Monét have become my favorite black queer artist. Fun fact: It does make a difference when a queer woman switches “he” pronouns to “she” pronouns in a song!
1. Lil Nas X
Coming out the gate in his cowboy western era, Lil Nas X gave us a small taste of his stardom power. After coming out, Nas made sure to be unapologetically queer and proud of his identity. Aside from his hilarious trolling on Twitter, Nas dropped Montero, the single, earlier this summer which involved biblical allegory, a stripper pole, and a satanic lap dance.
Although Nas has dealt with homophobic backlash after the release of Montero and his latest single Industry Baby, he was also praised by several of his peers in the industry. Nas has made it perfectly clear that he isn’t going anywhere and that he’s going to continue to push the boundaries for queer artists. During the 2021 BET awards, he gave a stunning performance by paying tribute to Michael Jackson’s Remember the Time. The moment that stole the show was when he kissed one of his dancers as a part of the performance.
When homophobic attackers antagonized him, he shut down the comments by stating that there is no difference between what he has done versus any straight artists in the past. With Montero debuting at #1 on the Billboard Global 200 charts and accumulating over 85 million streams, he has shown how his artistry is bigger than any homophobic comment or internet troll.
The lesbian icon that is Kehlani has risen in fame in the last few years. During June, they announced on TikTok that they were a lesbian and mob stans, Kehlani’s fandom name, flocked to her Twitter account when they noticed the pronouns in their bio: she/they. Although Kehlani has just recently acknowledged their pronouns, real fans have known that she was gay for years. Back in 2015, Kehlani released the single 1st position which uses sensualized and erotic lyrics to discuss her exploration with another woman. Kehlani has recently discussed how the music they’ve recently created for their next project is predominantly about women.
To add to the triple threat, Kehlani is a mother to a beautiful baby girl, Adeya. Even in the midst of their pregnancy, she was able to release music videos for Butterfly and Nights Like This. Kehlani has made it no secret that she is not scared of managing multiple factors in her life. This is the main reason why they got into directing and released their fourth studio album during the height of the COVID pandemic. With her production company, HoneyShot, she created music videos for multiple singles right from their home and creatively shot one of them straight from their MacBook!
If quarantine music videos and albums weren’t enough, Kehlani decided that they were going to tour in some way. Instead of having the formal tour in a big arena, Kehlani hosted a virtual tour with No Cap Shows. Not only were the tickets affordable, but she also offered virtual meet & greets. My girlfriend and I dressed for the occasion and sung along to every song whether it was a classic like Distraction or a new sultry song like Water and F&MU.
3. Victoria Monét
Grammy-nominated songwriter and singer Victoria Monet came out as bisexual on Twitter in 2018. Although the world at the time hadn’t known about her relationship with another woman, Victoria had held that experience in her back pocket as she wrote the sultry and tantalizing gay anthem Touch Me. The Tribe, the name of her stans, flocked to Twitter in a delightful uproar as part one of her Jaguar project ended with such a powerful song filled with sapphic lyricism. What really made headlines and caused Victoria to trend on Twitter the night of the release of Jaguar was the flirtatious and unexpected tweets between Victoria and Kehlani.
To give the fans a bit more of a treat, the Touch Me Remix was released a few months later with none other than Kehlani themselves. On the remix, she gave her perspective from a more dominant point of view, and it couldn’t have been more riveting. The two singers truly catered to each other’s strength and those harmonious layers were truly breathtaking. Personal opinion: Touch Me Remix is the gayest song I’ve ever heard in my life, and it truly fed my water placements, but mostly my Cancer in Mars.
At the THR Pride Summit in 2019, Victoria spoke in depth about the lack of education many people have about the queer community, men’s fetishization of queer women, and how she herself can open doors for others like her who aren’t in the writer’s room. Victoria has made it known that along with being a black woman in the industry she is also queer and that is something that shapes her as a writer.
With motherhood at her front door, Victoria performed her hit album-titled single Jaguar while being four months pregnant! And in the midst of a time of struggle, she released the horn-filled, R&B project that is Jaguar. In the most recent months, F.U.C.K. (Friend you can keep) and Coastin’ are her latest singles and there is more to come with the heavily anticipated part 2 of her Jaguar project. It’s no secret that I love and adore Victoria Monet so whenever Part 2 drops a review will be released from me.
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Trust, Gary. “Lil NAS X's 'Montero' CONTINUES Reign atop Both Billboard Global Charts.” Billboard, 19 May 2021, www.billboard.com/articles/news/9573905/lil-nas-x-montero-continues-atop-global-charts/.