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7 Mainstream Hip-Hop Acts That Have Showcased Queer People in Their Art
Travis Scott found himself in the midst of controversy ahead of the release of his third studio album, Astroworld, after it became clear NYC nightlife icon and model Amanda Lepore had been removed from his album artwork. On Wednesday (Aug. 1), both Scott and the artwork’s photographer, David LaChapelle, uploaded versions of the cover to their Instagram accounts, but Lepore was missing on the rapper’s version. The rapper apologized for the confusion, claiming Lepore had upstaged everyone in the photo and that he had “nothing but respect” for the LGBTQ community.”
Whether or not the removal of Lepore was ill-intentioned, it's no secret that queer artists face discrimination in the hip-hop realm; the industry sleeps on masterclass emcees like Cakes Da Killa, Jaywill and Dai Burger. But a handful of mainstream hip-hop artists have used their platform to highlight queer talent.
Here are seven examples.
Drake’s fifth Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit, “Nice For What,” features the voice of New Orleans’s Big Freedia at the top of the track. While fans were excited to see the self-proclaimed Queen of Bounce getting recognition she deserves, she was absent from the star-studded video. However, Big Freedia did appear in the rapper’s subsequent clip, “In My Feelings,” which she told TMZ was a “step in the right direction.”
Drake isn’t the only hip-hop act to utilize Freedia: Beyoncé’s culture-shifting smash of 2016, “Formation,” samples her instantly-recognizable voice as well. Freedia told Vogue that her fans were proud and that it is “another accomplishment” as she continues to open doors for New Orleans’ bounce scene.
Jay-Z featured Pose producer and trans activist Janet Mock in the video for his 4:44 cut, “Family Feud.” The Brooklyn rap legend has also won a GLAAD Special Recognition Award for his song “Smile,” on which he raps about his mother bravely coming out as a lesbian.
Dej Loaf’s single “Liberated” was co-written by trans songwriter, Teddy Geiger, who is also a frequent collaborator of Shawn Mendes. The song’s accompanying video features an array of queer and black people celebrating their identities, as Leon Bridges sings the chorus. In the outro of the video, Geiger makes an appearance, saying, “Being liberated is about freedom.”
West has worked with queer rap artists Mykki Blanco and 070 Shake on recent projects. Blanco was featured on Teyanna Taylor’s latest album, K.T.S.E., which was executive-produced by the mogul. Meanwhile, breakout star Shake was featured on “Ghost Town,” a cut from his latest album, Ye.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis followed their back-to-back Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us” with the “Same Love,” an uplifting anthem about LGBTQ equality. Not only did the track’s highlight queer issues, but it featured out-and-proud singer/songwriter Mary Lambert on the chorus. They performed the track alongside Madonna and Queen Latifah at the 2014 Grammys.
We would be remiss not to include Frank Ocean on this list. Not only is the musician openly bisexual, but he has uses his platform to honor queer heroes. Last week, he captioned a photo of himself with a poster of legendary drag queen Divine “me&mom” and on his track “Endless” he samples ballroom legend Crystal Lebeija.