5 Queer Black Musicians Who Are Changing the Game in 2022
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To kick off Black History Month 2022, we’re taking a look at some of the many talented queer Black musicians who are making strides in the industry. Black people have long been at the forefront of culture and music.
Black musicians have been changing the game from the beginning, going back at least as far as 1956, when The Platters released “My Prayer,” a song that went on to become the first number one single by a Black act or artist. (Check out four other times Black musicians revolutionized the music industry here.) And queer Black musicians are very much a part of that history — artists as diverse as Little Richard, Billie Holiday and the plethora of contemporary names played on radio stations worldwide.
Simply put, the music industry would not be what it is without the talent of queer Black musicians, some of whom we’ve decided to highlight as Black History Month 2022 officially begins.
Here are 5 of our favorite queer Black Musicians and why we think they’re changing the game:
1. Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe has been taking the music industry by storm with her genre-bending R&B concept albums rooted in Afrofuturism. Even outside of music, every project she touches seems to turn to gold, as seen with her roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight. She’s even releasing a book, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, on April 19, 2022, a collection of cyberpunk short stories based on Dirty Computer, her 2018 album.
Why we love Janelle Monáe:
This style icon rocks a tux like no other, and her work as a Black queer musician is iconic. Plus, she’s just so cool.
Our Must-Listen Recommendation: “I Like That” (2018)
2. Lil Nas X
There’s no denying Lil Nas X’s impact on rap and pop music as an out gay Black man, starting with the viral release of “Old Town Road” at the end of 2018, then remixed with Billy Ray Cyrus in 2019. The country rap hit was everywhere. Lil Nas X performed it at the 2020 Grammys with a variety of guests, including Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, and K-pop phenomenon BTS. 2021 was definitely Lil Nas X’s year, using controversy and social media in an expert way in the lead up to the release of his debut album, Montero.
Why we love Lil Nas X:
We saw Lil Nas X destroy homophobes on social media throughout all of 2021. Of course we love him.
Our Must-Listen Recommendation: “That’s What I Want” (2021)
3. Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator has been pushing boundaries on what it means to be an artist since the start of his career with the Odd Future collective. He’s been embroiled in several controversies, including his use of the f-slur at the beginning of his career before eventually (kinda-sorta) coming out as queer. Call Me If You Get Lost was one of the best albums of 2021. Tyler has also been breaking barriers in the fashion industry, recently dropping his own line of pastel nail polish from his popular streetwear brand, Golf Wang.
Why we love Tyler, the Creator:
What other artist can release an album like Flower Boy, top it with Igor, only to top that with Call Me If You Get Lost?
Our Must-Listen Recommendation: “A Boy Is a Gun” (2019)
4. Frank Ocean
One of the members of Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future collective, Frank Ocean came out swinging with his first mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, in 2011. His coming-out letter on Tumblr in 2012 before the release of Channel Orange was one of the most important moments for queer Black musicians, garnering public support from artists like future collaborator Jay-Z. Outside of a few songs, he hasn’t released a full album since his second album, Blonde, in 2016, but his influence on the music industry is easy to see.
Why we love Frank Ocean:
Have you ever ended up crying while listening to “White Ferrari” after a break up? It’s cathartic.
Our Must-Listen Recommendation: “In My Room” (2019)
Kehlani’s music career really kicked off with her 2014 debut mixtape, Cloud 19. She’s been a staple in R&B ever since. Kehlani has been open about their journey with their sexuality and gender, coming out as nonbinary with she/they pronouns in 2021. She has also been open about her issues during her pregnancy in 2018, suffering from prenatal depression. We’re eagerly awaiting Kehlani’s third album, Blue Water Road, which is being released sometime this winter.
Why we love Kehlani:
Kehlani’s openness and honesty about their own experiences adds a lot of visibility for nonbinary people.
Our Must-Listen Recommendation: “Altar” (2021)