Forbes magazine recently released its list of the top 20 highest-paid hip-hop acts of 2018. This ‘paycheck’ ranges from tours and merch to endorsements and business ventures. The list highlights some of hip-hop’s reigning legends as well as its rising stars. Which is why we couldn’t believe that the list featured no female or queer rappers.
Some of the most interesting music being made today comes from queer rappers and hip-hop artists. And with hip-hop being a relatively new genre with sometimes homophobic connotations, only recently have queer artists been able to take both the genre and their sexuality to the mainstream together. As innovators of hip-hop, we rounded up some of our favorite queer rappers that we’d also like to see ride the wave of financial success, just like their straight peers.
Here are 14 queer rappers we’d like to see on the Forbes list of highest-paid hip-hop acts.
1. Big Freedia
Freddie Ross, better known as Big Freedia, is a local New Orleans artist who went worldwide on the back — and the backside — of the late 2000s bounce craze. (If you don’t know what this is, it will all be made clear to you in this video for “Gin in My System.” Now go practice.) Since then Freedia has parlayed the moment into a Fuse reality program, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, has appeared on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and has kept a distinct brand of booty-shaking and rump-rolling in the public eye.
2. Frank Ocean
He’s not the first sexually fluid black artist to come down the pike, but in some respects Frank Ocean may be the most significant. We shall see. Other artists rallied around him — particularly Beyoncé and Jay-Z — and his otherworldly hip-hop has connected with millennials of every stripe. Channel Orange is significantly better than his latest, Blonde (not to mention Endless), and no doubt there are those who prefer his mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA. But whether it’s “Novacane” or “Bad Religion” or “Solo” you never doubt you’re listening to an artist who likes to push the boundaries of his music as much as he feels the need not to make a secret of his sexuality.
3. Brockhampton / Kevin Abstract
On the strength of 2016’s American Boyfriend — an album that details the trials and tribulations of high-school same-sex lovers — this L.A.-based wunderkind is an artist to watch. On tracks like “Empty” and “Echo” he’s the natural heir to Frank Ocean, only less complicated and less artsy, though that’s not to say his music isn’t artful. And his “boy band” Brockhampton just dropped its own debut, Saturation (“Star”).
4. Mykki Blanco
She’s a transgender hyphenate — rapper–activist–poet-etc. — with one studio release to her name, a few mixtapes, a few EPs and a point of view that’s changing as quickly as the gender she refuses to define or be defined by. It makes no difference what you call Mykki Blanco. Transfeminine? He? She? They? Whatever. But listen and learn how a trailblazing spirit specifies themself from day to day and turns into the human being of his/her/their/whatever’s dreams (“High School Never Ends ft. Woodkid,” “Loner ft. Jean Deaux”).
Louis Kevin Celestin is a Haitian-born, Montréal-based DJ/producer with one stellar release under his belt, 99.9%, and a Rolodex anyone would be proud of (Syd features on “You’re the One,” Anderson.Paak on “Glowed Up”). No doubt we’ll be featuring him plenty in the years to come.
6. Young M.A
Young M.A became a household name in 2016 with the release of “OOOUUU,” a brashly lesbian summer bop. She then followed it up with one of the best-delivered freestyles during the BET Awards cyphers. While hip-hop hasn’t necessarily had a shortage of bar-spitting or sexually fluid femcees, none have challenged gender as aggressively as Young M.A. She’ll boastfully get head from any
cheap ho rich bitch.
7. Zebra Katz
Zebra Katz’s breakthrough hit highlighted one of ball culture’s most fundamental pastimes — reading. With dart-like verbal accuracy and a knee-quaking beat, “Ima Read,” featuring Njena Reddd Foxxx, is thought by many to be the first true crossover from the wave of queer rappers during the early 2010s. Zebra Katz has since been featured in Rick Owens’ fashion show, remixed by Grimes and Busta Rhymes, has collaborated with Gorillaz and has gone on tour with Scissor Sisters.
Yaeji grew up a transplant, moving from New York to Atlanta to South Korea to Japan, and eventually back to the United States to study conceptual art and East Asian studies. Now bound to NYC, Yaeji is shifting perceptions of what hip-hop can be. A blend of electronic music and trap beats with hushing vocals, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard anything like her before. Yaeji’s also known to host a queer party called “Curry in No Hurry” in her New York City apartment, where she blasts new music and serves up Japenese-style curry.
9. Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, The Creator started his career as a lyrically-skilled shock rapper (see: ‘‘Yonkers’), which at times, got him in trouble for homophobic and misogynistic language. At that same young age, he also created Odd Future, a hip-hop collective of now-famous performers including Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt and Syd. With the release of his Grammy-nominated album Flower Boy, Tyler the Creator ditched the shock-value bars, for more introspective lyrics, and in the process, he came out to his fans.
10. Cakes da Killa
The rapper born Rashard Bradshaw has one studio album out — Hedonism — and a few mixtapes. He’s one of the bright lights in the still nascent LGBTQ hip-hop genre, and his flow is rapid-fire. “Gon Blow feat. Rye Rye” will turn your head.
11. Quay Dash
Trans rapper Quay Dash is a force to be reckoned with. The Bronx-born performer is signed under Cunt Mafia’s label, a home to many LGBTQ artists. Lively and ferocious, her EP Transphobic makes it clear that she’s wholeheartedly unafraid to be herself. But we think she sums herself up best: “I’m black, I’m trans and I can actually rap. Plus, I’m pretty…” Indeed.
12. Angel Haze
Detroit-born, New York City-based rapper Angel Haze is both pansexual and agender. Hitting the scene fast and hard in the early 2010s, Haze took the arguably queer-baiting Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hit “Same Love” and gave it an authentically queer presence. (Though let it be known the featuring act in the original song, Mary Lambert, is indeed a lesbian). Haze’s latest mixtape, Back to the Woods, has received critical acclaim.
Three mixtapes, two EPs and one full-length put American rapper Khalif Diouf, aka Le1f, into the hip-hop conversation. Yet despite the highlights of that full-length album Riot Boi (“Koi,” “Umami/Water”), homophobia in hip-hop runs deep. Maybe by the time his sophomore record drops — and thanks to the inroads made by Frank Ocean and others — he’ll get the public hearing he deserves.
CupcakKe is sex — plain and simple. To be completely honest, she spits bars that make Lil’ Kim look like a prude. With a fanbase she’s dubbed “slurpers,” CupcakKe’s hypersexuality has resonated with the queer community outside the comprehension of heteronormative folks. Whether she’s in a video sucking down dildos or praising the LGBTs, Cupcakke is keeping it queer AF.
And If you want to check out even more queer artists, head over to our encyclopedia of LGBTQ musicians.
What do you think of our list of LGBTQ hip-hop artists? Which queer rappers did we miss?