These Queer Black Female Rappers Are Changing The Game For Everyone

Angel Haze
PHOTO: @ANGXLHXZE / INSTAGRAM

Hip-hop is a genre so expansive, so universal, that it sometimes makes me cry. All over the world, people have taken hip-hop — a revolutionary African-American art form that is now nearly fifty years old — and made it into their own; its forms are countless, its influence impossible to exaggerate. And yet, here at home, hip-hop remains painfully exclusive to the most vulnerable Black people in society: women and LGBTQ+ people.

Successful female rappers are few and far between. The world is overflowing with brilliant women rapping, but most are not famous. When one rises up, it seems, another must fall; Nicki Minaj's "beef" with Cardi B is the best current example.

Meanwhile, queerness is more accepted in hip-hop now than ever, but in a genre that routinely uses the word f*ggot in rhymes, that's not saying much. Mainstream music adores queerness — it uses queer voices, queer language, queer dances, queer beats — but the creators of the source material are rarely elevated to the public imagination. How is it that Big Freedia's voice is en vogue (pun intended), but not Big Freedia herself? How is that Offset — whose aesthetic choices are firmly rooted in queerness — casually rapped the line "I don't vibe with queers" a few months ago?

Imagine, then, the misfortune of those who are both queer and female-identified at the same time. The odds are stacked doubly against you; in the hip-hop imagination, you might as well not even exist. Luckily, that hasn't stopped queer women, who have been making dope-ass music from hip-hop's very beginnings.

From the legacy of early lesbian rappers like Queen Pen and JenRo, as well as not-officially-out rappers like Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott, we have their descendants: A set of modern-day game-changers — and thank God they are here. There is something strange about listening to popular hip-hop as a woman and a queer person. The world of hip-hop is populated mainly by men, who define themselves in contrast to faceless bitches and weak f*gs. To love hip-hop while being queer and female-identified, you often have to shut a part of yourself off, lest you think about things too hard. 

Hip-hop scholar Tricia Rose says, in The Hip-Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip-Hop, that we must "beware the manipulation of the funk." Hip-hop is so beautiful that it has a funny way of making you forget that, in its eyes, you're less than human. I will shut my brain off and listen to Future all night long, but at what point do I get to vibe to music that recognizes me?

Luckily, the remedy to this problem is an incredibly fun one: Listen to queer Black female rappers. Let their rhythms make you move. Add them to your playlists. Delight in their flows. Hip-hop wasn't meant for us, not really, but it's ours all the same. The power of hip-hop — and any cultural artifact — is that it's under no one's control, especially with the advent of the internet. It becomes what it needs to be — what we need it to be.

Enter the modern-day black queer female rapper. Angel Haze, Siya, Young M.A., Syd, Tish Hyman, and a ton of other women are making music that reflects their actual lives and values, which of course, are difficult to summarize, as neither queerness nor Blackness nor womanhood is a monolith.

Hip-hop is for us, too. And queer Black music is for everyone, you included. 

Below, find a playlist that spans the gamut of Black queer women in hip-hop today, with a couple older gems thrown in for good measure. 

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KIM WONG-SHING

Kim Wong-Shing is a writer, lipstick junkie, and plant mama in New Orleans. She grew up in Philadelphia and went to Brown University. Connect with her on Instagram.

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