Hip hop’s heteronormative roots run deep, and it’s only recently that its queer artists have started coming out and lending some colour to a genre that has been very black and white about its conservative attitudes towards homosexuality.

Lil Nas X caused a stir in 2019 when he came out on the last day of Pride month, but there are other artists who came before him that are also worth a mention.

Frank Ocean

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After Frank Ocean’s revelation that he was gay in 2012, he simply wrote, “I don’t know what happens now, and that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore.” And with that, Ocean opened the floodgates, and many other black, gay hip hop stars followed suit.

Young M.A

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She already broke new ground when she found success in an industry dominated by men, but the queer hip hop artist also recently became the first LGBTQ rapper to appear on the cover of Out, telling the magazine, “I just got to a point where I was like, at the end of the day, nobody can make no rules on what I decide to do. ‘Yo listen, don’t call me this. Don’t call me that. I do what I want. I love who I love. I want who I want.’ And I’m not the only one. There’s a lot of people in this world who just choose not to identify.”

Janelle Monáe

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The “PYNK” singer said that she identified with the labels “bisexual” and “pansexual”, after coming out in 2013, and her queerness has been part and parcel of her musical offering ever since. Aside from being a multiple Grammy-nominated artist, Monáe is also a celebrated actress and vocal advocate for the queer community.

Mykki Blanco

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Mykki Blanco isn’t just a rapper and his career includes performance art and poetry, but Blanco has also become known as an activist for the trans community. Blanco revealed that he was HIV-positive in 2015, further breaking down the stereotypes associated with the world of hip hop.

Zebra Katz

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Zebra Katz is perhaps best known for his 2012 single “Ima read”, but it’s hard to imagine just how brave it was to come out in the hip hop scene a mere seven years ago. With regards to this decision, Katz told The Guardian, “Creating a strong, black, other, queer male is something that really needed to happen because you don’t see that that often, especially not in hip-hop. But it’s terrifying standing up as a queer man. People are getting attacked all over the world, but you have to use your sexuality as a tool, instead of having them use it against you.”