Engaging in cultural activities, whether that is art, music, dance or other, gives people the space to practice wellbeing. It isn’t a mystery that culture establishes the potential for transformation of self-identity. As a young person, finding your identity echoed by others within a cultural context like music is extremely powerful. Confidence is gained from seeing somebody you can relate to in the media in a positive light. This can inspire a person’s self-assurance – especially for young people who may be marginalised socially or geographically.
Historically Hip Hop values the breakdown of inequality barriers people of many different backgrounds experience. For many people, for many different reasons, hip hop is a way of life – it’s a code that you use in your everyday. Hip hop has always been about speaking your mind explicitly and fighting for your rights despite the consequences that lay waiting for you when you get off the mic. This sense of inclusion has largely not extended to the LGBTIQ community but instead has evoked anger, fear or shade by and between artists. Commonly, a strong sense of fear for being perceived as queer, trans, lesbian, gay or bisexual is instilled in the hip hop community and conducts a person’s style, dress or language. The genre’s exclusionary stance on the LGBTIQ group has undoubtedly influenced attitudes in the wider community and may also be a factor in homophobic behavior.
Jay Z is a well-respected icon in the music industry, a king in the hip hop community and a powerful influence to young people. After a 4 year hiatus following 13 previous albums, not many people thought Jay Z at 47 years old had much to say. Instead he delivered 4.44 in 2017 which went platinum within 5 days. Smile a track devoted to his mum Gloria Carter’s coming out story, started a conversation about the discrimination within the hip hop community. Jay Z made a strong point about the invisibility of LGBTIQ hip hop, and he wanted his fans to understand the impact this had to the LGBTIQ experience.
Tyler the Creator, Young M.A., Syd the kid, Frank Ocean and Brockhampton are all highly regarded young hip hop artists that are openly same-sex or bi-sexually orientated. Many of these artists listed are Grammy award winners despite supporting and identifying as LGBTIQ in Hip Hop. Like Jay Z, their music is changing the game around the world – they are dropping fire on the stigma and stereotypes listeners have come to expect. Drakes latest new single Nice for what released on YouTube has been number one on Australian and American music charts, and the music video features Syd the kid. This association with Syd the kid from a celebrated influencer is another strong push of positivity and acceptance for the LGBTIQ group. YouTube houses many reviews for all the artists I have listed above, and whilst the positivity is atypical it is building a reputation to be two-thousand eighteen and “Gayteen” for Hip hop. Labelling the shift in hip hop culture as “Gayteen” is an honest reflection that embraces diversity in sexuality.
The few Hip hop artists that do support or identify as LGBTIQ are all young people making cultural shifts, despite the risk to reputation involved. They understand that hip hop has long needed LGBTIQ icons so other young people can say “I can identify with that!” They are creating safe spaces for young LGBTIQ identifying people and creating channels for this group to be confidently visible without risk of harm. The upcoming visibility is opening doors that the hip hop community has never seen before, and it’s exciting to experience the flow on effect!