On the 3rd of November 2021 we woke up to yet another twitter rant from 38-year-old rapper Boosie Baddazz about Lil Nas X. In a year where White Supremacists stormed the U.S Capitol Buildings and Meghan Markle told Oprah that royal family members wanted to do the paper bad test on her baby, Boosie woke up furious about 22-year-old Lil Nas X. So, what is it about Montero Lamar Hill that’s shaken Hip Hop’s fraternity to the core?
The answer is Lil Nas X is gay, He’s not kind of gay or allegedly gay – Lil Nas X is show up to the BET awards and make out with a male dancer on stage gay. Ever since his coming out in June 2019 Nas has been intentional with his representation of his queerness. When he goes to the VMAs he wears a lavender off the shoulder custom Versace gown and when he shoots a video in a prison, he’s twerking naked in the showers with multiple black bodies as a celebration of queerness. There’s no ambiguity about who or what he’s singing about.
This isn’t new to hip-hop though, what’s most confusing about the “emasculating black men” criticism he’s been facing is that the 90s ushered in several rappers who identified as cis heterosexual but weren’t afraid to play with feminine aesthetics.
Outkast sold 30 million albums with Andre 3000 wearing mid-parted flat ironed hair and Mary J Blige styled wigs. Busta Rhymes, who walked out of an interview after filmmaker Byron Hurt asked him “If a gay rapper could ever be accepted in hip hop culture?” for the documentary “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”, showed up to the 1997 VMAs wearing a Kimono dress and pigtails. The difference is that in their personal lives these men still adhered to the hypermasculine standards hip hop culture preferred and promoted.
So why is Nas the first openly queer male rapper to have this level of success?
The truth is Hip Hop has often operated as a boy’s club with a series of rules and regulations.
- You must be black or adjacent.
- You must be “street” and represent your neighborhood.
- You need to write everything you rap or hide it very well if you don’t.
- You must be a heterosexual cis gender man
- You must always include Biggie or Pac in your top 5 all time rappers.
Ever so often they bend the rules and let in a white man because he’s talented (Eminem), A rapper who comes from a privileged background (Jaden Smith) or A female rapper because she’s co-signed by someone the community finds respectable (Nicki Minaj), but rarely are queer men let through the door. Openly queer rappers like Cazwell, Le1f and Saucy Santana are grouped into a subgenre called “Homo Hop” that delegitimizes their work as hip-hop artists and makes sure they receive the least amount of airplay, publicity and promotion.