Presenting the best way to put some Pride in your playlist! These Black LGBTQIA+ musicians are creating many of the most unique sounds in today’s culture. We think you should give them a listen immediately (or at least while the summer’s going strong).
“I like my girls just like I like my honey; sweet, a little selfish.”
Kehlani has long been known as a queer artist, but they recently came out as a lesbian in an Instagram Live. Kehlani’s R&B and Pop discography have numerous queer anthems, their most notable being “Honey” (2017). The song is a beautiful ballad and lyrics like “all the pretty girls in the world and I’m in this place with you” make you feel like you’re being serenaded on a warm, sunny day.
“You’re my American Boy (American Boyfriend).”
Kevin Abstract is most known for being a member of the popular hip-hop group Brockhampton. However, the artist has several solo projects including 2016’s American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story and 2019’s Arizona Baby. The title track of his 2016 album is very reminiscent of a suburban love story — like the album’s title suggests. There is a dreamy whimsical effect that is punctuated by dark lyrics that invoke the difficulties that being in a queer relationship can present, like “My parents wanna kill me, let ‘em kill me / I’ll finally be on TV.”
“My guy pretty like a girl and he’s got fight stories to tell.”
Frank Ocean is infamous for his two albums Blonde (2016) and Channel Orange (2012). While Frank Ocean does not attach a specific label to his sexuality, he has been clear about his queerness especially through his song lyrics. His song “Chanel” seems to allude to being attracted to more than one gender, especially the lyrics “I see on both sides like Chanel.” Many have hailed this song as a bisexual anthem.
“And we gon’ start a motherfuckin’ pussy riot, or we gon’ have to put ‘em on a pussy diet.”
Janelle Monae at Paris Fashion Week, Autumn/Winter Collection 2019 (C) Myles Kalus Anak Jihem, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons[/caption]
Janelle Monae shocked the world with her 2018 album Dirty Computer. Dirty Computer was a sort of official coming out for the artist who openly identifies as pansexual. The album features themes of female sexuality and empowerment. Lyrics from her song “Django Jane” specifically reference Pussy Riot, a feminist punk rock group from Moscow known for fighting the patriarchy and fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights. Monae has said that they have been “deeply inspirational” to her.
Lil Nas X
“Call me out by your name, I’ll be on the way.”
Lil Nas X made waves with the release of his song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” (2021). While the song itself had a relatively mundane response, the music video garnered a lot of controversies. The song itself is an anthem about wanting to be public with a queer relationship and facing difficulty in doing so. The music video takes this a step further by acknowledging the demonization that the LGBTQIA+ community faces head-on. Lil Nas X references the tension that can exist between closeted and uncloseted individuals in a relationship with the lyrics “you live in the dark boy, I cannot pretend.”
For a deep dive into the queer symbolism of the “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” video, read this article.
“If your girlfriend knew ‘bout me and you, ‘bout what we do, tell me what would she do?”
Famous for his feature on Zara Larsson’s 2015 hit “Never Forget You,” MNEK is a British artist that makes dance pop/R&B inspired songs that explores the intricacies of queer relationships. His song “Girlfriend” is reminiscent of early 2000s R&B bops like those by Destiny’s Child, but with a slightly grittier edge. The song’s line “I’m a little secret, no one’s supposed to know” explores what it means to be the “other person” in a closeted individual’s life. “Girlfriend” begs the subject to think about the moral implications of cheating on your significant other while lying about your sexual identity.
“Is it unnatural? Georgia, is it cool? I wanna tell you I love you.”
Brittany Howard — who identifies as a lesbian — is most known for being the lead singer of the Grammy award-winning group Alabama Shakes. However, in recent years, Howard has veered off on her own to pursue solo projects. Howard’s voice is powerful like thunder and strikes your soul like lightning. She invokes the spirit of the mother of rock and roll, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, another Black queer woman. Howard's song “Georgia” has themes of longing and fear related to being a queer person afraid of professing their love for another. The song shows a duality of both anxiety and acceptance towards being queer especially with the line “and I can’t help the way I was born to be.”
“There’s an outcast in everybody’s life / And I am her.”
Shea Diamond, a trans singer-songwriter, proves that it is never too late to do what you were always meant to do and be who you were always meant to be. Diamond was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist in 2019. Her song “I Am Her” describes her experience of being ostracized and mistreated as a Black transwoman. The songs’ lyrics shift from sorrowful lyrics of rejection to ones of empowerment and self-love: “Don’t care too much what other people say / I get along swell by my goddamn self.”
Syd (Syd Tha Kyd)
“Girl, I swear. I can hear your body, babe.”
Syd (formerly known as Syd Tha Kyd) is known for being a member of several infamous music groups including Odd Future and The Internet. Syd’s music has spanned a variety of genres such as R&B/Soul and Dance/Electronic. In her solo projects, she has never shied away from speaking about her love for women directly. Her song “Body” (2017) is an electronic ballad about body language and sexual tension between two connected souls. Lyrics like “you know I’m your number one fan” invoke themes of admiration and adoration.
“I kind of fell half in love and you’re to blame.”
Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho — known professionally as Arlo Parks — is a British singer-songwriter with a soft and melodic voice. Parks is already doing well in the UK and has a strong fan base in the United States as well. Her song “Eugene” is about falling in love with your best friend as a queer person. Lyrics such as “I had a dream we kissed, it was all amethyst. The underpart of your eyes was violet / You hung a cigarette from your purple lips” make direct references to queer symbols such as the use of the words “violet” and “purple.” Lavender and shades of purple were associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically the lesbian community which has a historical connection to violets.
Which Black Queer musicians are your favorites? If you think we missed some artists who should be on this list, let us know in the comments!