During LGBT Pride Month, Afropop has been celebrating queer and trans musicians throughout the African diaspora. This year, we’ve put together a playlist of some of the hottest and most influential artists who show us what it really means to be black, queer and proud.
LGBT people in many black/African communities face daily harassment, anti-LGBT legislation, and societal erasure for being who they are. Yet these artists on our list are out there proving that they won’t be silent. Some of these musicians like Cuban hip-hop duo Krudas Cubensi have been able to assert themselves as powerful musicians not only with their infectious sounds, but also with the overtly pro-queer messages behind their music. Mista Majah P made waves in Jamaica for becoming the first ever pro-gay reggae musician, and Grammo Suspect recently joined the scene in Kenya as the country’s first openly lesbian rapper.
Other artists on our list have found similar success by simply existing as queer voices in their scenes. As Brazilian vocalist Liniker Barros puts it, being a black trans woman performer is “political, because we need representation…It’s extremely important—not just for me, but for each of us—to be occupying all positions, the stages and the countries to continue to resist and exist.” The Angolan rapper Titica epitomizes Liniker Barro’s call for representation by being one of the biggest names in Angola’s techno-rap style called kuduro as an out trans woman despite the country’s harsh anti-LGBT legislation. Similarly, queer singer/songwriter Shishani has been rising up in Namibia’s music industry despite the fact that it is illegal to be gay in her country. Just last year, singer/songwriter Diana King became the first Jamaican musician to come out publicly, and Brazilian rapper Rico Dalasam has recently been breaking gender norms and making his own space within Brazil’s rap scene with powerful lyrics about what it means to be both black and gay. We’ve even included some North American musicians who draw on both their black and queer roots to make distinct musics like Big Freedia’s New Orleans bounce, Haitian-Montrealer Kaytranada’s hip-hop, and Blood Orange’s newest Sierra Leone inspired tracks.
With all the hype around these young, up-and-coming artists, it’s important to remember that many African artists helped pave the way for the black queer icons of today. Some of these leaders on our playlist include Cuban stars like singer-pianist Bola de Nieve and the fashion designer DJ Guy Cuevas, who were both openly gay in the 1940s and ‘70s respectively. Other notables include the South African pop legends Brenda Fassie and Lebo Mathosa, both of whom have served as sources of inspiration for generations of women and queer folks after them. The last two artists listed, South African duo FAKA and South Africa’s “Future Kwaai Diva” Umlilo, are among the new, inspired generation of black queer artists who are showing us exactly what it means to draw from the trailblazers of the past while carving out even more space for the black, queer and proud.