To round out Black History Month here in Ireland, we are celebrating seven Black queer musicians who have been churning out hit after hit in mainstream music. From Lil Nas X’s gay anthems to Janelle Monáe’s genre-bending R&B chart-toppers, here are some of our favourite Black queer musicians rocking the scene right now!
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X has been a ground-breaking artist since he released his debut studio album Montero in 2021. With chart-topping hits like ‘Monetro (Call Me By Your Name)’ and ‘Industry Baby’, Lil Nas X’s songs have always been unapologetically queer, often accompanied by steamy gay music videos (remember Lil Nas X giving Satan a lap dance? Us too.)
The Georgian rapper and pop star rose to fame when he was featured on Billy Ray Cyrus’ 2019 country-rap remix of ‘Old Town Road’. Lil Nas later performed the smash hit onstage at the 2020 Grammy Awards alongside artists like Diplo and BTS. Lil Nas X has since stunned fans at the Met Gala and other awards shows decked out in campy ensembles designed by the likes of Christopher John Rogers and Versace.
Non-binary R&B superstar Janelle Monáe has been making music since she released her debut album ArchAndroid in 2010. Since then, Monáe’s Afrofuturistic albums and songs like ‘Make Me Feel’ have made her one of our favourite Black queer musicians.
Beyond their music, Monáe is a celebrated actor, having appeared in films like Hidden Figures, Moonlight and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. In 2022, Monáe similarly made her authorial debut when they released The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, a collection of cyberpunk short stories based on the singer’s 2018 album Dirty Computer.
In 2017, Honey Dijon burst onto the scene with her debut album entitled The Best of Both Worlds. She is a Chicago-born house DJ who frequents queer clubs, art galleries and fashion events around the world, even curating soundtracks for runway shows like the Louis Vuitton menswear show in 2018.
Dijon is a proud Black trans woman and vocal advocate, leading roundtable discussions at activist events.
Frank Ocean made his debut as a musician as part of Tyler the Creator’s Odd Future collective in the early 2010s. However, Ocean really struck gold when he released his 2011 debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra.
In 2012, Ocean came out on Tumblr, garnering a great deal of support from other Black musicians, including the likes of Jay Z, whom Ocean would go on to collaborate with. The impact that Ocean’s coming out had on the music industry is why he is still one of our favourite Black queer musicians despite the fact that he hasn’t released an album since 2016.
Tyler the Creator
Tyler the Creator has been a controversial figure amongst other Black queer musicians for a variety of reasons, including his use of the f-slur prior to his ‘supposed’ coming out in 2017. Tyler has since made apologies to fans for hiding his sexuality in songs like ‘Sorry Not Sorry’.
In addition to his success as a musician and establishing the Odd Future collective, Tyler the Creator has similarly made strides in the fashion and beauty industry with his popular streetwear brand, Golf Wang.
Kehlani has been a staple of R&B music since she released her debut mixtape, Cloud 19, in 2014. In 2021, the queer artist announced they would be using non-binary ‘she/they’ pronouns, which she described as “really affirming” for them. Kehlani’s most recent album Blue Water Road debuted in 2022, featuring hit songs such as ‘more than i should’ and ‘any given sunday’.
Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, or Arlo Parks, is a London-born indie pop genius who has been releasing hits like ‘Softly’ and ‘Too Good’ since she was a teenager. Collapsed in Sunbeams, Park’s debut studio album released in 2021, peaking at number three on the UK Albums Chart. She is openly bisexual and wants to encourage people to embrace their identity through her music.
Talking about her sexuality in an interview from 2019, she said that she “wanted to put [my sexuality] as a facet of myself because it’s not talked about as much for queer people of colour. It’s an important thing for me to show people that it’s okay. Some people are terrified of it, and I understand that.”
If you liked this list of Black LGBTQ+ musicians, and are on the lookout for more queer artists of colour, check out other GCN recommendations here.
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