The Inspiring Rise of The LGBTQ Rainbow in Black Music
In a world where blackness and queerness are synonymous with police violence, prejudice, and death, LGBTQ black people of all cultures and creeds have to navigate their environment with a level of vigilance that heterosexual, non-blacks do not.
However, we all can work towards a more inclusive and empathetic society; today, we’ll be showcasing the rising talents in R&B, pop, electronic, and more.
Jane “Chika” Oranika was on all our Instagram feeds in 2019. After receiving attention for her viral freestyles and outspoken nature, she signed to Warner Records in 2019. Later, in the same year, Chika put a queer spin on the hit 90s series A Different World in her music video for “Can’t Explain.” She played the role of a love drunk, Dwayne Wayne trying to woo Whitley.
The 25-year-old frequently uses her platform to promote body positivity and inclusivity. She has described herself as “big and [B]lack, gay and vocal.” She has also noted that “As a queer [B]lack woman raised from immigrants, [her] entire existence is political.”
Her hard work has paid off, since only last year, in 2021, she received the Grammy for New Artist.
Moore Kismet (They/them/theirs)
Moore Kismat, meaning “more than fate,” has shown that being young does not stop you from being successful and wise. While only 17 years old, they have made remarkable feats in the music scene; They were featured in Billboard’s 21 Under-21 and named Breakout Artist of the Year by Dancing Astronaut.
They often use electronic beats to conjure sounds of otherworldliness and disorder. Though, their most recent song, “Parallel Heartbreak,” has diverted from their usual magical mold.
In the video for the song, Kismat incorporates scenes showing the reality of queer love, from sharing space with a lover to the misunderstandings and arguments that can erupt.
When speaking to Paper Mag, they had this to say about being within the LGBTQ sphere in the industry, “As far as I know, there were never really many LGBTQ+ voices in modern electronic music. At least in the present day, not in the experimental or melodic bass music scene. As I was trying to come to terms with my identity, I realized that there were a lot of other artists my age or older who were questioning and were uncertain of who they were. I figured if I could be open with myself and those who would be willing to listen to my music, then it would inspire them to do the same.”
Arlo Parks (She/her/hers)
Arlo Parks is not only a rainbow child but a beautiful, mixed bag of cultures. Raised in South London, she is half Nigerian, a quarter French, a quarter Chadian, and fluent in both English and French.
Park does not only have a rich heritage but also a rich taste in music and literature. She often listens to the jazz artist Child’s Fingers, the pop king, Prince, and reads the poetry of Ginsberg and Sylvia Plath (the latter being significantly influential on her music).
While discussing her kinship with Plath, she says, “It’s the rawness of her work, its darkness. The Bell Jar. I found it so tragic but so gorgeous. She’s one of those that makes you feel heartbreak.”
Like the art she loves, her music takes on a darker tone. Her coming-of-age anthem “Super Sad Generation” reveals the anxiety and depression within her generation, popularly dubbed gen-z:
“We’re barkin’ out; it’s not hard to see/Drop three tabs quick in the back of the Prius/Rainbow crop top, Billie Jean/Might kill myself if you don’t pick me/Prom queens brushin’ blood out their teeth.”
Arlo also speaks about her sexuality with refreshing honesty, “I wanted to put [my bisexuality] as a facet of myself because it’s not talked about as much for queer people of color. I need to show people that it’s okay. Some people are terrified of it, and I understand that.”
While best known for being a finalist on Season 1 of The Four, Vincint has consistently positioned himself for stardom. When he was only eight years old, his father (who sang gospel at the time) introduced him to his first love, music. And only four years later, at the age of 12, he wrote his first song.
Music seems to have been one of the most transformative experiences of his life because after writing his first song, he came out as a gay man. Since then, he has been living as an openly gay man and championing LGBTQ rights, “If there are little boys and girls who look like me and happened to be in the LGBTQ life, then they can see that we’re not just the butt of the joke, and we’re not just a fad to be on TV.”
He has described his music as “Heartbreak dance music,” which is especially apparent in one of his most popular EPs, “Please Don’t Fall In Love,” which examines heartbreak and how challenging it is to overcome it.
Joy Oladokun (She/her/hers)
Joy Oladokun’s experiences as a black, queer artist shows that religion and homosexuality can be reconciled in a positive manner.
Oladokun grew up in a religious household in Arizona, where she cited gospel and country as one of the most listened to genres in her home. As a result of her religious upbringing, she only recently came out to her Nigerian parents, but not without doing it in style. She incorporated these seemingly disparate themes of her religious childhood and her experience as a Black queer person in her second album, In Defense of My Happiness (the beginnings). Her song “Sunday” explores the challenge of coming into her queerness.
In response to these themes, she told GoMag, “As a Black woman, the title In Defense of My Happiness (vol. 1) takes on a different meaning when talking about Black and queer culture. People like me are fighting for absolutely basic rights.”
Shea Diamond (She/her/hers)
R&B singer and transgender rights activist, ShaGasyia “Shea” Diamond’s artistry developed under unique and inspiring circumstances. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, she ran away from her home as a teen to find acceptance for her identity. While trying to survive, she robbed a store and was incarcerated in men’s prisons for ten years. She wrote her first songs there, including the trans anthem “I Am Her.”
Speaking about her time in jail, she said, “Incarceration was just another battle over my body and mind that sought to correct my femininity and punish me for me for existing outside of cis normalcy.”
Moonga K. (He/him/his)
Last year, we were given the gift of the South African-based singer/songwriter known as Moonga K. He is a genre-bending artist that interweaves a selection of sounds including soul, R&B, soul, alternative, and electronic in his music.
His most famous song, “Who’s It Gonna Be,” gave us a stunning afrofuturistic world engulfed in light, darkness, flames, and the chaos of queer love. The video shows Moonga searching for an escape as he walks through a shadowed dystopian environment.
While the song’s meaning is difficult to pin down, writers at Afropunk have eloquently concluded that “Who’s It Gonna Be?” was “birthed from reflections on complicated unrequited love scenarios and tells the story of how someone so self-destructive, and quite frankly harmful for you, can take over your whole world and leave you as an anxious, self-sabotaging mess.”
It’s curious what brought such a creative soul to light; however, not much is known about Moonga K.’s past. Nevertheless, his handles on his social media channels as an: “artist • songwriter • producer social activist • doula-in-training • creative director • poet • sociologist” at least give us perspective on who he is becoming.
Moonga K. is a creative powerhouse who exists beyond the box of a musical artist. Rather he, like all of us, is simply a human being who’s still exploring and coming into himself.
With the rising number of out and proud LGBTQ, black artists, blackness and queerness are also suggestive of talent, power, and love in all its forms.