Three Dozen Black Musicians Can't Be Wrong
By Andrew Belonsky
In addition to being Gay Pride Month, June is also Black Music Month, an annual event started by Jimmy Carter in 1979 and that is also referred to as African-American Music Appreciation Month. In honor of the celebration, we've compiled a playlist of some of our favorite queer musicians of African descent. We use queer because though some identify as L,G,B, or T, others do not. Labels aside, the men and women here prove, in most cases, that you can be a non-heterosexual person of color and still have a career.
Turn of the Century pianist Tony Jackson helped Jelly Roll Morton turn out hits, and Morton clearly didn't give a damn that Jackson liked men. "He happened to be one of those gentlemen that a lot of people call […] lady or sissy," Morton said nonchalantly. RuPaul helped bring drag queens into the late-20th Century mainstream, Deep Dickollective blew the lid off of the homo hip-hop scene, Kele Okereke came out soon after Bloc Party hit the scene, and continued to make music. Ma Rainey never hid her lesbian loves, nor did movie star singer Josephine Baker, and Johnny Matthis remained a heartthrob after coming out in the mid-90s, even if he did go back into the closet for a short spell.
Speaking of going back into the closet… We've decided after some debate to include Little Richard, an inarguably influential musician who has argued with his own sexuality: he now calls himself "ex-gay," but for the most part of his career he was at the very least tacitly gay. And the next generation of musicians like Mykki Blanco and Cakes da Killa are represented here, as well.
Cakes da Killa, sadly, did not make the playlist because his tracks are not available on Spotify. Y-Love is also absent from the list, but we've included videos for both below. If you don't have Spotify, download it. It's quick, easy, and free. The trifecta!