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After more than two weeks of protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and condemning police brutality, it looks like there is no near end to the situation. Of course, the entire system needs to be re-thought and re-formulated, a herculean task that will take a lot of time and resources, which at first sight seems too big of a challenge. However, it’s time to shake the foundations of a corrupt, rotten system that has been the norm for way too long.

But to make it as clear as possible: all black lives matter. What do I mean by that? After videos and images of a brutal aggression to black trans Minneapolis woman Iyanna Dior at the hands of her Black peers/protestors went viral, it was clear that the pro-Black, antiracist revolution isn’t enough. The changes the world is demanding have to extend to any Black person regardless of who they are: trans, cis, straight, gay, bi, asexual, rich, poor, religious, atheist, able or disabled – if not, just ask one of the most vocal activists of these past years, the disabled, black, trans model Aaron Philip.

But as many people know from listening to queer members of the Black community when they share their personal experiences – from social activists to RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants –, things aren’t precisely easy for QPOC, who often talk about one of the greatest challenges they face to become who they truly are: fight homophobia inside the Black community, and fight racism inside the LGBTQ+ community. For that reason, we’ve compiled a list of twenty queer, Black artists you should be listening to in times of protest and revolution. Because remember: the first gay pride was a riot, and its leader was Marsha P Johnson, a black trans woman. And her spirit lives in every protest of Black Lives Matter, and in every protest supporting LGBTQ+ rights.


Abdu Ali

Based in Baltimore, the self-defined “gay and sociopolitically queer butch femme” artist Abdu Ali, released their debut album in 2019, titled Fiyah!!!, an explosive record informed by liberating radical theory, poetry, and their own life experience. With an almost innate vocation to help and take care of their community, Ali has been improving their surroundings by writing poetry, performing on stage, hosting parties like Kahlon – where they brought the likes of then-unknown Juliana Huxtable and Princess Nokia –, and starting podcasts like Drumbooty, where intellectuals and activists discuss themes such as gender politics and colourism.


Big Freedia

With one million followers on Instagram, Big Freedia, known as the Queen of Bounce, is a New Orleans-based rapper and ambassador of Bounce music. After dominating the New Orleans club scene for over a decade, the artist brought the movement worldwide with her reality show, Big Freedia Bounces Back. In addition to that, she was featured in Beyonce’s Grammy-winning Formation in 2016, only after being named one of the best electronic releases by Rolling Stone in 2014 because of her first LP, Just Be Free. Throughout the years, she’s collaborated with Lizzo, RuPaul or Diplo.


Dai Burger

At the end of 2019, the Queens rapper published yet another album, Bite the Burger, which has been praised both by the critics and the audience. Dai Burger started as a background dancer for rappers like Lil Mama, but she’s now standing on her own with her work, and is one of the most visible faces of queer parties in Brooklyn. As Pitchfork reviews, “Dai’s sexuality has always been at the centre of her work, unapologetically divulging the juicy details of past relationships and flings. She wields it like a weapon on the album single Vitamin P, using the chorus to clearly outline what the ‘P’ in the title stands for: ‘P for pussy, P for power, P for pride and prestige,’ she growls. The line could serve as a thesis statement for all of her music.” Loud and proud, listen to her sex-positive music, which ranges from ‘90s-style ballads to MC songs.
Cakes da Killa
Making waves since 2013, NYC-based rapper Cakes da Killa has been dominating the city’s underground scene for some years now. He’s been featured in every major magazine, from Billboard to Pitchfork and Vice, and played at clubs and festivals worldwide. And only three days ago, he released Don Dada, a song taken from his upcoming EP, titled Muvaland. What can we expect? Stay tuned!


Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange

One of his latest releases is titled Dark & Handsome, and shows a group of Black people on an idyllic beach engaging in fun activities and strengthening their friendship and community. Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange is usually known for his theatricality and over-the-top productions, but he’s also extremely good at keeping it simple to convey his message. He’s played every major festival, opened for Tyler, The Creator, and has collaborated with the likes of Puff Daddy, Toro y Moi, and Tei Shi, among many others.


Faka

Hailing from South Africa, Faka is a duo formed by artists and performers Fela Gucci and Desire Marea, who use sound design, performance, literature, video and photography in their constantly expanding and multi-hyphenate practice. From these elements, the pair build statements that address ideas of belonging, LGBTQ+ rights and the spectre of postcolonial Africa, and translate them to the global stage.


Honey Dijon

She’s played almost every festival and club around the world – before the pandemic, she could play four different sets in just two or three days. Highly praised for her 2018 DJ set at Sugar Mountain festival – the video now has more than five million views –, Honey Dijon is unparalleled at turning things upside down when she starts playing vibrant house music hits. Joy fills the room, people dance non-stop, and love overcomes any bad feeling.


Ian Isiah

Defined by Pitchfork as “the sexed-up, unapologetically extra R&B star of tomorrow,” New York-based musician Ian Isiah is a one to watch. Just a month ago, she announced Auntie, a new project produced by Chrome, which will be released later this summer – the lead single, titled N.U.T.S (N*GG* YOU THE SH*T), is already out. Previous to that, she released Persistent’s music video on Pornhub, just another example of their sex-positive unapologetic attitude.


Karnage Kills

“Catchy rhymes about gay sex and sugar daddies are hardly commonplace in grime music, but with this guy paving a new path, its future might feel more provocative and inclusive than ever before,” wrote i-D about Karnage Kills. Fearless, femme and disruptive, the British artist isn’t afraid to show who he is and what he likes: “I want to allow queer people to feel involved in grime, but also I want straight people to realise that queer people exist. That involves me being in a scenario with straight men and being queer, and telling them about queer issues and queer people,” he declared in an interview.


Kaytranada

Later last year, Kaytranada released Bubble, a 17-track album including collaborations with Pharell Williams, Tinashe, Kali Uchis and Masego, among others. His second LP came after his debut in 2016, 99.9%, which turned him into one of the hottest new artists of the year – he performed at Afropunk, Lovebox, III Points and Sónar Barcelona, among many others, between 2016 and 2017.


Kehlani

In April 2018, after kissing Demi Lovato on stage, Kehlani decided to address her sexuality on Twitter in a… well, very Kehlani way. “cuz i keep geddin asked.. i’m queer,” she began in a series of tweets. “not bi, not straight. i’m attracted to women, men, REALLY attracted to queer men, non binary people, intersex people, trans people. lil poly pansexual papi hello good morning. does that answer your questions?,” she concluded. Earlier this year, the singer released a new album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, featuring collaborations with Masego or James Blake, after her also celebrated 2019 LP While We Wait.


Kiddy Smile

We’ve seen him voguing in Gaspar Noe’s Climax or soundtracking the latest Palomo Spain runway show in Paris earlier in January, and also DJing for Boiler Room in collaboration with Maison Kitsuné. French DJ and producer Kiddy Smile is no stranger to the fashion and cinema worlds, intertwining his music practice with other artistic interests that make him more complete as a performer and creative.


Lil Nas X

The rapper broke the record for longest consecutive run in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart – seventeen weeks. In collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X became one of the biggest players in the music industry with Old Town Road, a hit that flooded every radio station, music streaming platform, or public event. At just 21 years old, he’s one of the most promising voices of the current scene, and we can’t wait to hear more from him.


Lotic

“A typical Lotic track balances on the edge between agony and ecstasy, sweetness and malevolence,” wrote Philip Sherburne for Pitchfork. Originally from Houston, Texas, J’Kerian Morgan has become one of the most interesting and underrated artists in the avant-garde, experimental scene under his stage name Lotic. Relocating to Berlin, he wasn’t as impressed with the city’s music scene as he expected, so he started digging and ended up creating his own party at club Ficken 3000. But his breakthrough came in 2018 with his LP Power, published by renowned Tri Angle, which he toured in festivals around the world like Spain’s LEV Gijón – which has seen the likes of Refik Anadol, Lucrecia Dalt, Martin Messier and Robin Fox perform.


LSDXOXO

Avoiding streaming platform Spotify and concentrating almost all of his work on his SoundCloud profile is statement enough to understand Philadelphia-born, Berlin-based artist LSDXOXO. With an Instagram bio reading “Dedicated to Disrespect,” which previously stated “Deliciously Confrontational,” the artist says that he isn’t “consciously confrontational” with his music, but “It just happens that way. The fact that I’m a gay black man in a field typically inhabited by straight white men is confrontational enough at most times.” With the highly-praised 2018 EP Body Mods, he ended up playing a Boiler Room in Paris and turned him into a name to keep an eye on.


Mykki Blanco

At this point, it’s hard not to know Mykki Blanco. The rapper, poet and activist started making waves in the early 2010s with works like Cosmic Angel, Betty Rubble and Gay Dog Food, and she’s collaborated with everyone from Dazed to Gucci, to Teyana Taylor, Woodkid and Devendra Banhart since then. A highly political and vocal artist fighting against racism, transphobia and any other form of discrimination, Mykki is one of today’s most radical artists, whose work is shaping the path society should be heading to.


Torraine Futurum

She’s graced the cover of Luis Venegas’ Candy magazine, modelled for Adidas and Proenza Schouler, and been photographed by Petra Collins and Ethan James Green, among many others. We met Torraine Futurum back in 2018 when she was starting in music. Just one year later, he released his first work, Miles From Heaven, a 10-track album exploring her experiences as a young trans girl living in NYC – titles range from Death Drop and Drama to Rough Club Sex and Bonfire. In April, she released a new single, Breakdown, so stay tuned for new drops!


Young M.A

After releasing the hit Ooouuu back in 2016, Brooklyn-bred Young M.A became instantly a household name, gracing the pages of media outlets such as Vogue and The New York Times. Ever since, the rapper’s following has grown unstoppably – with four million monthly listeners only on Spotify. After her super successful, 21-track album Herstory in the Making, she’s been making this year after releasing Red Flu, a new EP with seven songs including Trap or Cap, Quarantine Party or Savage Mode, among others.


Yves Mathieu

You probably know him for his modelling career, but Yves Mathieu is much more than a pretty, tattooed face (and body). He’s also a musician and activist, and in his spare time, he volunteers at homeless shelters, LGBTQ+ runaway centres, and senior citizen homes, and rescues pit bulls from fights or from the streets. More than impressive, especially when too many people have a misconception of him because of his appearance – 90% of his body is tattooed, in addition to the many face piercings (nose, eyebrows, lips…). Known artistically as just Yves, he’s been releasing a lot of new music these past months, including songs like Am I Next, Maybe I’m Just Too Grown For You, Listening to Broken Hearts and Too Drunk to Care.


Yves Tumor

Signed to avant-garde record label Warp, Yves Tumor released their new album back in April, titled Heaven to a Tortured Mind, which includes songs like Gospel For a New Century, Strawberry Privilege, Kerosene! or Identity Trade, which follows their critically-acclaimed 2018 album – some label it ‘era-defining’ – Safe in the Hands of Love. But forget about the noise and ambient tracks they became known for a few years ago; as Pitchfork puts it, “Genre-bending is an inadequate rubric for describing what makes Tumor’s sound so enticing; with each new record, they seem to embody a genre—its history, its texture, its tropes. The mutations and evolutions across their work are something closer to method acting.”

Words
 Arnau Salvadó

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