Queer Rap?

A great article by Clare Considine in the Guardian about the (apparent) rise of ‘queer’ rap in New York. Although the article suffers from the typical journalistic trap of imposing a possibly false coherence on a disparate range of activity, and prefers discussion of identity and biography over music and lyrics, it nevertheless provides a fascinating window into a culture that connects right back to the voguing scene of the 1980s.

At first glance Ima Read is a pro-education anthem, but a closer look reveals that it’s just as much about ‘reading’ — the art of the sophisticated insult that is ubiquitous in the underground ball culture that Morgan grew up on. These balls are the lavish pageants that flourished in the 1980s, drawing black and Latino crowds and awarding prizes for vogueing or the most convincing drag outfits; indeed, it’s telling that the new breed of gender-bending New York rappers owe as much to ball legends like DJ Mike Q as they do to Jay-Z or Biggie. The scene and its unique styles were captured brilliantly in the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, a big influence on Madonna, and a window into a unique world that offered refuge and identity to New York’s most disenfranchised minorities.    

Published on 13 June 2012

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