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November 16, 2020

5 Queer Black Artists You Should Know

It’s pride month. It’s also time to lift up Black voices. The five artist below have been active in the music scene for a while. They’re incredible individuals who make incredible work. Personally, as a queer culture writer and filmmaker, they’ve provided me with an abundance of inspiration. I hope they do the same for you. Read, watch, and share.

Mykki Blanco’s career has had a profound impact on the music industry, not only because of their representation as a black transgender woman, but because of their riveting content and incredible lyricism.  Blanco combines breathtaking aesthetics with a bravery to tackle every bit of bad politics, violence, and oppression their community experiences.  In addition to Blanco’s own position as a queer icon, their career boasts some of the most interesting collaborartions from Le1f and Basement Jaxx, to Woodkid, Gucci, and Devendra Banhart.   There’s an authenticity in the way Blanco moves through the industry and it’s surely made a lifelong fan out of me. As a talented enigma who moves in an intuitive way, when you begin your career outside the mainstream paradigm, why would you do anything but continue to shatter assumptions?

 I’ve linked Blanco’s music video for “High School Never Ends” below. Some may find it quite traumatic, but it’s one of those videos that has stuck viscerally in my mind long after I first viewed it.

“Detroit’s hidden gem,” Siena Liggins, is finally out of hiding and deserves your support. A fresh new voice in pop music, Liggins is the type of lesbian respresentation we’ve been waiting for. While her journey in the industry only began a couple years ago, she will undoubtedly capture the hearts of many more young queer women looking to see themselves on stage, in music videos, and in song. Liggins’ latest release, “Looks Don’t Lie,” is a banger. Check out the video and song below. Dancing is optional, but encouraged.

A music making machine, in the past six years, Kevin Abstract has put out three albums, five EPs, and seven mixtapes. These numbers do not even include his six studio albums and three mixtapes as a founding member of Brockhampton and seven more collaborative albums with Outsiders, AliveSinceForever, and NOWIFIII. It’s clear the Texas-raised rapper/song-writer has something to say, and we’ve been hanging on every word. Abstract came out as gay in 2016, and has maintained no illusions about the hip-hop community’s rampant homophobia. Committed to existing in a space that desperately needs his representation, Abstract has been known to say, “I don’t want to be a queer icon; I want to be an icon.” Catch Kevin Abstracts verse on the latest Brockhampton release, “SUGAR,” below. 

While this Las Vegas native’s music career exploded five years ago with pop single “On the Regular,” Shamir has long since been on an exploratory journey of more acoustic and alt-rock sounds.  Shamir is often celebrated for their lyricism and unique androgynous countertenor voice. The song and video for “On My Own” (below) premiered just one week ago on Rolling Stone, and Shamir admits the new album is the “most commercial sounding” music since “On the Regular.” Commercial sounds aside, it’s evident Shamir has arrived at a beautiful new level of feeling and knowing.  Having been quite unfiltered on social media about the many twists and turns that their life has delt, it’s a new chapter and new beginning for Shamir, the queer artist we fell in love with five years ago, and will continue to trust– no matter what genre, lyrics, or looks may come. 

It’s been just over a year since Shea Diamond’s “Don’t Shoot” music video came out, but the message still stands.  Shea Diamond’s art and activism have always gone hand in hand, and her story is one of resilience. Born to a fourteen-year-old mother in Memphis, Diamond spent most of her upbringing with family in Flint, Michigan. Between 1999 and 2009, she spent much of her life in and out of the prison system, largely due to her robbery of a convenience store at gunpoint to pay for gender affirmation surgery. While her first single “I Am Here,” was written behind bars, Diamond’s narrative has since grown to encapsulate so much more.  Her work has been celebrated by the GLAAD Media Awards, The Human Rights Campaign, Pete Buttigieg, HBO’s We’re Here, and countless publications around the world. Shea Diamond is an inspiration, not only because of what she’s been through, but because of the wealth of creativity and change she continues to put out into the world. 

Story by John Mark


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