Dartmouth Soundoff: Queer Rap, Trans Punk and Gay Pride

By Margarette Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff | 4/30/14 3:00am













If you don't check your blitz, ever enter Collis, shield yourself from the front pages of The Dor somehow seclude yourself with a cushion of unaware, heteronormative culture, you might not know that it's Pride Week.

If however, you meet some of the above conditions, you probably are to some degree aware of the offerings of Pride Week events. Performances, fashion shows and speakers (Laverne Cox!) are just some of the scheduled programming that will both celebrate LGBTQ culture at Dartmouth and progress toward mainstream culture’s inclusion and incorporation of it.

Pride Week has been a Dartmouth staple for years, with campus growing increasingly involved. Last year Friday Night Rock hostedMykki BlancoandCakes Da Killain a Saturday night show.

On the forefront of the queer rap scene, the man artist behind Mykki — whose real name is Michael Quattlebaum — is often pointed to as the pinnacle of fluid gender expression in the rap community. Quattlebaum’s appearance goes back and forth between a scantily clad Mykki strutting in heels to a shirtless, short-haired Michael. Mykki Blanco isn’t slowing down — followers of the New York rap scene can’t ignore Blanco’s presence.

Cakes Da Killa will return to FNR to perform again this year. While Quattlebaum’s Blanco seems to have something more sinister lurking beneath the surface, Cakes Da Killa’s expression is more colorful, with bright earrings and flower-studded headpieces. Starting with the release of his second mixtape,The Eulogy,Cakes began receiving more attention from niche media. In 2013 he put out three music videos, andPitchforkcalled him“the closest thing hip-hop has right now to a Lil Kim figure.” Another release is planned for later this year.

The queer rap scene’s blow-up, both in terms of number of performers and coverage, is symbolically huge for rap and hip-hop and LGBTQ culture. The genre is stereotypically known as being the least accepting of gays."Rap is so masculine… You can't be in a locker room full of…dudes, then all of a sudden say, 'Hey, man, I like you,'" Snoop Lion (Dogg?) said in an interview withThe Guardianlast year. Yet now, we haveAngel Haze, Zebra Katz,andLe1f,in addition to Blanco and Cakes.

Yet different genres create different shades of climate, and you need not look far to find a queer musician in any electro, experimental, art-focused niche. Even within pop music, think about how accessible Lady Gaga — or evenNikki Minaj — has made sexual fluidity.

And punk music — often associated with its hyper-masculine and even violent roots — is now having its moment. After over a decade of frontingAgainst Me!, lead singer Thomas Gabel came out as Laura Jane Grace in 2012. Earlier this year, the band releasedTransgender Dysphoria Blues,the first album since Laura Jane’s transition. Against Me! — always wearing black, rugged clothes — is part of a scene that would arguably be one of the last places you would want to come out. But then again, “Punk has always been about disruption of order, and this new revolution that Laura Jane Grace leads doesn't surrender her identity, it reclaims it,” writesPitchfork’sJeremy Larson.

Being a gay musician is increasingly becoming less about being gay and more about being a musician. “I’m not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper,”Azealia Bankssaid in an interview with The New York Times. “I don’t live on other people’s terms.” Interestingly, this gives rise to an elective LGBTQ genre for musicians — Mykki Blanco an epitome — who choose to incorporate a queer aspect into their music, while musicians — gay or straight — who want to stay out of it, do so. The classification is more about a musician’s expressive choices rather than the specifics of his or her identity off-stage, and has given rise to the notion that they’re not mutually inclusive.


Margarette Nelson, The Dartmouth Staff