“It’s never been done before. Ever,” the Los Angeles-based rapper SIYA tells me over the phone. “The video, the song, my whole career... It’s never been done on a mainstream level in the industry."
SIYA is a lesbian rapper who, in her latest video, “Real MVP,” serenades her number one girl.
It starts with a Rolls Royce pulling up to a house in the hills. SIYA casually leans against it wearing a gray vest over a white button-down shirt. Pink pants lend a hint of rich WASPiness to the scene. She’s got the butch, low-femme look going on. SIYA opens the door and out comes a slim, round-in-all-the-right-places video girl—high-femme. SIYA leads her into the mansion singing, “You know it’s all yours.” She cracks open a bottle of white wine and they play with each other’s fingers. “You deserve some trophies,” SIYA says. They cuddle by a pool and SIYA tells her lover everything she deserves: that MVP, that crib in the hills, and that ring. Then they’re on a basketball court recreating a scene from Love & Basketball.
It’s mostly your typical rap video, which makes the whole brand new hip-hop lesbian thing seem comfortably familiar. It just so happens that one of the stars is replaced by a girl and that it premiered on prime time TV during Oxygen’s Sisterhood of Hip-Hop, a reality show about female rappers in which SIYA stars.
Who knew Oxygen would be hip-hop’s most progressive look?
On the lesbian rap circuit there’s been Kelow, Elektrik, Envy, MC Angel, RoxXxan, Yo Majesty, and God-des & She—but you’ve probably never heard of them. At least not like you’ve heard of Le1f, Mykki Blanco, and Cakes Da Killa. God-des & She were once on the L Word, but that’s about as far into the mainstream as they’ve teetered. There was that “Cocaine” video by the Internet, which featured Odd Future's Syd tha Kyd getting fucked up at a carnival with her female lover. However, the Internet is a more alternative, R&B-leaning brand of hip-hop, where there’s been a history of acceptance, like Me’Shell Ndegeocello, who has been out for her entire career. Within the realm of rap and rappers, Syd mostly acts as a producer, remaining behind the boards.
The “[insert popular female rapper] is a lesbian” rumor mill runs deep—from Queen Latifah to Missy Elliott to Alicia Keys and beyond—but an actual black lesbian rapper speaking as a black lesbian rapper is nearly unheard of. Definitely not as a "Rapper to Watch" on Complex, like SIYA was in 2012. Definitely not as a rapper with a Chris Brown feature, like SIYA has on her forthcoming mixtape. Definitely not one TANK, the former preacher and R&B singer, would sign.
Queen Pen is generally thought of as the first lesbian rapper. Her 1997 song “Girlfriend,” off her debut album My Melody, had Golden Era hip-hoppers caught between shock and disgust. “If that was your girlfriend, it wasn’t last night,” she raps. “Pull you out your closet, sex on the weekends. It’s my business what I do, him or her, he or she, inside you.” It incited beef when Foxy Brown responded slinging homophobic slurs in “10% Dis." Before there was World Star Hip-Hop to react, it made the New York Times, “This song is buggin’ everyone out right now,” she told the newspaper. “[If] you got Ellen, you got k.d. [Lang], why shouldn’t urban lesbians go to a girl club and hear their own thing?”
In Queen Pen’s music, she seemed out and proud. But she was coy about her sexuality in interviews. “Even if I sat here and said, 'I'm straight,' I could be lying. If I said, 'I'm gay,' it could be a publicity stunt," she told the New York Times. Then, in 2001, she released Conversations with Queen, where she rapped about her unwillingness to lick pussy and her crush on then-Minnesota Vikings quarterback Duante Culpepper.
What might have been the first lesbian rap song wasn’t written by an out-to-the-world, self-proclaimed lesbian.
Since then, the closest we’ve come to a mainstream, openly lesbian rapper is probably Angel Haze. She talks about her fluid sexuality in interviews while posting a barrage of Twitter love notes and make-out Instagram pics with her current lover, Ireland Baldwin. But when it comes to the music, “No, I wouldn’t do that,” Haze told the Independent when asked if she would ever rap about being gay." I like to make all my work ambiguous so that people can relate to it…There are no key words, no pronouns.” Haze leaves a stark split between her real life and her art, leaving the voice of the black lesbian rapper absent from public consciousness once again.
“It took time for me to come around,” says SIYA. “I’ll never allow anyone to change me, change my music, change anything about me. If I ever did, then I’d be a fraud.”
SIYA is the closest to the mainstream that we’ve gotten. The black lesbian rapper has a voice, and, much like Drake, she’s rapping about trophies.
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