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How Black LGBTQ talent helped shape the history of modern music

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In 2019, Lil Nas X made musical history–in more ways than one. Not only did his country-rap smash “Old Town Road” spend a record-setting 19 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 pop singles chart, but in the middle of its chart triumph, on the final day of Gay Pride Month, Nas X, then 20, came out as gay.

The best part: His career continued to skyrocket, unscathed. Months later, he scored six 2020 Grammy nominations, including Album and Record of the Year, as well as Best New Artist.Whether it’s a sign of increased acceptance for the LGBTQ community overall, queer visibility in music is indeed gaining in the new decade – both on the charts and at the Grammys, where Nas X ended up winning two gongs in 2020.

The next year, queer visibility dominated the Best New Artist category like never before. There was more LGBTQ pride among the crop of newcomer nominees than I can recall there being in any previous year–and like Nas X, most of them are Black.Four Black contenders have links to the LGBTQ community.

Haitian-Canadian DJ and producer Kaytranada is openly gay, and socio-political rapper Chika is bisexual. In addition, the two front-runners, Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat, both have associated themselves with sexual fluidity. (Of the White nominees, Phoebe Bridgers identifies as bisexual, while Noah Cyrus has a familial LGBTQ connection: Her older sister is the openly bi Miley Cyrus.)Hip hop and R&B remain riddled with homophobia, despite the success of LGBTQ acts like Big Freedia, iLoveMakonnen, and Young M.A, but a few years ago, a successful gay budding fashion icon rapper barely out of his teens would have been unfathomable.

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