PRIMER: Queer Culture & Music
When I was growing up in a city with a tanked economy, dark basement parties were the only places to be. Sweating it out to the thundering bass of hip-hop and r&b was a right of passage, and whoever could shake, twerk and drop it the best was crowned king or queen.
Music and dance have always been forms of empowerment for disenfranchised communities around the world, and urban creativity has produced some of the most popular music genres to date through cultural cannibalism: a process that intertwines multiple marginalized identities and cultures to create the best sounds and craziest moves.
Urban queer culture, our subject here, has had a profound impact on pop music in the past fifty years. Ballroom and drag scenes reinvented house music in the '80s and birthed voguing – a dance style that mixed performance art with break dancing and inspired Madonna, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga to name a few.
Today, queer culture continues to reinvigorate genres and trends. Ideas of sexual and bodily expression mix with dancehall call-and-response to create bounce – a genre that hails from the project buildings and poor neighborhoods of New Orleans. Also called "sissy bounce," this music is usually fronted by genderqueer men (like the legendary Big Freedia) and recently got into the hands of influential artists like Diplo and Nicki Minaj.
Meanwhile, up north, young MCs like Azealia Banks and Zebra Katz fuse queer performance culture and attitudes to make hip-hop a little more "cunty." Producers like Le1f, who worked on the latest Spank Rock album, shape queer sounds into party music. While many think this marks a second coming of Paris Is Burning, this moment really speaks to the continued innovation that comes from intersecting identities and the Internet's potential to bring visibility to frequently overlooked and exploited communities.
This playlist is just a small sample of what's already rocking basement parties, so get ready for some sharp quips, verbal finger snaps and beats that will make you want to dip and yell "Ya trick!" Whether or not the artists or producers are queer themselves, the music definitely is.