The Gay Eyes on the Prize (or ‘What A Difference 8 Years Makes’)
When we started this website 8 years ago (then under a different name), one of my main motivations was to highlight the Gay and Bisexual Black male creatives that didn’t seem to be getting any press coverage elsewhere. Especially those that leaned on the more masculine side of the spectrum. Never did I think we would make it this far so quickly.
Yes, I said the dreaded “M” word: Masculine. Believe it or not, there was a time (8 years ago) when there were hardly any narratives from the masculine gay man’s perspective. We were told to “live in our truths,” which at that time meant to be more effeminate or to just be quiet and embrace flamboyant gay culture.
Obviously there is nothing wrong with those perspectives, we just didn’t relate to them. They didn’t speak to our personal daily struggles, thoughts, interests and perspectives as Black gay men who grew up adopting (admittedly) straight, hyper-masculine culture. We were a weird hybrid of gay man.
At that time, “The DL Chronicles” was only form of entertainment that I saw elements of myself and others like me.
For those reasons, these masculine gay men sharing their reality through art were basically ignored or were called “boring” for not being more flamboyant by the predominant voices in the “community.”
“They need to live in their truth and stop trying to be straight,” is a paraphrased comment we saw shared by self-described “Snap Queens.”
We pushed back on that. Even when we didn’t necessarily love the content that they made, we went out of our way (and spent many unpaid hours) writing reviews and conducting interviews with Black Gay Filmmakers, Writers, Stand-Up Comedians, Actors, Artists and even the highly sought after “Gay Rappers.”
The first openly gay rapper that I “discovered” was an artist named Bry’Nt, a young, handsome rap artist with a quintessential New York “Latino Fan Club” vibe (for better or worse) and a heavy mix of Lil Kim influence.
While the notion that a ‘gay rapper’ already existed intrigued me (despite Angie Martinez and Wendy Williams still searching for one hiding in the mainstream), at the time, Bry’Nt didn’t appeal to me musically. What he did do for me was to introduce me to an entire community of talented openly gay rap artists already active and eager to make it big in the music industry.
The first rap artist that we devoted an entire blog post to was a nonchalant, mild mannered (for better or worse), impressively talented wordsmith from St. Louis who went by the name of of Last Offence (aka Lasto).
Published on November 17th, 2011, my reviews of Lasto’s debut mixtapes “Run A Lap” and “Not for Non Profit” demonstrated that, unlike most other gay bloggers only interested in their sexual positions, we were more interested in the lives of the artists and the art itself.
In subsequent years, we had conversations and interviews with other Out rappers such as the aforementioned Bry’Nt (who we then crowned the King of Gay Battle Rap), Kaoz, Earthtone, Fly Young Red and many others were featured or highlighted on the site in one way or another.
[TL;DR: We have supported our community in our own small way and have the receipts to prove it.]
Although these musicians varied in their overall appeal and skills, the one constant with them all was just how difficult it was being openly gay in Hip Hop, a genre of music with hyper-masculinity and homophobia so firmly embedded into its DNA.
Even to this day, vile YouTube content creator DJ Vlad is still throwing hyper-masculine hotep rappers in front of cameras and asking them about homosexuality and trans people.
Joe Budden hosts one of the most popular Hip Hop Podcasts in the history of podcasts, yet the words “suspect” and “no homo” are still uttered by him and his co-hosts on a frequent basis.
And even this month we’ve seen ‘religious homophobia’ rearing its ugly head on social media during the discussions on musician Tank’s recent comments on sexuality:
Despite all of that, this happened:
Lil Nas X adds another milestone to a long line of them.
On Oct. 22, the RIAA announced that Nas X’s “Old Town Road” had been certified 10-times platinum after selling 10 million units. The single, which has seen remixes featuring Young Thug, Billy Ray Cyrus and more, has gone diamond.
As we alluded to up top, this is just the latest Lil Nas X accomplishment. Earlier this year, the rapper broke the record for the longest-streak of No. 1 placements on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Using a memorable hook, comedic southern drawl and Nas X’s keen understanding of social media, his breakout single surpassed internet phenomenon status a few times over.
Given our 8-year journey on Cypher Avenue following the accomplishments of Gay and Bisexual men of color, I’m immensely proud of Lil Nas X. And I’m happy to say that we featured Lil Nas X on this site even before he came out publicly as gay.
Many long time readers may have noticed that in recent years, our coverage of LGBT entertainers and content creators has diminished. This is partially due to time constraints, but more so it is amazing to see just how ‘common’ mainstream content featuring Gay and Bisexual men of color has become.
From famous Lil Nas X to infamous Jussie Smollett (formally) of Empire, from Frank Ocean to Moonlight, From Dear White People to the dozens of web series and Soundcloud musicians out there, gay men of color are no longer relegated to sassy queen hair dresser stereotypes.
And it only took 8 years.
Just as Lil Nas X owes a small part of his success to the gay rappers that paved the way before him, Cypher Avenue deserves a little credit as well. And by ‘small part’ I do mean very small. Clearly, 20-year-old Montero Lamar Hill’s success is of his own making. However, we have no idea if the creative work and visibility of Bry’Nt, Lasto, Kaoz and others had some indirect influence on Lil Nas X, an artist who clearly grew up on the Internet, YouTube, Social Media and blogs like Cypher Avenue.
I’d like to believe that he did. Hell, even we did…and we continue to do so to this day. We researched tons of bloggers like Rod McCullom, DJ Baker and others before starting our own site. We even supported the young bucks that came after us (#RIP to Mused Magazine).
Creatives, we’re all low key watching each other. We all occasionally see someone doing something online (or in public) that we want to do as well. Some of us get so motivated that we just dive into the deep end and join the pool, while others sit back lurking, supporting us from afar.
Without knowing a thing about blogging, Ocky Williams and I dived in and started what would eventually become one of the most visited Black gay websites on the planet. This is not an overstatement, we had a crazy, unexpected (and controversial) run for a minute. Even to this day, there are still no other LGBT websites that speaks to and for our niche audience (for better or worse). Many of the long time readers have since connected in meet-ups and have become friends IRL.
So what’s the point of this blog post? To pat ourselves on the back and take credit for Lil Nas X’s achievements? Nah. That was all him. And homophobia still exists. Transphobia still exists. Stereotypes still exist. One may ask, has anything really changed at all?
My answer is “Yes.” Baby steps.
I think the point of this essay is to just revel in and be proud of this moment in history. A moment in history that we are a part of, even if in a very small way. History may not write about the contributions of those pioneering gay rappers, but we did, in the moment.
I have accomplished a lot in my short life, but one of my greatest contributions to society as a whole has been sharing my “truth” through this website and sharing the work of other underrepresented gay & bisexual men like me as well.
We didn’t start this site to become gay famous or to get dates or to get into gay clubs for free. It was to fill a void in the stories and conversations on being Gay Men of Color.
I have a sense of pride and purpose when I get emails from men saying how much this website has helped them. When the members here tell us that they have made best friends through initially connecting on this website, I feel that the unpaid work and sacrifices to keep this site going have been worth it.
Even if only 100 people saw an interview or web series review, those 100 people may have NEEDED to see that to help make them feel more accepted, or to inspire them to make something as well, or to expose a non-LGBT person to a way of life that turns out to be not too different than their own.
I can only imagine how someone like Lil Nas X, a person who has reached millions more people than us, must feel. The pride, the sense of responsibility, the pressure to succeed and make mistakes in public. I don’t envy him but I appreciate everything he’s done to live in his own truth as an artist and hopefully inspire others as well.
I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.
Here’s to the next 8 years…and beyond.
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