This past March, Pitchfork ran a story covering a number of young artists that are breaking down ideas of hip-hop identity by incorporating elements of LGBT sub-culture like drag and ball culture into their performance (for a great primer on ball culture in New York City, see the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning).
One of the key figures in this story was Khalif Diouf, better know by his stage-name Le1f, who cautioned against making gay NYC rap a 'thing': I'm not trying to be competing with my friends based on their race and sexuality, he said in the piece. The whole 'room for one' mentality is homophobic ... if the world is ready for a gay rapper, then they're ready for multiple gay rappers. If we were straight, no one would be comparing us.
Since March, Le1f has released his first mixtape, Dark York, to enthusiastic reviews and continued to perform regularly throughout New York City. And late last week, he released his first official music video from Dark York for the song Wut. Today, New York Magazine called him your new favorite rapper, but don't expect to hear him in a Chick-fil-A anytime soon.
I really wanted to rap about being both black and gay simultaneously and what that means, Le1f explained to Pitchfork. But I'm very aware that people don't want to hear preachy music. Conscious rap is not my favorite type of rap. Now that performers as high-profile as Frank Ocean can admit to loving other men and find approval from fellow rappers as historically close-minded as 50 Cent, maybe this will soon be the case for all musicians and artists. As one of his Youtube commenters puts it: Dope? track. Gay or not, it's dope.
You can download Dark York here. Watch the video below.