“How Ima Read”: Queer Rap Discourse in Online Music Culture
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This thesis intervenes into recent online media discourse on queer rap and its attendant queer liberal agenda by situating black queerness, hip hop, and homophobia within colonial and post-slavery contexts. The research project begins by exploring the ways in which websites that produce discourses on the “new wave” of “queer rap” participate in panoptical imaginaries that produce black sexualities as excessive and blackness as pathologically homophobic; this work therefore also examines the authenticating tactics used to confirm an artist and their music as “queer.” I argue that normalizing racial-sexual classifications, as well as the classificatory work of musical genre, are limiting and damaging logics that fail to fully take up a work of art and the individual artist’s personhood. I expand and complicate these narratives by turning to Le1f, an identified “queer rapper,” to focus upon the interaction between media coverage and the content that is represented in his music video “Wut.” I argue that when one examines this work closely, we find an articulation of Le1f’s sexuality that is closely bound up with his blackness and colonial histories of interracial violence, fantasy, and desire. “Wut” and Le1f, together, resist the media’s impulse to forget race in discussions of queerness. I then turn to another artist touched by this discourse, Zebra Katz, and examine interviews alongside his music video “Ima Read.” I show how Katz provides a space to think through racial-sexual classifications as sites of injury and trauma while also drawing attention to black queer education as a project of ethical relationalities.