The words “gay rapper” don’t typically grace the pages of the hip-hop blogosphere. While many applauded Frank Ocean for his candid letter, rumblings of the use of coming out as a marketing ploy have reverberated since his stunning Channel Orange hit store shelves in July.
One listen to a Big Momma song, however, and you realize that the label “gay rapper” is an important component of the emcee’s identity and the music that he’s making, not simply a calculated gamble to garner attention.
Unpacking the topic of homosexuality in hip-hop is a matter for another day and a broader discussion—one that takes into account the genre’s occasionally spotty track record in terms of misogyny, as well as the often overt and decidedly heterosexual machismo central to the styles of some of the rap’s titans. By aggressively self-identifying as gay, rappers like Big Momma, Cakes da Killa, Mykki Blanco, and Le1f may risk being written off or taken as “gimmicky,” but, in their extremity, may help pave the way for other rappers who simply happen to be homosexual (without necessarily having to foreground their sexuality).
Of course, what makes this recent crop of rappers most interesting is that they possess serious dedication to craft—particularly in the case of occasional collaborators Cakes and Big Momma. That proficiency provides them the opportunity to grow beyond clear tags, whether imposed from without or self-created.
Big Momma’s Mommie Dearest is an intriguing listen, an average mixtape in construction (Momma takes an assortment of existing beats and tracks from up and comers) elevated by the obvious intrigue of the emcee’s image and above average rapping ability. Songs like “Throwin Shade” and “Blow Up” show an artist confident both on the mic and in his own skin—the latter song might be the most fascinating statement on the tape, an angry lover’s invective against an ex. Perhaps a difficult topic to deal with for some listeners, but a fair indicator that being a “gay rapper” isn’t simply some badge Big Momma uses to gain attention.