From its onset, hip-hop has been the musical expression of the oppressed. In our current arc of the Civil Rights Movement — the fight for LGBT equality — it makes sense for hip-hop to act as a medium for the vocalization and dissemination of queer and transgender stories, like it’s former (and continued) use to empower and promulgate narratives from the black community. But hip-hop is an exclusive club in its own right (read: straight and male), and while some progress has been made to expand its parameters (see: Frank Ocean of Odd Future, Le1f, Macklemore, Rainbow Noise, and debateably Azealia Banks), there is still a long road ahead.
Enter emcee F. Virtue (real name Will Kowall) of the collective Fameless Fam, and his newly-released single from his album We Are Not the Shame. Cheekily named “Anita Bryant” after the former singer/orange juice enthusiast/hate-monger of the same name, the song speaks to Virtue’s navigation of two identities: that of a member of the queer community, and that of a hip-hop artist. “I was born with a sexuality backwards/And the homo strives to be the rapper?/Rap’s homophobic, so why should he listen?/It’s not made for him/It’s for straight men and butch women,” he intones, setting up a dichotomy which runs throughout. Later on, as he extrapolates his struggle to balance his homosexuality and his passion for hip-hop, he dissects this dichotomy, pronouncing it laughable: “[t]his isn’t gay rap/Do gay chefs make gay food?” Ultimately, “Anita Bryant” is more than a personal coming out, but a rally to take back hip-hop, to give power to those who may not have privilege, hetero-normative or not; to “show kids…who they are is not an obstacle to jump.”
Evidently, it would be convenient to compare Virtue to Macklemore (for, more or less, their whiteness, ergo privilege, and for the similar subject matter in their songs); but Macklemore’s “Same Love”, while groundbreaking in its own right, is the polemical of an outsider looking in. F. Virtue’s “Anita Bryant” is more than an anthem and more than a confession: it’s the real deal.
(Full disclosure: writer and F. Virtue both attended Emerson College.)