Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Imagess
Island Records' Cheyenne Beam
What Makes A Good Ally? LGBTQ+ Artists And Industry Leaders Weigh In On Pride, Diversity & More In New York
Queens rapper Dai Burger, electropop artist Saro, Island Records associate director of media relations Cheyenne Beam and Brooklyn-via-Oakland emcee Nappy Nina convene at Soho House in N.Y. to discuss issues of acceptance and representation
We're nearing the end of Pride Month, but the issues of acceptance and representation that LGBTQ+ artists—especially those of color—face don't disappear when June is over. With that in mind, the Recording Academy hosted a GRAMMYs Soundbite Conversation After Dark panel at New York City's Soho House Ludlow on Wednesday (June 26) to keep the discussion going.
Moderated by Recording Academy Editor In Chief, Digital Content & Strategy Justin Dwayne Joseph, the panel included Queens rapper Dai Burger, electropop artist Saro, Island Records associate director of media relations Cheyenne Beam and Brooklyn-via-Oakland emcee Nappy Nina explored a slew of topics that specifically impact black and brown members of the LGBTQ+ music community.
"It's kind of just like this double weight," Saro—who noted that while he has been out in his personal life for some time, he just recently came out in his career and started using male pronouns in his music—said. "You feel like you have this extra thing you have to break through."
Beam recalled feeling uncomfortable early in his career, but he said as he gets older, he has gained the confidence and experience to avoid that.
"I feel like the older I get, the more I know who I am and so I can go in any room and stand in my truth and also represent other artists, LGBTQ artists who are trying to make it in the mainstream business like every other artist," he said.
For Dai Burger, there was pressure to fit in, but she never succumbed to it. "It used to come back to me like, 'You should smooth this out a little, make it a little more prim and proper,'" she said "It was hard. I've had people tell me what I should change [and] shouldn't do, but we are who we are and you can't ever change that."
The panel noted that while the music business is more accepting than ever of LGBTQ+ artists, representation is important on all sides of the industry. Beam called for more diversity at record labels.
"We are who we are and you can't ever change that."
"There needs to be more diversity in the meetings, those brainstorming meetings, those creative strategy meetings, those conference calls," he said. "There aren't a lot of people of color in those meetings. A lot of times I walk into the room and I'm the only person of color. So therefore I'm the only person of color who also represents the LGBTQ community, you know what I mean? The more we hire and employ people of color and the more diverse these companies are, the better we can represent the artists and the talent."
Networking and collaborating with other members of the community was also brought up as an important tool. "I think if I do have an artist friend who is a part of the community, it just gives us that more energy and that more magnetism to work on something, and it usually is magical because we can just fully be ourselves together, just connect and make something beautiful," Saro said. "I don't have to wear that mask that I'm learning to shed."
The group discussed the need to book LGBTQ+ artists year-round, not just during Pride Month, and debated over whether or not straight artists like Ariana Grande, who will headline Manchester Pride, should be taking slots at pride events.
"I'm not the type to be like, 'Oh, he's not gay? No, get him off the stage,'" Dai Burger said, adding that she's not a fan of creating boundaries. "Just because someone doesn't announce or tell you their sexuality, you don't know what people are into, do behind closed doors. It shouldn't matter. If you are okay with me and my friends and who we are, then we're okay with you. So come as you are, straight or not. We're all friends, we're all musicians, artists, and there should be no cutoff on that based on what you do when you want to do it."
Nappy Nina disagreed, arguing that there's no shortage of LGBTQ+ artists to fill those performance slots.
"I think allyship looks like taking a step back," she explained. "There are plenty of queer artists. You don't have to go to whatever straight artists you're going to just because they're there and they're available and they're down with LGBTQ+ folks. Allyship does look like taking a step back sometimes. A lot of times."
She also noted that as June comes to a close, it's important to remember the origins of Pride Month and the members of the community who often get overlooked.
"Pride definitely didn't start as a party, and it is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which started by black trans women and sex workers, not folks who are really currently uplifted or showcased in the forefront of Pride, so I think every year during this month I take time to really reflect on that," she said. "I'm from a place that has a super deep political background, and I think that I've always known to look for the real sh*t, the ones who paved the way for me, because it's not the gay white men who are on the floats at the forefront right now."
Source Photos (L-R): Cindy Ord/MG22/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue; Mauricio Santana/Getty Images; Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella
Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2022 Playlist Featuring Elton John, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, Ricky Martin, Rina Sawayama & More
For LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2022, GRAMMY.com presents a genre-spanning playlist of emerging and established artists you should know, including RuPaul, Janelle Monáe, Kim Petras & many more.
Now more than ever in the music industry, artists are out, proud and loud about being open members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Across all genres and music of different languages around the world, musicians are joyfully embracing their queer identities while creating much-needed visibility for their queer-identifying fans. As calls for LGBTQIA+ fairness and equality continue, artists throughout the world are amplifying the voices of the global LGBTQIA+ community.
In honor of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2022, GRAMMY.com has put together a playlist celebrating 50 artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum from throughout the decades and across all genres.
Among the queer icons who paved the way for representation in pop music and culture are Elton John, Queen's Freddie Mercury, and George Michael of Wham! In the '90s, drag queen superstar RuPaul took the world by storm and would soon lead a drag revolution of her own. Into the 2010s, Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin kicked down the proverbial closet door and led the way for more Latin and queer Latin acts to follow in his footsteps. Lady Gaga took queer culture into the stratosphere with her global Pride anthem, "Born This Way." Frank Ocean created waves through R&B and pop as a Black queer innovator with the release of his breakthrough single, "Thinkin Bout You."
The last decade has welcomed more openly LGBTQIA+ artists than ever. South Korean singer Holland has led the way for queer voices in K-pop, Kim Petras has become a pop beacon for trans representation, and Lil Nas X remains one of the biggest rappers and singers in the world today. Also, legendary musicians like Lesley Gore and Chavela Vargas opened up about their queer identities later in their lives.
As LGBTQIA+ representation continues to grow across the music industry, may more artists and music fans keep living their truths and expressing themselves openly and safely.
Behind The Board: Producer/DJ Spencer Brown Explains How Embracing His Sexuality Changed His Creative Process
As an openly gay artist, Spencer Brown strives to make his fans feel accepted by keeping one goal in mind: "to bring as much love and peace and good energy as I possibly can."
Spencer Brown certainly wears an array of hats as a DJ and producer. But if you ask him, he'll tell you he plays just one role in this life — however broad.
"The easiest way to describe what I do is just: artist,'" he says. "I produce music; I DJ my own music; I DJ, digging through other people's music that people maybe don't know. But artist, I think, is the easiest way to do it."
As he describes in the below video, his mission as an artist is simple: bringing joy. "My ultimate mission with my music is to bring as much love and peace and good energy to people as I possibly can."
Brown — who came out as gay in 2020 — has used dance music as an outlet of many sorts since he was young. In a special episode of Behind The Board for Pride Month, Brown details how his creative process changed once he embraced his sexuality. "When I was a kid, and I wasn’t out of the closet, I was very uncomfortable, growing up, with myself. Once I really started to learn and understand myself, I could really be in tune with my creative side even more. And I feel like my music significantly improved."
He also offers a helping hand to those who might be struggling to find acceptance within themselves or their community. "I never had an LGBTQ idol growing up," he adds. "If someone is struggling and they really like my music, I want to connect with them on that."
Brown also describes the flow state conducive to creativity, how he shows up to DJ gigs with a "blank slate," and why he avoids "by-the-books" sounds. Check out the insightful video above and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Behind The Board.
Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Terri Clark, Cassadee Pope Join GLAAD's Concert For Love And Acceptance
The third annual concert in Nashville, Tenn., will also feature Ty Herndon, Michael Ray, Calum Scott, and Brandon Stansell
Advocacy organization GLAAD is all about spreading the message of acceptance for the LGBTQ community. This year they'll take that message directly to Nashville, Tenn., with the third annual edition of their Concert for Love and Acceptance.
Hosted by Ty Herndon and CMT's Cody Alan, the show will feature performances by Herndon, Terri Clark, Cassadee Pope, Michael Ray, Calum Scott, and Brandon Stansell. Additional performances and appearances will be announced. CMT will serve as the event's official sponsor.
"I'm thrilled to partner with GLAAD once again for this show that has broken so much new ground and started so many important conversations over the past three years," Herndon said, according to Billboard. "Letting our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors know they are accepted and loved just as they are isn't just making the world a better place — it's literally saving lives — and I'm so proud to be a part of it."
The Concert for Love and Acceptance will be held June 7 at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville. Tickets are available via GLAAD's website.
Photo: Courtesy of Kidd Kenn
ReImagined At Home: Kidd Kenn's "Old Town Road" Cover Tips Its Cowboy Hat To Lil Nas X's Country Trap Classic
Kidd Kenn gives Lil Nas X's breakout hit "Old Town Road" a glam update by adding some of his own signature flair.
Before Lil Nas X ruffled feathers by (literally) dancing with the devil in 2021, he first caused controversy with "Old Town Road." Labeled "country trap," the song sparked a fierce debate on the definition of the country genre. Yet, its instantly memorable hook — and cinematic music video — helped launch Lil Nas X into pop superstardom.
In this episode of ReImagined at Home, the song gets a fresh look from Kidd Kenn, an enigmatic, 18-year-old rapper from Chicago who shares Lil Nas X's penchant for eye-catching, forward-thinking imagery. Kenn delivers his version of "Old Town Road" while lounging in a wicker chair, seated in a light-filled room with walls decorated with book pages and a lush backdrop of vines and flowers.
The performance lends a glamorous, feminine touch to the song, like when Kenn sings into a vanity mirror. But sonically, his interpretation is fairly faithful to the original "Old Town Road," layering smooth-as-honey vocals against rap lyrics and a sizzling trap beat.
Both Lil Nas X and Kidd Kenn broke into the scene as teens. Though the former artist is only 23 today, he's an inspiration to many in his genre, Kenn included: Nas X came out as gay early on — a fairly rare occurrence in the rap genre — and Kenn has been out since fans first got to know him.
"People in my community [are] building stuff in this game and it shows from what everybody is doing that [success] is going to happen. We're making room. We're here," Kenn commented to Red Bull, acknowledging Lil Nas X as well as Tyler, the Creator for helping destigmatize queer stories in hip hop.
Press play on the video above to watch Kenn's interpretation of this modern-day classic, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of ReImagined at Home.