By Jasmine Washington
From wearing dresses to calling his male friends “bae,” Jeffrey rapper Young Thug has been known for pushing the boundaries of “conventional” gender roles. During a recent interview with V magazine, the rapper explained, “In my world of course, it don’t matter,” while sharing his beliefs on gender. “You could be a gangster with a dress, you could be a gangster with baggy pants. I feel like there’s no such thing as gender.”
Although his specific views may not be popular, he is just one of many millennial rappers to use their platform to challenge societal norms and traditional gender roles.
Check out 11 progressive moments from millennial rappers to see how they’re setting new rules for the culture.
Brooklyn native Young Ma is making history as one of the first chart topping female rappers to openly incorporate her lesbian lifestyle into her music. In her 2016 Summer banger “Ooouuu” the emcee rapped about having her way with the ladies and even spawned the catchy phrase, “You call her Stephanie, I call her Headphanie.”
Kendrick Lamar used his 2016 Grammy Awards performance to bring the issues of mass incarceration and police brutality, two topics that most trap rap-drug-loving rappers often stray away from in contemporary rap music. Gracing the stage in a prison uniform and shackled in chains (a nod to the racist institution of chain gangs), K. Dot’s performance quickly transitioned into a tribal dance ceremony before he closed with the word ’Compton’ etched inside the shape of the continent of Africa.
Hip Hop heir Jaden Smith has been known to push the envelope with his eccentric style and unique point of view on social issues. Shortly after being spotted out in what appeared to be a dress, Smith was dubbed the face of Louis Vuitton’s Womenswear campaign and wore skirts and dresses in his promotional ads. His carefree fashion sense might have caused an uproar within the hip hop community but the rapper continues to flourish and turn heads in the fashion world.
Chance The Rapper
Chicago native Chance The Rapper took a unique approach by incorporating gospel music into his Coloring Book mixtape. Proudly boasting, “I speak to God in public,” in his “Blessing” record, Chance revamped the classic gospel hit “How Great Is Our God,” and even teamed up with gospel legend Kirk Franklin on “Finish Line/Drown.”
Vic Mensa premiered the LGBT inclusive “Free Love” track in response to Orlando’s Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead and 53 injured. Mena’s response to the horrific shooting highlights a certain level of empathy and support that’s not generally shown to the LGBT community by most prominent rappers who often use homophobic slurs and shade homosexuality.
Promiscuity amongst women in rap music has often been looked at in a negative light. Love & Hip Hop newbie Mariah Lynn flaunted her former promiscuous lifestyle in her catchy single, “Once Upon A Time.” Throwing caution to the wind, the rapstress beamed, “Once upon a time not too long ago, I was a hoe and I’m admitting it.”
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Love & Hip Hop star Cardi B. quickly became a fan favorite when she proudly gushed about how powerful she felt using men. Tired of letting men walk all over her, the Bronx native flipped the script on suitors who used her and found great pleasure in it.
With HIV/AIDS rates continuing to skyrocket in the African-American community, many rappers in hip hop have maintained a deafening silence when it comes to the sexually transmitted autoimmune virus and disease. Flatbush Zombie recruited A$AP Ferg and Bodega Bamz for a free New York City concert to help raise awareness about HIV/Aids. Attendees were able to receive tickets to the show through the free HIV “Get Tested, Get In!” campaign.
Rapper Angel Haze borrowed Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Classic” to heroically recount her traumatic experience of being sexually assaulted in her 2012 track with the same title.