How Young M.A. is Queering Mainstream Hip-Hop
Brooklyn-bred rapper Young M.A. took over the summer with her hit “Ooouuu” and changed the game up with her dope style and the queer representation mainstream rap is definitely missing. I say this as a queer hip-hop fan, but also as someone who knows queer representation has existed before Young M.A. But it doesn’t change how necessary the NYC-based artist is to gender-nonconforming representation and queer rap lyricism.
The constant feedback I’ve heard online and in my personal spaces is that Young M.A. is problematic as fuck, even from the lens of other Black queer folks. But that’s the beauty and nuance of all Black folks: we exist and live within the political gray. Young M.A. is also more likely under a lens of dissecting her misogyny due to the fact that she’s a queer black woman. But all of our straight, heteronormative faves are problematic as fuck too, and niggas are still sleep when it comes to dragging them.
See the meme below:
To allude to Young M.A. as a feminist womanizer that the LGBT community supports is complicated. The expectation for all non-cis-het-men to provide perfection and to be fully cured of problematic behavior is based in the dehumanization of all oppressed folks. Nuance and complicated navigation of our identities and our understandings should always be held space for. And Young M.A. ain’t the first to be ain’t-shit when it comes to misogyny.
Does it inherently excuse Young M.A. from her bullshit? Nah. But I fuck with her and the power her representation and talent brings to the table. The difference between Young M.A. and other Black, queer, masculine-of-center artists such as Siya, Temper and Angel Haze is that Young M.A. is penetrating mainstream arenas in ways that are queering narratives and understandings of rap and Black culture right now. To be clear, this is not to revolutionize Young M.A. above other Black queer artists, but to focus on the hyper-visible conversations on lesbianism, dyke shit and Black queer politics that are being sparked in this moment.
When we look at the themes of the current rap game and the primary trap contenders lending their lyricism to misogyny and nigga culture, the sexual eroticism they provide is always centered on them receiving head or fucking bitches. There’s even an explicit aversion from pussy.
“I’ll take anything but some pussy.” –Young Thug, “Thief in the Night”
“No sex bitch I only want the neck bitch.” –Lil Durk, “Wild Nigga”
“I don’t want that pussy bitch; before you suck my dick pull out them titties, bitch go off; I just want the head, get the bread, than I leave” –BeatKing, “What That Mouth Do”
These lyrics represent how nigga culture and anti-hoe culture is highly ingrained with the premise that hoes and all women who aren’t regarded as worthy, wifey or human are only good for their mouth and sexual labor that doesn’t require men or masculine folks to work or provide reciprocal sexual pleasure. But the world is also adapted to these lyrics as sexual neutrality through toxic masculinity, in which everyone identifies with them enough to sing them — even if they don’t apply.
When we add the analysis of femme and non-queer-identified women folks in rap saying lyrics around receiving head/oral sex and demanding sexual agency in a cis-phallic-central world, there is still the difference in who’s identifying with the lyricism and intent of the music.
“When I lift the skirt, your nigga never gotta be coerced/Just squirt and he eats the dessert.” –Azealia Banks, “L8r”
“Go downtown and eat it like a vulture.” –Missy Elliot, “Work It”
“See, most of the time a nigga dick ain’t shit/He need to go a step further and lick the clit.” –Trina, “Tongue Song”
“First you gotta put your neck into it/Don’t stop, just do, do it.” –Khia, “My Neck, My Back”
It’s not often that we see cis-het men quoting these songs or even validating their greatness. Because cis-het men don’t identify with providing sexual agency or pleasure to women and femmes. Young M.A. has cis-het niggas around the world screaming and reciting her lyrics word for word. There are cis-het niggas identifying with what Young M.A. is spitting, because even though her work is not invested in directing pleasing them sexually, they identify with what she’s demanding when it comes to nigga politicking and heteronormative desire politics. Unknowingly, they are engaging within a queering of hip-hop by identifying and quoting a black queer masculine woman getting head, inherently normalizing oral sex for dykes and normalizing black queerness as a reality.
Audre Lorde writes around the use of the erotic and how it functions:
“The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.”
It’s powerful to see Young M.A. indoctrinated within nigga culture that is so often heteronormative and cis-men centered. And although she may not be breaking barriers in how misogyny is set up to consume and violate those who are in a position of femininity or positioned opposite of nigga-ism/men/masculinity, she is queering and changing the game in other ways and queering the niggas listening along the way. Queering the language around hoeism to incorporate dyke shit and centering a masculine black lesbian explicitly receiving oral sex is radical as fuck.
“She make me weak when she deep throat.”
On the Breakfast Club, Charlemagne and DJ Envy brought up Young M.A.’s lyric, “She make me weak when she deep throat.” Her response to the voyeurism of her sexual relationships, and the queerphobic (also transphobic) questioning was to shut it down immediately. She says, “If you don’t understand, you don’t gotta understand it.” Um, fuck yeah.
Also, what’s so important about this particular lyric is that it requires that mainstream audiences — often enfolded within a heteronormative lens of rap — are participating in queerness through her lyricism around talking about strap-ons. She’s talking about guns and straps, and you never know which one. But is possible that Young M.A. is queering her genitalia as something to deep throat on, because we often view our bodies and our sex through cis-heteronormative desire politics.
“I don’t open doors for a whore, I just want the neck, nothin’ more.”
Another infamous Young M.A. lyric, “I don’t open doors for a whore, I just want the neck, nothin’ more,” allows for the space to discuss Young M.A.’s ability as a queer, Black, masculine-of-center woman to engage in openly discussing her sexuality and autonomy. In the same breath, she also employs the politics of hoeism — in which you’re either that nigga or you’re a bitch.
She positions herself as that nigga, not as a cisgender straight Black man — but as a nigga who thrives on being farther away from hoe proximity through masculinity and gender-nonconforming performance. The performance and embodiment of being a nigga vs. being a bitch/hoe/whore/thottie is that you are in a position to dispose and consume without taking any L’s to your own power or access to resources (i.e. money, guns, real niggas, juice, respect, etc.). If Young M.A. is saying that she doesn’t open doors for whores, she’s also reaffirming her power via misogyny and through masculinity as an identity of power.
More important, though, her ability to distinguish that head is a necessity for her is the queerest shit we’ve ever seen in mainstream rap. This is a black queer woman saying that head is imperative to her sexual pleasure. This is radical as fuck because she also doesn’t pretend or perform around the desire for cis-het men’s dicks or pleasing a man to get something so often denied and deemed unimportant to women, particularly black queer masculine women.**
(Note: I want to reiterate that often we don’t see cisgender, Black, masculine-of-center lesbian and queer women in a position to desire or receive oral sex, due to the fact that getting head is often framed as a bitch-ness and something that only queer black cis-femmes and femme-identified women are provided in queer and lesbian sexual relationships. This is not to say Black masculine queer and lesbian cis-women never get head or want head enough to ask for it. But moreso a reality of Black lesbian/dyke culture that I’ve witnessed, participated in and make note of within the radical politicization of Young M.A.’s representation and sexual agency.)
In Young M.A.’s song “Summer Story” from her mixtape, the hook goes,
“I’ma ride for my guys, do or die for my guys
Never switch sides on my guys, no
I’ma ride for my bitch, do or die for my bitch
Fucked around a few times on my bitch, woah
She said I don’t have no loyalty
Just cause the pussy just be calling me
And she don’t think I love her even when I say I love her
That’s my bitch and we just single for the summer, woah.”
What’s amazing about this song is how she exemplifies how bro-code and niggas-vs.-bitches is still about staying loyal to men and masculine folks above all else. She reiterates in her lyrics that she’s fucked around on her bitch, and her bitch calls her out for not having loyalty. But breaking loyalty between her niggas will get you called a “bitch” — and might get you killed.
The fact that Young M.A. engages so deeply with nigga-code is also a reminder that she’s still positioning herself in a way that grants her access to misogyny to hurl at everyone who’s not a nigga — meaning everyone who is a bitch, meaning consumable. Young M.A. may be perpetuating misogyny with her lyricism and personal politics, but she’s also still a queer black woman in a space full of the same people that are more likely to assault and kill her: cis-het black men.
Her queerness is read as more “visible” in the rap game and in the hood because she’s not following the rules of writing sexually autonomous raps for men’s direct pleasure or performing gender the way the world demands her to, but she’s still being affirmed and offered to share space with the same people who might hurt and violate her for her identities and navigation. How much space and praise are we willing to offer Young M.A. due to the fact that she’s still in danger in what she’s doing with her talent, art and openly Black queer identity? Because she’s still doing some radical-ass shit in my book, even if I gotta drag her from time to time.
Ashleigh Shackelford is a queer, nonbinary Black fat femme writer, artist and cultural producer. Ashleigh is a contributing writer at Wear Your Voice Magazine and For Harriet. Read more at BlackFatFemme.com.