All the best rappers are Lesbians, and no, I'm not talking about Drake

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Doja Cat — Photo courtesy of RCA
Doja Cat — Photo courtesy of RCA

Over the last decade, Queer women have taken the music world by storm — but it may not be in the genre you'd expect.

Thanks to popular apps like TikTok, snappy hip-hop riffs and rap beats can quickly blow up into viral dance trends, often appropriated and popularized by white influencers. Now, for the first time, teenagers and young adults are blowing up music charts, not with the new songs they're finding on the radio but with obscure hits popping up on their FYP (that's "For You Page" for any of you old millennials).

TikTok is shaping the music industry
TikTok trends have led to the popularization of many up-and-coming SoundCloud artists, including Doechii, Ashnikko, and Dreya Mac. Along with them, prominent feminist rappers Princess Nokia and Angel Haze have also grown their fan base, as hip-hop fans embrace the new age of Queer rap stars.

The most popular Queer female artist to explode on TikTok over the last few years was Doja Cat. Her first claim to FYP fame was with "Candy" in 2019. Then she burst onto the scene with the "Say So" dance in early 2020. For weeks, every family unfortunate enough to be on lockdown with a teenage girl was subjected to learning the steps and hand gestures.

Doja Cat was then featured again on the uber-popular "Best Friend," an ode by Saweetie to female friendship and power that became an instant viral success, with everyone using the sound to highlight their favorite ladies. In summer 2021, Doja Cat released her latest album, Planet Her, officially making her a household name.

However, her claim to fame isn't that far off from other Queer women and Nonbinary people in the rap industry. Doja Cat, Princess Nokia, and up-and-comer Doechii all first gained traction after leaving school to pursue careers on SoundCloud. They were given guidance by their first record producers and instructed on what to write, sing, and wear. And each of their careers barely got off the ground.

Doja Cat signed her first record deal at 17. Over the next few years, she struggled to find her voice. The release of her EP "Purrr!" and her debut album Amala were quiet, and she feared she'd fall into oblivion. In 2018, while taking a break from recording, she decided to release a homemade music video for her absurdist song "Mooo!" It became a viral sensation, and fans demanded a release of the single.

Introducing Princess Nokia
Princess Nokia also found a way to break into the industry. Growing up immersed in New York's Queer scene, the Nonbinary Bisexual rapper got their start performing in Queer clubs. After releasing their first album, Metallic Butterfly, in 2014, they decided to change their image and stage name to "Princess Nokia," their alter ego.

Princess Nokia decided to lean into their angsty feminist riot grrrl edge and began writing rhymes that reflected social issues they cared about: urban feminism, homophobia, and rape culture. It wasn't what the industry wanted, and many worried their new message wouldn't resonate with the hip-hop community. But Princess Nokia didn't care.

"I know who I am, I like what I like, and I do what I do. I'm wonderful and comfortable with myself. I got that strength from the [LGBTQ] world, where it's okay to be different," they said to Out.

In 2019, their song "Sugar Honey Iced Tea" became a summer hit. In 2021 they released their first single produced by a major record label, "It's Not My Fault," and began blowing up charts with "I Like Him," an instant TikTok smash.

Another 2021 TikTok sensation came from Queer-girl rapper Doechii. Her hit single "Yucky Blucky Fruitcake" from 2019 earned her a spot on Rolling Stone's Breakthrough 25 list in April 2021.

Despite concerns from industry experts, silly songs like Doechii's "Fruitcake" and Doja Cat's "Mooo!" are working for Queer women, and their careers are skyrocketing.

An industry of misogyny
So, why is it that LGBTQ women and fem-presenting Nonbinary artists are taking the hip-hop world by storm? They are just as sexual, if not more, in some of their songs than their Queer male counterparts who have gotten flak.

Lil Nas X, for example, has faced significant harassment — from online trolls and industry elites like Da Baby — whenever he discusses his sexuality, but women like Ashnikko can discuss "cunnilingus on the couch" without so much as a PTO uproar.

For starters, cis-het men still dominate the rap industry. While toxic masculinity tends to feign feeling threatened by Queer men — out of a fear that Queer men might pursue them the way they pursue women — it does not treat female-presenting people the same way. Often, Queer women are fetishized and exoticized by these men, who not only allow them to create sapphic artwork but encourage it.

Rappers like Drake, Dope Cashh, Young Thug, and Eminem have all fetishized Lesbians in particular with their lyrics. In fact, "Lesbian" is the most searched-for word on Pornhub. Men, it seems, can't get enough of the idea of Queer women as the ultimate challenge to their masculinity — one they can't lose. It reflects the power men have been taught to hold over women.

This fetishization of Queer women can be seen in many of these female rappers' trending sounds on TikTok. Straight men have used everything from Doja Cat's "Tia Tamera" to Ashnikko's "Slumber Party" to film thirst-trap videos. Straight girls have used the former to film themselves with their friends but censored the word "cunnilingus" from their lip-synchs to make sure their audience knew they were, indeed, straight.

While the intended audience for Doja Cat, Princess Nokia, and Doechii is women, particularly Queer women, the industry continues to try and market them to the male consumer, who, it seems, is always the target audience when it comes to hip-hop music. Producers were not concerned when music was perpetuating slut shaming, rape culture, and sexual assault, because they can sell that to men, but when Queer women's music deviates from sex and toward other forms of female empowerment, labels start to worry it's less marketable.

Even though the most popular Queer-girl songs gain commercial success when they play up sexual scenarios, these hits depict sex refreshingly and respectfully. Simple lines like "ask politely" center the female experience and celebrate women's bodies instead of just objectifying them. Straight men may just learn something.

Women are capable of presenting so much more than just sex in their music, and Queer women are proving this again and again. Princess Nokia's "Versace Hottie" details the struggles they faced growing up in the foster system amid an AIDS epidemic that killed their mother. Doechii's "Yucky Blucky Fruit Cake" pays homage to her '90s and early 2000s childhood with nostalgia and humor. Doja Cat's "Mooo!" is pure chaotic hilarity, proving that women can be funny, sexy, and cows, all at the same time.

While Queer rappers face an uphill struggle lined with toxic masculinity and gross fetishization, they continue to pave the way for the next generation and show that there are no rules when it comes to hip-hop.