Mr Strange performs a BL@CKBOX freestyle and here is why it is important
Author: Thelma Khupe | Thursday 9th January 2020
I could write for hours about how homosexuality has always been a part of our community and society for centuries. It isn’t a millennial epidemic that came to be normalised by a new generation. Look at every painting, every mural, every historical text and you’ll find it isn’t new. And while this is a topic I intend to tread lightly and briefly on, the complexity and sensitivity of this conversation isn’t an excuse for us to not talk about it either.
On Monday, Mr Strange released his BL@CKBOX freestyle. Shortly after, a short clip of the video was tweeted which sparked wider conversation and, of course, opened up room for reactions both positive and negative.
U.K. rap has always been a space for young black men to speak about some of the harsh realities faced in the community. The lyrics are often a reflection of the artists environment and illustrates what life is like for them to their listeners. Mr Strange isn’t the only black gay man in London to exist, he’s a part of a community that has always existed, much longer than U.K. rap has. But in the lifespan of U.K. rap, the stories of this part of our community are yet to be voiced and taken seriously. It’s a part of our community that hasn’t always been allowed the space to talk about their upbringing and battles with sexuality, and when that space is given it’s often backfired with ridicule. And that’s why an openly gay black rapper performing a freestyle one of the U.K.’s largest and most influential urban music platform is so important.
We allow room for young black men to talk about their experiences with race and the struggles of black manhood all the time. But we don’t always allow the same room or reciprocate the same energy for other young black men to talk about their struggles with a traditional idea of manhood and the harsh circumstances of growing up gay and black; possibly because it’s a harsh reality some people in the community aren’t willing or comfortable listening to. But that shouldn’t invalidate these stories or mean that these stories should not be told. We don’t necessarily have to have experienced losing a friend to gang violence to be able to listen to and enjoy the music. And in that same way, you can be heterosexual but still receptive to other minorities voicing out their experiences.
It’s important to remember this is a genre where being gay and openly expressive about your sexuality is ridiculed, mocked and usually frowned upon. And in speaking up about his journey, Mr Strange could potentially be the start of a new era of inclusivity in U.K. rap. How many other voices are there with similar stories waiting for the opportunity to tell them?