“Gay, black, middle-class male, that’s a small box”
EarthTone’s second track serves as the perfect introduction to his brilliant EP. Everyone knows about hip hop’s complicated relationship with homophobia. But less people, perhaps, understand the pigeonholing that goes on within the queer community. Throughout Gmale, the New Jersey rapper, real name Naquan Williams, covers it all through his personal story.
The record opens with a beat reminiscent of music 10 years its senior. I’m immediately hooked. Turnin’ 30 is a BIG opening track, waxing on the tumultuous events of his 2013. It melts straight into Fuck Is You?, which confronts homophobia in hip hop, as well as institutional racism in America. It’s probably one of the boldest hip hop tracks I’ve come across. Whether it’s fair or not, mainstream hip hop has become synonymous with luxury and hedonism, so it’s pleasing to hear something a little more… meaningful. “And why you so concerned with who I’m lovin’, dude?” from Fuck Is You? ties together so many of the messages in this EP, as well as issues many of us face as queer people.
Being ostracized from both hip hop and the queer community (“if I were feminine, it might be easier to deal, but since I’m masculine they think I wasn’t being real”) is a theme that runs throughout. This reflection is balanced by the cockiness of the aptly-titled “The Best”. It’s interesting (and problematic) that he sets himself apart from other queer people (presumedly gay men), through his masculinity.
Another highlight is “Fuckin’ Awesome Guy”. Opening with a bit of wordplay (reciting “F-A-G”, double meanings galore), it addresses recent hardships and their effect on him, such as his mother’s death. It’s interesting to hear a rapper discuss exclusion from both hip hop and queer culture, especially when hip hop doesn’t often directly address queer issues. It proves that no community is perfect, and that thought-provoking music is necessary – especially music with such beautiful samples and production throughout.
“Gmale” is one of the realest collections of hip hop I’ve heard in a while. If you enjoy real music, real hip hop, and clever lyricism, it will speak to you.