Matthew D. Morrison

Matthew D. Morrison is an Assistant Professor in the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Matthew holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from Columbia University, and his published work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of the American Musicological Society and Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, and Oxford University Press Online’s music blog. Matthew’s current book project is titled, Blacksound: Making Race and Popular Music in the U.S.

"Black men, Queerness, and Contemporary Popular Performance"
This paper will explore the music and reception of gender-fluid performing and queer identified black male artists in contemporary popular music. The intersections of class, gender, race, and region out of which Hip Hop developed within society mirror many traditional and often conservative social American values — particularly those that privilege heteronormative ideals and masculinist performances of power. The relationship between the musician, industry, consumer, and society, in this instance, is one that has historically limited the possibilities for many queer black male artists to break through mainstream culture.

I argue, however, that the emerging presence of queer black male artists in contemporary popular music is a result of how black male pop artists have navigated and performed their identity across the spectrum of queerness, in ways that both challenge and reinforce gendered expectations of black men in pop culture. Specific musicians that I will consider are Frank Ocean, Mykki Blanco, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, and Tyler the Creator. This exploration will show the diverse ways in which each of these artists create and perform identity along a spectrum of queerness. Questions central to this paper are how, if at all, does the sound and music speak to their specific queer identities and performances, and how does this impact how their reception (popularity, critical, and otherwise) within popular culture? Furthermore, how might the spectrum of gendered and sexual identities be expanded through popular music to include marginalized and intersectional queer identities, and what are the limits to this inclusion within mainstream culture?