Spitting Bars and Subverting Heteronormativity: An Analysis of Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator's Departures from Heteronormativity, Traditional Concepts of Masculinity, and the Gender Binary
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This paper seeks to investigate an emerging movement of rap and pop artists who actively subvert structures of the gender binary and heteronormativity through their music. The main artists considered in this research are pop/rap/R&B artist Frank Ocean and rap artist Tyler, the Creator, both of whom have claimed fame relatively recently. Artists like Ocean and Tyler make intentional departures from heteronormativity and the gender binary, combat concepts such as ‘toxic masculinity’, and hint at the possibilities for normalization and destigmatization of straying from the gender binary through lyrics, metaphysical expressions, physical embodiments of gender, expression of fluid/non-heteronormative sexualities, and disregard for labels in their sexual and gendered identities. I will discuss the history and context around music as an agent for social change and address privileging of the black heterosexual cisgender man as the central voice to pop/rap/R&B in the following research. This project will draw on Beauvoirian philosophy regarding gender as well as contemporary sources of media like Genius, record sale statistics, and album lyrics. By illustrating and evaluating how these artists subvert traditional concepts of gender and sexuality, I hope to also shine a light on how their music, which reaches millions of people who are less aware of or accepting of gayness, catalyzes social change and is significant in this current political moment, which is an era of increasing public tolerance of queer ideas and less binary gender expression.