Meet Arkano, the Rapper Aiming to Rhyme Away Homophobia

Photo by Sharon López.

When Guillermo Rodríguez Godínez took the nickname of Arkano, he didn’t realize it would eventually become his rap name. The epithet was simply a riff on his mom’s first email back when his family was launching into the new world wide web. He recalls how she had heard it in some conversation about astrology so he rolled with the masculine version for his own username. Years later, when he needed to come up with an aka for his first rap battle, his mind went to Arkano—a name, he tells Remezcla, that sounded powerful. 

“It’s a name that has come to me very naturally,” he says on a Zoom call while he sits at his home in Alicante, Spain, following a day packed with activities. Earlier, he’d taught a battle class, gone weight lifting, and improvised rhymes on a radio show he collaborates with.

Arkano comes from the word arcana, which means “mystery” or “secret.” Headlines from earlier this year about Arkano’s sexuality may suggest that he was more than just a powerful name, but a fitting one too. While being filmed for Spain’s Master Chef series, cameras caught a private conversation between Arkano and a colleague talking about which gender Arkano prefers to match with on Tinder, to which he said: “I’m open to all.” The media framed it as a confession, but Arkano didn’t wince. Instead, he released “Match,” a new single about finding self-acceptance and self-love from his upcoming sophomore album. 

The upbeat song starts off with some jazzy piano that leads into Arkano’s first verse: “You know I was there too/ And when I wanted to leave, the doubt died of jealousy/ Anxiety became infatuated with me / Tell me why am I afraid?” He goes on to rap about searching for himself, losing himself in the process, kissing boys, being with people from both sexes, and moving on and growing with your life.

Arkano is considered one of Spain’s top freestyle competitors. He’s won multiple titles since his first battle at the age of 14. In 2009, at just 15 years old, he won the national title of Red Bull Batalla in Spain. Arkano would also go down as the world-record-breaking rapper who rhymed for more than 24 hours straight. Now retired from battles, he still prides himself in having pushed the competition to be more LGBTQ friendly, given that rap battles can be a haven for homophobia. 

Over the years, Arkano became legendary for using his competitors’ own homophobia to disarm them—with a peck on the mouth. “The curious thing was that it wasn’t really a strategy,” he recalls of the first time he pecked a rival with a kiss on the lips. Arkano’s first rival kiss was at the international finals of Red Bull Batalla in 2015, and it went viral. The competition was being held in Chile that year, and Arkano was up against Argentina’s champion, Dtoke. “That battle had a counterposition of roles,” Arkano explains. “He represented the hard one, the violent one, and I was the opposite. I was the playful kid who was dancing.”

A video of that battle shows Dtoke getting in Arkano’s face and quickly shoving a grinning Arkano away after he places a small kiss on his lips. Later, Dtoke would call the move unfair and “maricón de su parte,” a derogatory word for gay people in Spanish. “It wasn’t planned, but it became really symbolic. And I think, in many ways, that kiss represents that opening,” Arkano says, adding that Dtoke later said he wanted to beat him up. “That kiss represents that nothing actually happens when one man kisses another, and it’s interesting that it generates discomfort for certain people,” he says.

In reality, Arkano says he doesn’t feel he really ever hid his sexuality. He never had a formal “coming-out.” Much like his name, it also came very naturally, he says. “I never had the intention of saying, ‘Hey, I’m bi,’ or felt a need to announce it,” he explains. “In fact, when the news came out and everyone was talking about it, I didn’t even talk about it with [my family].” That’s in large part due to Arkano’s longtime and open support for the LGBTQ community. “Since I’ve been so adhered to this discussion and have had this message, my family has always been open,” he says. “I don’t think it was a surprise.”

“Rapping helped me a lot. It was therapeutic and a tool that helped me learn I have the right to be heard.”

Arkano credits his love for rap and hip-hop to his older sister, who shared her music with him as a child. Around that same time, Arkano says his family moved and he had to attend a new school with new people and had difficulty finding new friends. “Rapping helped me a lot,” he says, recalling those days. ”It was therapeutic and a tool that helped me learn I have the right to be heard.”

Today, he says being alone during that transition helped him become more observant and sensitive. He thinks that experiencing dark moments makes you more conscious and introspective. “I think that’s a rapper’s main tool,” he says.

His new album, which is set for release next year, will explore many aspects of his life. It will be his first full-length album since the release of Bioluminiscencia in 2017. Arkano says he raps about everything from love, heartbreak, and vices to philosophy and ego in this new album because he—like all people—is still constantly growing and changing. 

“I think people throughout their life, phases, and even in the same day, pass through distinct moods,” he reflects. “During the same day, I can be amorous and later be the one with a social conscience, later be lazy, then depressed, then euphoric, and, eventually, vicious.”