For many of us, Pride is the happiest time of the year. It’s an electric month or weekend – depending on where you live – that affords us the opportunity to be ourselves in a heightened way. The sun shines a little brighter, and old Juanga and Chavela songs start sounding extra melodic this time of year. Of course, Pride is more than just about decadence and frivolity, but the anticipation for boozy street parties and texts punctuated with rainbow emojis are part of an indefinable seasonal euphoria that sweeps through the community.
There is no denying the LGBTQIA+ community faces plenty of pressing challenges, from shady Supreme Court rulings on “religious freedom” to the violence trans women face on the streets. And of course, there’s every waking day the queer community spends living under Donald Trump’s greasy, nauseating administration.
Pride Month is about visibility, about honoring our fallen brothers and sisters, and remembering the heroes that fought for us at Stonewall, Pulse, and during the AIDS crisis. It’s a time to revisit our history, exuberant and cruel as it may be, and look it in the eye so we can share our stories of hope and resistance with the next generation.
This year we’ve put together a list of trailblazing queer and trans artists breaking boundaries and finding success on their own terms. There has always been queer and trans talent in our midst, but a decade ago we might have been hard-pressed to put together a list this far-reaching and diverse. Necessary conversations on queerness and trans rights are finally happening in mainstream spaces, and by supporting the art and entrepreneurs of our community, we can keep pushing the movement forward.
Growing up in New York with a name that most people assumed was female or feminine, Rubby endured the kind of bullying he eventually thought best to channel into his art. Named after merenguero Rubby Pérez, the Washington Heights native has kept us on the edge of our seat since last year’s breathless breakout single “Know Me.” Rubby took his storytelling to a whole new level with his follow-up, “Confiesa,” tapping into super relatable territory by detailing the “are they?/aren’t they?” sexual tension queers often have to navigate when flirting in non-queer spaces.
Meeting at the intersection of spooky and danceable we have Manitas Nerviosas, the eerie atmospheric project of musician and illustrator Mou. Whether she’s on keys, guitar, or drums, you can expect a Manitas Nerviosas show to be visceral and unsettling. Before announcing her transition and relocating to Mexico City earlier this year, the Monterrey native was best known for her time in influential psych bands Bam Bam and Animación Suspendida. But don’t expect her to perform her old tunes any time soon. Manitas Nerviosas dropped two EPs last year and is currently working on new music that will haunt your dreams.
Linn da Quebrada
Trans Brazilian MC Linn Da Quebrada made a splash last year with her viral hit “Bixa Preta,” a club anthem detailing the perils of being black, poor, and femme in her native Brazil. She has since released an extraordinary visual album named Pajubá that continued the conversation and featured guest vocals by Liniker Barros and Mulher Pepita. She also headlined the Tración stage at Festival Ceremonia back in April, and while in Mexico City, hit the studio with the NAAFI crew to work on new music. The future is bright and we guarantee Linn da Quebrada will be its soundtrack.
Chile’s queen of androgyny has been on our radar for quite some time thanks to her art-house take on glittery synth pop. Her most recent album Adentro featured a provocative, sexually suggestive cover and songs heavily inspired by futurism and 80s new wave idols like Annie Lennox and Soft Cell, landing her a coveted spot in SXSW’s 2018 lineup. Back home, Entrópica regularly embraces her queer peers in songs that pull her from electronic introspection and cast her considerable talents back onto the dance floor. Notable examples include “Casino,” featuring (Me Llamo) Sebastián and “Celi” with Namuel.
22-year-old newcomer Francisco Victoria is being hailed as the next big star out of Chile’s beloved indie scene. “Marinos” and “Todo lo Que Tengo,” the lead singles from his Alex Anwandter-produced debut album Prenda, reveal a young musician at odds with his conservative upbringing, one of the many reasons he relocated from Chile’s southern Araucanía region to Santiago. Though heavily associated with Anwandter’s staggering oeuvre, references to queer literary icon Pedro Lemebel and Bronski Beat’s Jimmy Summerville have helped Francisco Victoria consolidate a point of view deserving of its own spotlight and narrative.
This ferocious Brooklyn native is known for her raps, fierce fashion, and the years she spent cutting her teeth in New York’s extremely competitive ballroom scene. Her excellent 2017 EP, Jesus Loves Me Too, was an intersection between self-acceptance and clap backs for the haters, showcasing her acrobatic flow in standout tracks like “Malandrina.” Most recently, the Dominican-Colombian rapper opened up about her transition in a candid open letter published by PAPER Magazine. As she poignantly writes, “Just like you, my life matters, I have insecurities, I have debt and I have a heart.”
YouTube star, transgressive rapper, and emerging fashion icon, Sailorfag is the name on everyone’s lips. The 22-year-old gender nonconforming rapper from Guadalajara has been making waves for about a year with a series of viral music videos for underground tracks like “Polo Acartonada” and “Inventadas y Modernas.” Their massive following has lead to shows across Mexico, opening for RuPaul’s Drag Race superstar Adore Delano in Mexico City, and recent bookings at LA Pride and the LA Queer Biennale. Pro Tip: Follow their Instagram for fierce and hysterical updates on make-up, as well as trials and tribulations at fashion school.
Macha Kiddo is a Costa Rican rapper that has no time for your shit, and her fierce bars make that crystal clear. The San José artist has been hard at work in local underground circles for years, regularly collaborating with influential singer-songwriter Javier Arce and queer performance collective Haus of Weisas. Earlier this year she released “Jony (La Romi)” a song and video addressing the uptick in homophobic and transphobic rhetoric brought on by Costa Rica’s recent presidential elections. It’s a musical one-two punch that garnered her international attention.
Brooklyn rapper Nitty Scott can tell you a thing or two about labels and the harm they cause. Her most recent album Creature! commented on the complex nature of her identity by incorporating the different backgrounds and traditions that have shaped her as a unique person and artist. As she shared with Remezcla in an interview, “I’m owning and discussing the experience of being Afro-Boricua, woman, bisexual, then bruja.” Tributes to womanhood and her Puerto Rican roots in songs like “PXSSY POWAH!” and “La Diaspora” have established Nitty Scott as one of the Afro-Latina heroines of our time.
Pabllo Vittar is the biggest drag queen in the world. Period. Her debut album Vai Passar Mal featured guest vocals from some of Brazil’s top queer musicians, including rapper Rico Dalasam and Banda UÓ’s Mateus Carrilho. However, as we’ve begun to see from a growing number of drag artists, Pabllo Vittar’s music and talent live beyond the makeup and heels. Her powerhouse voice and undeniable star quality launched her to international fame through highly publicized collaborations with Diplo and Charli XCX, cementing her place as one of Brazil’s biggest pop stars.
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Alynda Segarra, the mastermind behind folk-rock outfit Hurray for the Riff Raff, has long been an advocate for gender equality and social justice in Puerto Rico. The band’s latest album, The Navigator, was a conceptual exploration of identity filled with meditations on womanhood, her Boricua roots and the island’s complex colonial history. In the early days of the band, Hurray for the Riff Raff was labeled as a queer act for its inclusion of members such as Segarra, who is bisexual, and trans fiddler Yosi Perlstein. The band has steadily outgrown the label while doubling down on their commitment to activism.
LaBaq is a Brazilian singer-songwriter telling stories of love and heartbreak in whatever language she can express herself best. Her lyrics bounce between English, Spanish, and Portuguese, but it’s her virtuous guitar skills that feel like a true mother tongue. LaBaq has been on tour all year, playing dozens of shows across the U.S., South America and Europe, with new music expected to drop before the end of 2018. She is also one of the co-founders of Sonora Fest, a festival highlighting women artists and business professionals in the music industry, which has now held editions in 75 cities worldwide.
The neo-perreo movement has brought much-needed visibility of women and queers to underground reggaeton parties, but we can all agree the mainstream still lacks platforms and acceptance for either. Enter gay Mexican-American reggaetonero Solomon Ray. The first taste of his sorrowful vocals came back in December with catchy heartbreak anthem “El Otro.” Most recently, Solomon Ray gave us “Así Así,” an R&B-tinged summer bop produced by Nicky Jam and Maluma collaborator Daneon that established his polished and aggressive bid to take over the pop-reggaeton charts.
Los Angeles-based rapper Niña Dioz did not come here to play. The Mexican artist, originally from Monterrey, has been cutting her teeth in underground circles for years and her new album Reyna – a play on her birth name Carla Reyna – documents her struggles coming up in the scene as well as the long journey to reclaiming her confidence and power. Recent single “Tambalea” features guest vocals from fellow reinas Lido Pimienta and Ceci Bastida, tackling discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation one powerful bar at a time.
Bruno Toro is part of the perpetual wave of Latin American artists relocating to Mexico City in search of fame and fortune. The Colombian singer showcased his musical versatility in 2016’s La Costa, a full-length debut that embraced pop rock, synth pop, and disco for a wildly kaleidoscopic production. Toro has an affinity for camp and drama, as he showcases on tracks like “La Costa” and “1990,” which highlight his love of combining synthesizers, acoustic guitars and sticky sweet choruses.