This article is here to spotlight prominent gay black singers who have not only shaped various genres of music, but also become icons within the LGBTQ community. While there are many to choose from, here are the best.
1. Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean, a prominent figure in the music industry and an influential member of the LGBTQ+ community, has undeniably left his mark on the world. His vibrant discography harmoniously blends skillful songwriting with a voice that resonates deeply with listeners.
Ocean’s debut album, Channel Orange, instantly put him on the map and gained immense acclaim. Then, his introspective sophomore album, Blonde, further contributed to his popularity, thanks to its lush production, layered vocal harmonies, and addressing of topics like queerness and masculinity.
Today, this American musician is globally recognized for his contributions to this craft.
Kehlani, a talented and prominent figure in the industry, is best known for her raw and intimate music. Her heart goes into every song she crafts, resulting in an unparalleled listening experience. In 2021, she publicly came out as a lesbian and shared her story in a heartwarming TikTok video.
Musically, Kehlani is known for her R&B and pop-infused sound, the essence of which can be found in hits like “Gangsta” and “The Way.” Her songs often revolve around love, heartbreak, and self-discovery and resonate with listeners for their honesty and vulnerability. Beyond her music, this American singer is also known for her advocacy on issues related to LGBTQ+ rights.
3. Janelle Monáe
We can't help but admire the multifaceted talent that is Janelle Monáe. This American singer, actress, and rapper openly identifies as a queer black woman and has solidified her reputation as an iconic singer-songwriter. With hits like “I Like That” and “Make Me Feel” in her discography, Monáe is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.
Throughout her career, she has been praised for her powerful vocals, heartfelt lyrics, and artistic vision. She is also renowned for using her platform to advocate for social justice and equality. As a result, she has become an influential figure in both the music and entertainment industry, inspiring many with her creativity, talent, and activism.
4. Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X is undoubtedly one of the most visible and trailblazing gay black singers in the music industry today. Not only did he make history as the first openly gay black male artist to win a Country Music Association Award, but he also came out during Pride Month in June 2019, using his platform to express his desire to represent and uplift the LGBTQ community.
By fearlessly embracing his true self and creating music with bold statements, this American musician has become an inspiration for countless individuals around the world. Nas X’s success challenges stereotypes and breaks barriers while bringing much-needed visibility to queer voices. Plus, he’s got massive hits like “Old Town Road” under his belt, so what’s not to love?
5. Victoria Monét
Victoria Monét is an incredibly talented American singer and songwriter making waves in the music industry. She became involved in performing arts at a very young age, which allowed her to hone her skills and develop a unique musical sound.
As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, Victoria Monét identifies as bisexual and has been an influential figure for self-acceptance and visibility.
Musically, she has written songs for artists like Ariana Grande and Chris Brown while also releasing hits of her own, including “Moment” and “Party Girls.” Overall, she continues to uplift fellow LGBTQ+ artists while leaving an indelible mark on the industry.
6. Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, The Creator is a queer black artist who has significantly impacted the music industry. Albums like Flower Boy, IGOR, and Call Me If You Get Lost have earned widespread acclaim from fans and critics and are considered classics in the hip-hop genre.
Tyler's openness about his sexuality has contributed to his visibility and influence as one of the best gay black singers in the LGBTQ community.
By releasing music that explores themes of identity, sexuality, and masculinity, this American rapper challenges societal norms by offering his own definition of what it means to be masculine and pushes boundaries with his artistic expression.
7. Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American swing music and jazz singer who left an enormous mark on the music industry. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by Lester Young, Billie Holiday is an LGBTQ icon and one of the greatest jazz vocalists ever. Some of her biggest hits to date include “Solitude” and “Blue Moon.”
Holiday's singing style was haunting, soulful, and distinctive, and she had the remarkable ability to infuse every song with a sense of vulnerability and authenticity, making her performances moving and personal. She also contributed to greater visibility for LGBTQ rights in the music industry, and her beautiful recordings are cherished by millions to this day.
8. Little Richard
Little Richard, an iconic American singer, is another artist worthy of your attention. Though he had a complicated relationship with his sexuality and religion, he openly acknowledged his identity as a gay man and became a pivotal figure in the origins of rock and roll.
His hit song, “Tutti Frutti,” explicitly celebrated gay sex and changed the course of history. Other songs like “Good Golly Miss Molly” and “Long Tall Sally” also contributed to his popularity. Needless to say, his impact on the music industry as one of the first openly queer black performers is remarkable.
9. Brittany Howard
Brittany Howard, the dynamic frontwoman of the acclaimed band Alabama Shakes, possesses a voice that's nothing short of soulful magic. Open about her queer identity, Brittany’s personal experiences have often fueled her music, giving life to songs that resonate deeply with many.
Her solo debut, “Jaime,” named after her late sister, further cemented her stature in the industry, with tracks that explore love, identity, and her Southern upbringing. Brittany's authenticity and passion have made her a beacon of representation for LGBTQ black artists everywhere.
10. Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks, a young British sensation, has rapidly risen to prominence with her profound lyrics and soft melodies. Identifying as bisexual, Arlo's songs are genuine reflections of her experiences, feelings, and the world around her.
With hits like “Black Dog” and “Hope,” she crafts intimate tales of mental health, love, and LGBTQ themes that touch souls universally. Her music effortlessly bridges generational gaps, making her an important voice for young queer Black artists in today's music scene.
11. Steve Lacy
The multi-talented Steve Lacy, best known as the guitarist for The Internet, is a force to be reckoned with in the music realm. Openly bisexual, Lacy doesn’t shy away from exploring themes of love and identity in his music.
With tracks like “Dark Red” and his album “Apollo XXI,” Lacy showcases a blend of funk, R&B, and rock that is refreshingly innovative. His approach to music and candidness about his sexuality have positioned him as a role model for many young black LGBTQ+ individuals.
12. Durand Bernarr
Durand Bernarr, with his unparalleled vocal prowess, has earned his rightful spot among the best in the industry. This openly gay artist masterfully fuses R&B with neo-soul, resulting in an intoxicating sound that leaves listeners hooked.
Songs like “Melody” and “Stuck” showcase his impressive vocal range and emotive storytelling. Durand's ability to channel raw emotions into his tracks, coupled with his representation for the gay black community, truly makes him an artist of the heart.
13. Gladys Bentley
Gladys Bentley was an incredible blues singer and pianist who left a lasting impact on both the music industry and the LGBTQ community. Known for her powerful voice and fiery energy on the piano, Bentley was unapologetic and open about her sexuality at a time when homosexuality was widely seen as sinful and deviant.
Naturally, she became a significant figure for African Americans and the LGBT community, representing the intersectionality of her identities.
After starting her singing career at rent parties, Bentley gained fame in 1920s-era Harlem, where she performed in a tuxedo and top hat and successfully challenged gender norms. Some of her biggest hits include “Worried Blues” and “How Much Can I Stand.”
Syd is another incredibly talented American musician worthy of your attention. As an openly gay artist, she has become a prominent figure in the LGBTQ community and uses her platform to advocate for acceptance and equality.
Syd began her musical journey as a member of Odd Future, a hip-hop music collective, before branching out into her solo career. Her albums, Fin and Broken Hearts Club, have received universal acclaim from critics, who applaud her soulful and captivating vocals. All in all, her musical talent and incredible determination make her a force to be reckoned with.
15. Meshell Ndegeocello
Meshell Ndegeocello is a talented German-American singer, rapper, and bass player who has significantly impacted the music industry. After coming out as bisexual in the 1990s, she became a significant figure in LGBTQ activism.
In the music world, Ndegeocello is widely recognized for exploring different genres and releasing honest, politically charged tracks that address topics like gender identity and relationships.
Additionally, she is credited as one of the pioneers of the neo-soul movement. With stunning tracks like “Waterfalls” and “Conviction” under her belt, her influence is undeniable.
16. Todrick Hall
Todrick Hall is a multi-talented American entertainer who has made waves in the music industry. As a singer, choreographer, and YouTuber, Hall has captured the hearts of millions with his excellent performances and creative content.
He came out as gay at 15 years old and is very outspoken about his experiences as a gay man of color in the entertainment industry. Today, he has hits like “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels” and “Low” under his belt and is a massive inspiration for queer music fans worldwide.
Sylvester was an influential American singer-songwriter and a prominent figure in the LGBTQ community. As a gay black musician, he paved the way for greater visibility and acceptance within the community and encouraged others to stay true to themselves.
As an architect of disco, Sylvester played a significant role in illuminating queer dance clubs worldwide. Despite the challenges he faced due to his race and sexuality, he unapologetically expressed his identity and captivated audiences with his incredible voice.
With tracks like “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” under his belt, he remains a huge inspiration to future generations.
18. Josephine Baker
Josephine Baker was an extraordinary American-born French singer and dancer who profoundly impacted the music industry. This boundary-breaking pioneer fearlessly explored her sexuality and was openly bisexual, making her an influential figure in LGBTQ history.
From “J’ai deux amours” to “De Temps en Temps,” Baker has released countless stunning tracks throughout her career. This extraordinary musical talent was also an activist for sexual orientation rights and civil rights, and her legacy continues to inspire individuals today.
RuPaul is an iconic figure in the LGBTQ community and has made significant contributions to queer representation. He is renowned for producing, hosting, and judging the reality competition series RuPaul's Drag Race, which has played an essential role in popularizing drag culture.
But wait, that’s not all. RuPaul has also released various successful tracks, including “Sissy That Walk” and “Supermodel (You Better Work).” RuPaul's music often embodies themes of self-expression, confidence, and empowerment, reflecting the ethos of drag culture.
In addition to his music career, RuPaul is also known for hosting the reality TV competition show “RuPaul's Drag Race. He is known for being an LGBTQ activist and bringing significant discussions about acceptance and diversity into mainstream conversations.
20. Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith was a trailblazing African-American singer who significantly impacted the blues music scene. Known as the “Empress of the Blues,” she garnered immense popularity during the Jazz Age—and rightfully so.
Smith’s powerful vocals and emotional delivery captivated audiences, solidifying her reputation as one of the best blues singers ever.
She was also openly bisexual when such identities were heavily stigmatized. With tracks like “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” to her name, she has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on music history.
21. Labi Siffre
Labi Siffre is a British singer-songwriter known for his soulful voice, thoughtful lyrics, and social activism. He rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s, thanks to his distinctive voice, heartfelt performances, and emotionally charged songs.
Siffre was open about his homosexuality when it was not widely accepted, and his soul-stirring music and advocacy helped raise awareness and promote LGBTQ rights. Some of his most famous tracks to date are “It Must Be Love” and “(Something Inside) So Strong.”
Today, he is considered a legend in the music industry, and his music has been sampled by artists like Eminem and Kanye West.
22. Joy Oladokun
Joy Oladokun is an American singer-songwriter known for her soulful voice and heartfelt performances. Her music blends elements of folk, pop, and R&B, creating a unique and captivating sound that resonates with a diverse audience.
As an openly gay artist, Oladokun’s songs often touch on themes of LGBTQ representation and self-acceptance, providing a voice for marginalized communities.
Her lyrics are deeply introspective and draw from her own experiences and struggles, which creates a strong connection with her listeners. Give tracks like “Sweet Symphony,” “look up,” and “jordan” a listen to see what the hype is about!
Vincint Cannady, known professionally as Vincint, is another outstanding American singer-songwriter. This openly gay artist first gained attention from the masses when he became a finalist in the singing competition, The Four. Then, he went on to release his debut album, There Will Be Tears, and further rose to prominence.
Known for his powerful and soulful vocals, Vincint infuses emotion and passion into every track he releases. Such gorgeous vocals, coupled with his captivating stage presence and charismatic personality, have helped him build a devoted fanbase. Some of his biggest hits to date include “Please Don’t Fall in Love” and “Higher.”
24. Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Sister Rosetta Tharpe was an influential American singer and guitarist. Often called “the Godmother of rock and roll” and “the original soul sister,” she made groundbreaking contributions to music and influenced numerous future artists.
Her guitar playing style and energetic stage presence had a direct impact on many early rock musicians, including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Thanks to her powerful voice and unique blend of gospel music with blues and jazz elements, this queer black woman garnered attention and admiration from large audiences, both in religious settings and secular venues. Recordings like “This Train” and “Didn’t It Rain” are remembered to this day, which is a testament to her enduring legacy.
25. Doug Pinnick
Doug Pinnick is an American musician and songwriter best known as the bassist and vocalist for the rock band King's X. This gay black singer has performed on 15 albums with the band and also recorded four solo albums, showcasing his marvelous talent and years of experience in the industry.
Thanks to his powerful and soulful voice, he is considered a defining element of the band's sound. Though the group’s discography is vast, some of its most influential tracks include “Dogman” and “It’s Love.” Needless to say, Pinnick is a brilliant musician and an inspiration to countless individuals in the LGBTQ community.
26. Shea Diamond
Shea Diamond's journey is one of resilience and authenticity. A transgender woman, her life's struggles deeply influence her soul-stirring music. Her debut single, “I Am Her,” is not just a song but an anthem of empowerment for trans individuals everywhere.
Diamond’s raw, soulful voice combined with her storytelling ability allows her to address themes of love, identity, and social justice, making her an icon in the black LGBTQ+ music community.
27. Be Steadwell
Be Steadwell is an artist who wears many hats — singer, songwriter, and filmmaker. Openly queer, her music is a heartfelt reflection of her experiences with love and relationships.
With a unique blend of jazz, acapella, and folk, tracks like “Netflix” and “Gay Sex” encapsulate her quirky and honest approach to songwriting. Steadwell isn't just making music; she's crafting stories that resonate with queer black individuals worldwide.
28. Lex Allen
Milwaukee's very own Lex Allen is making a splash in the music industry with his genre-blending style and captivating vocals. Identifying as a queer individual, Allen’s music often centers on themes of love, acceptance, and self-confidence.
With hit tracks like “Mama’s Boy” and “Let Go,” he beautifully captures the intricacies of his experiences. Through his music, Allen becomes a beacon of hope and representation for the black LGBTQ+ community.
29. King Sis
King Sis, a vibrant artist with an undeniable talent, has been crafting music that resonates deeply within the LGBTQ+ community. Through tracks like “Sundress” and “Therapy,” she delves into the realities of mental health, queer love, and self-acceptance.
Her fusion of R&B and soul, combined with her candid lyricism, offers both representation and catharsis for queer black individuals seeking to see themselves in music.
30. Blood Orange
Dev Hynes, known by his stage name Blood Orange, is a British musician whose work in the pop and R&B genre has left an indelible mark. With a sound that's both nostalgic and contemporary, Hynes' tracks like “Charcoal Baby” and “You're Not Good Enough” delve into themes of love, identity, and race.
As a queer black artist, Blood Orange's music beautifully captures the nuances of intersectional identities, making him a celebrated figure in both the LGBTQ+ and music communities.
31. Siena Liggins
Siena Liggins is an emerging talent in the world of pop and R&B, making waves with her catchy tunes and unabashedly queer lyrics. Tracks like “Flowerbomb” and “No Valet” give a glimpse into her world, filled with love, flirtation, and the LGBTQ+ experience.
Liggins doesn't just sing; she crafts stories, providing representation for queer black women in music. Her vibrant sound and unapologetic approach to her identity make her an artist to keep an eye on.
Top Black Gay Singers, Final Thoughts
This list of talented gay black artists is full of talent. From Frank Ocean to Lil Nas X, these singers have not only made their mark on the music landscape but also become icons in the LGBTQ community.
Through their unapologetic music and advocacy, the musicians on this list have paved the way for greater visibility and representation in the industry. Listen to their songs today, and uplift their voices like there’s no tomorrow!