What does it mean to be black, young and gay in America?
Texas rapper-slash-singer Kevin Abstract’s latest release, “Miserable America,” fearlessly tackles that question, lacing the song—from his forthcoming album American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story—with some potent social commentary.
In the opening verse, he gives a nod to Young Thug, who, as a gender abolitionist, has staked his career on breaking gender norms.
“My boyfriend saved me, my mother's homophobic / I'm stuck in the closet, I'm so claustrophobic / I just want help if, my best friend's racist / My mother's homophobic, I'm stuck in the closet / I'm still claustrophobic, I just wanna know shit / Well we all love Young Thug.”
The opening verse speaks largely to American culture: How we tout the ideologies of celebrities, but we don’t allow that same acceptance and awareness to translate into our own lives. Abstract drives that point home in the second verse, where he tells us his boyfriend doesn’t want to introduce his parents to Abstract, “They love gays but they hate niggas.”
Before playing the new American Boyfriend single “Yellow”—which Abstract released before “Miserable America”—the artist appeared on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show and said, “We just wanted to make some Vanessa Carlton type stuff, some early 2000s pop music.”
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“Miserable America,” “Yellow,” and other American Boyfriend single “Empty” are markedly more pop, and overall, a fairly big departure from Abstract’s previous hip-hop laden sound. That aesthetic was elemental to his 2015 debut album MTV1987, though, songs like “Drugs” and “Tame Cab” experiment with pop elements, and perhaps foreshadow a shift towards the genre.
Abstract reminds me a lot of Frank Ocean, whose evolution into his own sexuality took time, and who, through his music, has become a mouthpiece for LGBTQIA community.
It’s possible that Abstract’s full conversion to pop inspired him to dig deeper—to explore his own sexuality through the lens of the genre, pegged by living in America.
On November 18, we'll find out.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Instagram