Chris Conde’s Growing Up Gay is as Powerful as a Riot

by Nick Hanover

Chris Conde Growing Up Gay

Based on title alone, you might be inclined to believe Chris Conde’s Growing Up Gay is going to be a tearjerker queer drama of an album, something like Fun Home by way of God Loves Ugly. But the actual work is confrontational rudeness as an art form, summed up best by Conde’s declaration on “No Air (Remix)” that he’s “a faggot with a vengeance.”

That particular turn of phrase would hit with brutal power even if it wasn’t delivered in a venomous gasp over a jackhammer beat. It’s a concise and pointed statement of purpose that cuts through the bullshit of both hip hop’s homophobia problem and the societal expectation of the “polite” gay figure by its flip of a slur, made all the more potent by the later lyric “Yeah, so? I suck dick/Bitch, smell my breath.” In other words, this is not an album for subtly bigoted liberals to politely nod along to, offering condescending “mmhmms” at opportunistic moments– it’s a queer street riot mixtape spilling out of hidden spaces, the withheld rage of years of hiding true selves blooming into the violent beauty of a block in flames.

Conde’s queer noise rap contemporaries Black Dresses even coined a phrase for that sensation of being pushed down to the shadows of society, dubbing it “eternal nausea,” where you feel sick but are forced to “smile like a rainbow” while you “keep doing what you’re doing,” even as you feel like “your soul is burnt” and you have no reason to believe the future exists for you. Black Dresses are more focused on body dysmorphia and horror but Conde shares with them an apocalyptic certainty, as well as a connection to Biblical epicness– on “Diamond Daggerz” he even compares his flow to Moses’. The key difference is that on Growing Up Gay he seeks to weaponize that eternal nausea, not so much spitting venom as bile.

To that end, Growing Up Gay is full of reappropriations, from the liberal uses of homophobic slurs to the mockery of appropriated queer slang, like the drawn out “yassss” that kicks off “Diamond Daggerz,” as well as takedowns of “safe” representations of queerness in mainstream culture, such as the line in “Growing Up Gay” stating “Will & Grace is on the tv so I guess maybe it’s all good/But why do I feel like God hates me if it is all good?” Conde makes it abundantly clear in his lyrics that he doesn’t feel welcome anywhere he’s at and Conde’s production partners also sprinkle in elements of club culture to drive home Conde’s dual outsider status– too grimy for the gay mainstream, too coherent for the amped up anarchy of the Mykki Blanco realm.

But that outsider history has one big benefit in how sharp it has made Conde. Fearless in approach and targets, Conde is that rare modern rapper who feels truly dangerous without posturing. Hence the metaphor of Conde as a living riot, a figure who’s tired of going unseen in spaces and now loudly, rudely, brilliantly demands to be fucking heard, no matter how much it upsets others. You can either shut up and listen, or be burned away by history.

Buy Me a Coffee at

Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover