From looking at Richard Ruperto, you would think he is just another New York-based rapper —his lyrics tell stories from his urban upbringing in what he calls "the hood" or "El Barrio" in Spanish Harlem.
But Ruperto, whose stage name is Loco Ninja, is considered rare in El Barrio. Not because his music speaks volumes about social injustices or because his smooth lyrics are heart-melting love songs, but because he is gay.
Loco Ninja is probably the ‘Latino Frank Ocean.'
Despite living in a state where gay marriage is legal and in a city where there are elected officials that are openly gay, such as the likes of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Loco Ninja finds himself dumbfounded about how gays (particularly men) in the music industry are mistreated, misrepresented and overall pushed aside.
Take for instance the incident a few weeks back when reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee was in the spotlight, not for his bump-and-grind "dembo (the sensual music),' but because of allegations that he was a closeted gay man.
Fellow New York native, rapper and producer Fat Joe agrees. In a recent interview with hip hop/rap entertainment publication VLAD TV, Fat Joe said he couldn't believe that "you've got to hide that you're gay" in an era where gay marriage is increasingly becoming legal in the United States and throughout Latin America.
"What the [expletive]? If you gay, you gay…that's your preference," he said. "There's millions of gay people in the world." "Like, be real."
The "I Won't Tell" artist said the entertainment industry is made up of homosexual music executives and award show participants who "run hip hop" and who he called the "gay mafia." Yet, he said, they all choose to keep quiet about their sexual preferences.Frank Ocean, who came out as an openly gay black R&B artist last year, has become the staple of a successful Grammy-award-winning gay man, redefining the industry for urban male artists.
But what about the Latino sphere of the hip hop industry? Why has it been so hard for an openly gay Latino male hip hop artist to break into the ever-demanding mainstream circle?
GLAAD's Spanish-Language Media Strategist, Brian Pacheco, thinks the setback has been propelled due to close-minded mentality in the Latino culture, particularly in urban places.
He said that despite the intense backlash, much progress has been made and that "Latino support for LGBT people and issues is strong and growing, and the music industry needs to keep up."
"There is still much to be done before it can be said that all genres – both in English and Spanish – are fully inclusive of LGBT artists," he said. "But music artists like Ricky Martin, who have come out as gay, and outspoken straight allies like René Pérez of Calle 13, are helping to show that fans and critics alike support pro-LGBT artists."
Like Loco Ninja, who reps the East Coast, there is Deadlee from the West Coast, who is making waves as an openly gay Mexican-American rapper. And although his exterior screams bandana wearing, tattoo-loving homie from the streets of East L.A., he is also a proud gay Latino who has a strong fan base.
His thrash rock lyrics on class, race, sex and even police brutality have made him an important individual in the underground gay rap/hip hop movement.
At the end of the day, said Deadlee, it's all about the music and he wishes people would see that – and not just his sexual orientation.
"I take my career so personal and very seriously," he said. "People will hear what I have to say about my music. I've been stabbed and bruised and I have a story to tell. And I want to say it."