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Artists EarthTone & I.K.P. are Leading the Queer Music Discussion on the Herbal Tea Podcast

Exclusive | Feature Spotlight

The Herbal Tea Podcast | I.K.P (Left) Earthtone (Right)
The Herbal Tea Podcast | I.K.P (Left) EarthTone (Right)
"Don't be afraid to speak to us as people, as peers, as colleagues." - I.K.P. (Infamous King of Positivity)

The world of podcasts has been around for decades. Though originally catered to truckers, radio heads and stay at home patrons, a pivotal transition took place when COVID-19 put the world on pause.

Podcast consumption grew 18% after just one month of social distancing, according to Pinkston Institute. Moreover, a content space that was primarily audio planted an abrupt amount of video roots. There are endless subjects to ingest, yet amid the pandemic came a surge in discussion surrounding race, police and the LGBT community, with respect to the major events taking place. Several police brutality-related killings, the raid on the capital building, and an increased amount of LGBT elected officials to name a few.

Among this new wave came the Herbal Tea Podcast. While it isn't the only black queer-led conversation -- Surface Level, The Read or Hoodrat to Headwrap are some qualifiers-- Herbal Tea is one of the few LGBTQ+ podcasts hosted by queer music artists who discuss all things in music.

The hosts, EarthTone and I.K.P. (Infamous King of Positivity) shared their journey creating the podcast and their experiences as black queer artists in this Gaye Magazine exclusive.

As a queer music show, Herbal Tea conversations ideally center on artists and personalities within the LGBT community, however, the duo also seized the opportunity to implement their own sounds. "The Alliyance", a hip-hop supergroup created prior to Herbal Tea, was the inception of the hosts' creative journey together.


"I came out in my music around 2014, so that's when I kind of started discovering other queer artists", EarthTone explained to us. "Coming out into the scene is how I stumbled across I.K.P., Billy Hood, and DJ Swanny River."

River and Hood are also members of The Alliyance. Throughout the podcast series, you can hear snippets from the supergroup along with different Instagram posts.

"We naturally gravitated towards each other", EarthTone continued. "We formed that brotherly bond, you know, as queer artists trying to come up and make a name for themselves."

He recalled a time when LGBT rappers were virtually non-existent; whereas today, a simple Google search provides a platform of artists and resources. Once establishing a sense of security in their image as musicians, they wanted to expand on their representational value to the LGBT community. In the midst of brainstorming, I.K.P. and EarthTone recognized an opportunity.

"Once upon a time before there was a Lil Nas X, we had like people like Young MA, we had people like Cakes da Killa, we had Zebra Katz...they were the most famous artists from our community", I.K.P. asserted.

"And then there were a whole bunch of artists that weren't really getting as much shine or didn't really have any platforms, so we decided to start this out of a void of doing that."

Another layer of the podcast's personality is its 420-friendly elements. Aside from the show's cannabis-influenced name, EarthTone and I.K.P. can definitely attest to the energies stemming from a great smoke session.

"We always smoking the joking, you know what I'm saying," I.K.P. shared jokingly.

"And we wanted to bridge those elements that are natural to us while celebrating and documenting the accomplishments of our own community." EarthTone gave further insight on how Herbal Tea surpasses more than just rolling up.

"Not only just partaking, but educating, talking about the business side of it, talking about the laws, legislation, keeping up on stuff like that as far as legalization and decriminalization and all of that stuff," EarthTone added.

"We didn't really see anybody doing that... of course, you see in our community, it's widely used, it's heavily marketed, it's popular, everybody smokes...we figured what great, what better way to kind of mix that than, you know, have an excuse to do it on the show".

The LGBT community is an ever-changing societal construct, from labels, to anti-queer policies, gender expression and much more. Hence it creates not only a space of commonality but also controversy.

During the exasperating wave of cancel culture, queer ideals and topics have taken an interesting space amongst heterosexual discussions in the podcast realm.

In late 2023, streamer and media personality DJ Akademiks got into a heated online exchange with openly gay rapper Saucy Santana, which concluded with Akademiks crying on social media out of fear of being "cancelled" for taking shots at the LGBT community.

Last month on 'The Culture Report", rappers Lil Scrappy & Khaotic debated if it's gay to tell a man "You Look Good", as reported by Gaye Magazine. The Herbal Tea hosts had a plausible take on what it's like "being the conversation".

"I can understand where the podcasters who might not necessarily be from this space, they're afraid to touch on certain topics", EarthTone began.

"I don't know where it came from or why it is, but there's like this climate where, you know, people can't say anything, or the gay mafia is gonna come attack them and, you know, blackball them and shut them down."

He continued, "which is funny because, back in the day, it was like the opposite, you couldn't even mention that you were gay. Like you might pass if you were like the stylist, you were doing wardrobe and stuff like that, but you could never be like a forefront MC or performer and be an openly gay person. So it's like, it kind of flipped 180."

For I.K.P., being a part of the conversation takes precedence over being the topic itself. Having queer perspectives isn't just necessary for the LGBT community, but also bridging the gap for those who are not.

"I remember when that whole thing went down with Akademiks and Saucy [referring to Saucy Santana] and Saucy read Akademiks down and I was like kind of proud of Saucy for representing like that, because otherwise, people think that they could play in our faces like that," I.K.P. said.

"That's the reason why the representation is important...the only thing that they need to do is just not be afraid to sit down and talk to us."

"Why not bring someone on board that is informed enough to kind of shed a light," he continued. "I think that's just part of the whole vibe of what we're trying to put forth in the first place."

As the Herbal Tea Podcast continues to carve its authentic and rightfully progressive niche, we also spoke about a time when things weren't smooth sailing for the two artists. Like many ventures, the biggest roadblocks are liable to happen early on. As aforementioned, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly shifted from hand to hand, to screen to screen.

"The biggest hurdle we had in the beginning was dropping three months before the pandemic broke," EarthTone noted. "That was kind of like the craziest thing for us because we had to pivot and shift production... we went from shooting in the studio to having to figure out Zoom and how to do it virtually."

I.K.P. introduced another obstacle the duo faced in regards to branding, and how to promote the podcast simultaneously with their music.

"When I pitched the podcast, it's a multi-tiered platform that supports music as well as supports the podcast platform," I.K.P. explained. "When I would pitch it to different people, it was hard for me to communicate that this is mainly a podcast, but we're also musicians who do the podcast. Usually, you'll have somebody like Joe Budden who was once a popular musician go into podcasting because it's like the second act of their career. But for us, we're starting."

The Herbal Tea Podcast

This particular take on content is a different approach as many creators tend to focalize their content under one roof. While it could make it difficult for viewers to decide what to focus on when consuming Herbal Tea or the Alliyance, I.K.P thinks their multi-faceted platform will do just the opposite.

"I think it's a continuum," he said. "If we're talking about music, being in the music, doing the music, I think that should only add to our credibility, and I think that language right there sometimes gets lost with people that don't really understand... we entertainers and this is all part of it."

Though Pride Month is reaching its end, it kicks off an annual celebration for the musicians-- Julyance. "If anybody who's been following the Alliyance, July is Julyance, so, you know, every July, that's kind of our month every year, and we usually have some goodies in store."

I.K.P. and EarthTone released a teaser on June 24th for their new freestyle and music video dubbed "On the Gaydar", a prideful spin on the popular "On the Raydar" freestyle series.

"The freestyle and video interprets elements from Drake and Central Cee's 2023 'On the Radar' appearance", Herbal Tea shared via Instagram. "The cover art was inspired by Kanye and his wife Bianca's photo for his latest project "Vultures".

Stay tuned for more updates on The Herbal Tea Podcast, releasing episodes bi-monthly via Apple Music and YouTube.


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