Odd Future member and R&B sensation, Frank Ocean was the focus point of every conversation last week. Recently, the 24-year-old revealed that he was bi-sexual and that his first love was a man. His sexuality was questioned and soon became a national headline when several writers attended a listening session for his upcoming Def Jam debut, channel ORANGE and noticed that a number of songs (“Bad Religion, “ “Pink Matter and “Forrest Gump”) featured him singing about a love but referring to “him” instead of the traditional “her.” Soon, reports of his sexuality hit blogs across the Internet as well as the always-viral Twitter. Some fans were confused while others realized that it was simply him “coming out of the closest.” In response, Ocean took to his Tumblr and put all rumors to rest with a heartfelt and articulate letter that confirmed his love for a man, detailing a story about a yet to be named person that he met one summer when he was 19 years old (read below).
While this did put a shockwave throughout the hip-hop community, surprisingly the overall response and reaction was very positive. The industry’s biggest stars such as mogul Russell Simmons, who is the founder of Def Jam and Beyonce, who has received writing duties from Ocean (“I Miss You”), came out and gave their full support for the young star through strong statements on their respective sites. In addition, there were a host of other supporters including Jay Z, who collaborated with Ocean on “No Church In The Wind” and fellow Odd Future member Tyler, The Creator, who was once seen as a homophobic individual due to various gay slurs and anti-gay content, incorporated into his music.
With Ocean revealing his personal secret, the growth of the hip-hop community was also exposed. Hip-Hop is a notorious homophobic industry, one where any sign that you have interest in the same-sex could hinder your career and have lifelong profound affects. Over time it has shown signs of growth in acceptance by major artist like Eminem, 50 Cent and Kanye West publicly supporting gay marriage rights. But, until now, there has never been an artist of Ocean’s stature to do what he did. His announcement wasn’t good for hip-hop, but it was great. It is a big step in breaking down the negative stereotypes that such a powerful and historical genre like hip-hop has unfortunately developed over its existence.
While I don’t expect artists to start making announcements about their sexuality on a daily basis due to this, I do expect it to give more confidence and strength to those individuals who may be suffering from the weight of hiding their sexual preference from the rest of the world. In any situation, it helps when you know there is someone else going through the same thing you are, right? With channel ORANGE hitting stores in a couple of weeks, it will be interesting how the announcement plays out. Will it help or hurt his album sales? It’s likely that he has gained a few more fans from the LBGT community, but it is even more likely that he has lost supporters, individuals who may not have the capacity to look beyond one’s race, religion or sexuality yet, in this case. Whatever it is, when it comes down to it, Ocean as a person and his music is what really matters. Music is a great indication of an individual’s self. As long as he keeps a positive image in the public eyes and keeps making quality songs, he should be just fine.