For those of you who were out celebrating Independence Day, you may have missed the news that slowly crawled across the wire late Tuesday night. Up-and-coming R&B crooner and Odd Future member Frank Ocean wrote an incredibly moving note on his Tumblr where he confessed to the world that his first love was a man. Yes, that's right, the man who's been one of the most talked about new singers is gay (or maybe bi-sexual? Gay-ish?). What does that mean? Well, a hell of a lot.
Firstly, it's incredibly brave and admirable that two weeks before his debut album is released that Ocean came forward and became one of the first high profile hip-hop/R&B singers to come out. Secondly, this should dispel all notions that Odd Future, Tyler The Creator in particular, are a homophobic band of lyrical bullies. First there was Sydd Tha Kidd who came out as a lesbian, now Frank Ocean. If Tyler were as horrible of a bigot as he seems on his lyrics, then why would he say that his pal is brave and is proud of his coming out? The outrage to Tyler is sort of like the initial venom spit at Eminem in 1999. Clearly Tyler's lyrics don't reflect his true feelings or else he would have reacted differently, right?
On a whole, Ocean's announcement shows how far hip-hop has come since its inception. For years, hip-hop and R&B were two of the most homophobic genres in music. There were only a handful of singers who confessed their sexuality, which is what makes Ocean's proclamation so groundbreaking. This is a guy who is on the cusp of greatness, and has been one of the most talked about singers in the genre, yet he had the courage to tell the world what I'm sure was a very difficult and deeply personal decision that could have potentially damaged his career. That's what makes his announcement so important and makes him as an artist so much more interesting. His honesty can take him to a creative place that he may not have been able to tap into had he continued to hide from his true self.
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, as it should be. Who gives a shit if Ocean is into men or women? Granted, this makes some of his lyrics a bit funnier when he sings about women, but hey, talking about a woman could mean a number of things. But honestly, who gives a shit? In a genre dominated by machismo, this breaks down (or at the very least challenges) all of the preexisting stereotypes associated with hip-hop and R&B. Hopefully more will take the bold step that Ocean took, and won't be afraid of the potential ramifications, since as demonstrated by his announcement, the issue isn't as taboo as it once was.
Read Ocean's statement below:
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.