Few things have been as baffling as Frank Ocean’s coming out party. To begin with there was no Oprah interview speaking about how he had been a tortured soul burdened by his dark secret. Nor was there the heart wrenching “I Am Bi” song that would have shocked and incensed some, while others would have rushed to their local retailer to see what the OFWGKTA member would say next about his life and sexuality. Frank Ocean’s confession came with none of the spectacle that we have come to expect and even demand from Hip-Hop artists. Instead it came honestly and simply, first through simple pronoun usage on the song “Bad Religion” and then through an open letter on his tumblr page.
Ever since “Bad Religion” and “Forrest Gump” were played at a listening party for his new album Channel Orange the Hip-Hop world has been abuzz with the news of Ocean’s sexuality. It has been incredible to see the outpouring of love and support Frank Ocean has received from his friends and collaborators. Dream Hampton, the writer who helped pen Jay-Z ‘Decoded,’ wrote a lengthy open letter of his own in support of Frank Ocean. Beyonce, who Frank Ocean penned “I Miss You” for, wrote a simple yet incredibly moving poem written with her own hand over a black and white photograph of the artist. She wrote:
Tyler, the Creator was one of the first to come out in support of the Def Jam crooner. He tweeted to his fellow OFWGKTA member that he was proud he finally did that and he knows how hard it was. He later added he was going to start singing so Frank’s b*tches should head his way. This humor and support comes from an artist whose mere presence at Chicago Pitchfork Music Festival last year brought out a small army of protesters from both women and gay rights groups. One must wonder how Frank Ocean admittance of bisexuality will have any effect on the homophobia that is prevalent in the Hip Hop collective’s music. That seems quite unlikely as the same Twitter account that applauded Frank Ocean for coming out throws the word “f*ggot” around like a neon frisbie during recess…but hey one step at a time right?
Perhaps the most spectacular of response to Frank Ocean came from the Hip-Hop community at large. Hip-Hop, the culture that has kept homophobia and misogyny thriving in the hearts and minds of millions has been at the forefront of embracing Frank Ocean. Russell Simmons wrote the day of the announcement “His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous. His bravery, incredible. His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people.”
Busta Rhymes in an interview with MTV from the set of his forthcoming “King Tut” video said “I don’t know if it’s just about hip-hop being willing to accept it, I think the whole world is ready to accept whatever people choose to be in life,” Busta answered. “From hip-hop all the way down to the common man that walks the streets on the Earth every day, we’re at a place in life where we gotta respect and accept what people choose as their path that they wanna walk in life, because ultimately you want people to respect what you choose as your path and your journey in life.”
Joe Budden when asked during a Slaughterhouse interview with FUSE what he thought of Frank Ocean’s sexuality reveal succinctly stated, “This is amazing that this is a question… We about to be in 2013, and honesty is like…’Oh! Honesty!’ This is great… I applaud him.”
This is 2012 and while Hip-Hop has been on the forefront of artistic expression before Frank Ocean’s announcement we have been fixed in the stone age as far as accepting LGBTQ members. While even the President of the United States has come out in support of same-sex marriage Hip-Hop has peer pressured its artists to stay in the closet because coming out of the hospital after taking five shots to the chest is good publicity, coming out of the closet not so much. Channel Orange debuted at #1 on the iTunes chart, and selling 131,000 copies in the first week should dispel that myth.
Today is a new day in Hip-Hop and we have Frank Ocean to thank for it. He has forever shattered our idea of what a Hip-Hop singer is; nothing more than a shirtless, hip gyrating sex symbol. He has empowered members of both the Hip Hop and LGBTQ to be unapologetically true to themselves. He has forced us as a culture to reassess our prejudices and assumptions, all while providing great music for us to listen to. Oh, speaking of music, Channel Orange is amazing and many music critics already have it on their short list for album of the year.
Whether Frank Ocean is singing about his love for men, his love for women or both it is always done with heart, creativity and class. This is what matters most. When arena lights dim and he grabs a hold of the mic you are getting a hundred percent of the real Frank Ocean: no stunts, no gimmicks. Now if only we could say that about the rappers. Word.