Sure, it’s 2012 now. President Barack Obama has come out in support of same-sex marriage, and Jay-Z even co-signed him. Our country is marching forward to the point where coming out of the closet should be no big deal. Coincidentally, CNN star Anderson Cooper came out on Tuesday.
Still, the stakes are higher for a young black singer, even one who was featured on Watch the Throne, the biggest hip-hop album of last year. Although Jay and Kanye West have both been progressive on the issue, the hip-hop community has always been a few steps slower on that front. Sadly, folks are still using phrases like “Pause” and “No homo” to distance themselves from any statement that could even be perceived as leaning toward homosexuality.
Though it definitely builds buzz around his debut album, Ocean’s revelation can’t be dismissed as a promotional move. Rather, it means that being cozy in his own skin is more important to Frank than record sales are.
And let’s not forget to mention that Frank is the lone singer in Odd Future, a collective of young walking contradictions. Though the crew also boasts Syd the Kid, an openly gay DJ and producer, it’s highlighted by breakout rapper Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Thankfully, Tyler (whose music is replete with gay slurs like “faggot”) was one of the first on the team to express his support for Ocean.
“My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That,” he tweeted. “Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever.” Next came Earl, who hopped on Twitter to say, “Proud of Frank.” And there are at least a handful of rappers who we assume will be on Frank’s side when they are, inevitably, questioned about him.
"I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean," said hip-hop mogul and Def Jam Record co-founder Russell Simmons. "Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear."
Though it definitely builds buzz around his debut album, Ocean’s revelation can’t be dismissed as a promotional move. Rather, it means that being cozy in his own skin is more important to Frank than record sales are. Only time will tell what his newfound freedom will cost him, but conventional wisdom says coming out isn’t a savvy business move for a Black singer selling love songs. Some will turn away. Others will embrace him. But one thing is for sure: Frank Ocean will go down in history as the first to put it all out there in Black music from the jump.
Certainly though, Frank is the same singer he was yesterday. His voice is still rich. His lyrics are still deeper than his surname. It doesn’t matter that he’s gay, bisexual, or whatever. What does matter is that he’s bravely taken that huge step out, removed that immense weight off of his shoulders, and (maybe unknowingly) moved the culture of Black music forward.
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)