Editorial: Is Frank Ocean The New Spokesperson For Gay Music?
Hip-Hop has had a storied relationship with homos-xuality, but it looks like the tide has finally changed. Over the last few months, noted figures in the game like Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar have come out in support of same-s-x marriage, but it wasn't until singer/songwriter/producer Frank Ocean declared that he goes both ways, that the culture will finally have to show and prove. For a genre that has left its mark on history, Hip-Hop has long been criticized for being homophobic, and s-xist, chatter that may cease after Ocean's revelation.
Within the last day or so, the 24-year-old has been compared to Anderson Cooper, who came out as a gay man earlier this week, received props from openly gay blogger Perez Hilton, and a virtual “salute” from Solange Knowles, among other shows of support. Yet prematurely labeling him may be detrimental.
Much like his artistry, Ocean lives in dual musical worlds, not quite Hip-Hop, not necessarily R&B... but all soul. The New Orleans native landed in Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina and has been working his way up the popularity totem pole ever since. His eclectic creative style landed him features with the likes of The Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye West) and Beyoncé, yet his proclamation Tuesday—released via a letter posted on his Tumblr page—has turned him into an unofficial spokesperson in the fight for equal rights in the LGBT community.
Ocean's announcements may not have been motivated by a need to stand up for a group that has been tireless in its fight not to be judged for their s-xual preference, but he may not be able to shake the moniker.
Perhaps the most poignant message in his recount of being 19 and falling for another man, was the love factor. Rather than share the visual of a physical encounter, Ocean explained that “4 summers ago,” he fell madly in love with another man, shedding light on the source of his unmatched ability to convey the passion brought on by sharing an intimate relationship. The thing about Ocean is that he's never marched to anything but the beat of his own drum. It's this confidence fused with his undeniable talent that plays directly into his allure. Now that's he's come out of the closet (although the argument can be made that his s-xuality was never hidden), only time will tell if Hip-Hop will stop supporting his work, including the highly anticipated Channel Orange debut, due out in two weeks. Nonetheless, Ocean's admission is deserving of the highest praise for living comfortably in his own truth—a move which other's in his position may have shied away from.
At the end of it all, the music should be at the forefront of his appeal, whether he's singing about loving a man, a woman—or both— rather than looking at the source of the raw emotion drenching his lyrics, one should accept it for what it is. Though it may be understandably awkward for his straight male fans to connect with songs about another man, above all else, Ocean is an artist, one who marked his own independence day in the most classy way possible. He should be judged on the content of his work, not who he chooses to love.
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