This could be a moment that fans of hip-hop and members of the LBGT community alike will remember for a long time. Frank Ocean had been creating some buzz earlier in the week when songs from his upcoming Channel Orange album were revealed to be love songs with male subjects—certainly an unusual thing for a male singer known to be predominantly heterosexual, but something that could be easily interpreted as a narrative device or artistic experiment, especially for a guy as creative as Ocean. (Nobody views Prince's days of pretending to sing as a woman named Camille as his admission of being transgender, for instance.) Still, it did lead people to wonder if Ocean was trying to tell us something about his sexuality.
Now, based on a long blog entry he posted to his website, it's pretty clear that in fact, he was. "What i’m about to post is for anyone who cares to read," originally read the intro to the post, as reported by EW. "it was intended to fill the thank you’s section in my album credits, but with all the rumors going round.. i figured it’d be good to clarify." From there, Ocean writes about falling in love with an anonymous male friend in his life four summers ago, and the confusion, romance, torture and self-discovery that ensued from there. Some of the more telling passages:
- "4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence … until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant."
- "I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself. He patted my back. He said kind things. He did his best, but he wouldn't admit the same. He had to go back inside soon. It was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs. He wouldn't tell me the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years.
- "By now, I've written two albums this being the second. I wrote to keep myself busy and sane. I wanted to create worlds that were rosier than mine. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions."
- "Before writing this I'd told some people my story. I'm sure these people kept me alive, kept me safe. Sincerely, these are the folks I wanna thank from the floor of my heart."
- "I won't forget you. I won't forget the summer. I'll remember who I was when I met you. I'll remember who you were and how we've both changed and how we've both stayed the same. I've never had more respect for life and living than I have right now."
You can read the entire thing over at FrankOcean.com, though the presentation might give you flashbacks to early-'90s MS-DOS.
This is a big deal, obviously, for a number of reasons. While we hesitate to call this Frank Ocean's "coming out"—he never uses that phrase, nor the word "gay" or even "bisexual"—admitting ever having romantic and sexual feelings for another guy is something that's fairly unprecedented for a guy in Frank Ocean's spot. This isn't some fringe-y artiste or past-his-prime relic, this is a dude who was well on his way to being the next big thing in hip-hop, a mix of classic '70s soul cool with modern rap edge and even some burgeoning indie rock sensibilities. He was one of the only guests invited to appear on Watch the Throne, and the only one to appear on multiple tracks. He got namechecked by 50 Cent. He got covered by Justin Bieber. Commercials for his Channel Orange aired during the BET Awards. The dude was having a moment.
And that's not to say that he still won't be—really, we hope that the buzz and excitement around Frank Ocean only builds from here. But it's impossible to predict what will happen to his career at this point, because this never happens, especially not in hip-hop. A guy whose rep is largely predicated on his sense of cool, working in a genre where the great majority of songs are expected to be love ballads about the opposite sex, talking about having been in love with a man—two weeks before his first album drops? And not because he was "outed," or because rumors had been spreading about him—but because he openly sang about the experiences himself on his own album? Imagine if Kanye had done something similar just before the release of College Dropout. It's almost impossible to contemplate.
Of course, that would have been nearly a decade ago, and things are a little different in hip-hop and mainstream popular culture in general now. Homophobia is still prevalent but no longer tolerated the same way in the public eye, with athletes getting fined and publicly shamed for using gay slurs, rappers like Kanye and A$AP Rocky acknowledging their prior homophobia but explaining how they've seen the light of tolerance, Jay-Z publicly cosigning Pres. Obama's support of gay marriage, and straight rapper Lil B even titling an album I'm Gay just for the hell of it. Even with all that, "No Homo" culture is still out there, and you never know when some ignorant comment by a rapper or radio DJ will surface and seemingly undo all the progress made in the culture over the last 15 years or so.
Anyway, as fans of Ocean's pretty much from day one—"Novacane" was one of our top ten songs of last year—we wish him only the best in his career, his art and his personal life from here, and offer this in conclusion: Frank Ocean is the fucking man, and fuck anyone who says otherwise.
My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) July 4, 2012
AY BITCHES, IMA START SINGING SO LIKE, ALL OF FRANKS BITCHES CAN YOU COME OVER HERE AND LIKE HOLLA AT YA BOY— Tyler, The Creator (@fucktyler) July 4, 2012