The midweek holiday made for a slow entertainment news week. However, there was one huge story in the music world yesterday, though perhaps one not likely to penetrate the consciousness of many of my fellow over thirty five year olds.
Frank Ocean, a rising star 24-year-old R & B singer/producer and loosely affiliated member of the Odd Future Wolf Gang hip-hop collective, “came out” via a post on his tumblr yesterday.
Though most media outlets are reporting that he came out explicitly as gay or at least bi, his tumblr post – which originally was supposed to be part of the liner notes for his upcoming album Channel Orange – doesn’t really say anything as conclusive as that but merely conveys the idea that his sexuality is fluid and that he has been in love with a man.
On the surface this may not seem like a huge deal, but many are pointing out that given the hip-hop world’s general homophobia it has the potential to be an historic moment. Frank Ocean technically isn’t a rapper but is a legitimate part of the hip-hop world through his contribution of hooks to rap songs and his affiliation with Odd Future Wolf Gang.
For those just tuning in, Ocean is an extremely talented R & B vocalist and producer who sings in a sort of traditional R & B lover man mode (with occasional falsetto) but injects enough weirdness and darkness into his work that he has the ability to appeal to both mainstream and “hipster” or “indie” fans. He had one of the most unlikely pop hits of the last few years with “Novocaine” (video below) a haunting, creepy song about extreme drug abuse and decadence in which he cast himself as both observer and participant.
This led in turn to Ocean’s biggest crossover into mainstream culture thus far, contributing the hook to “No Church in the Wild,” the lead single to Jay-Z and Kanye West’s multi-gazillion selling Watch the Throne album, a song which has been used as the bumper music to countless movie trailers and other things over the past couple years:
Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons was quick to assert that this is an historic moment for hip-hop writing a short blog post on his Global Grind website saying in part “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we?”
TMZ of all places had the smart idea of asking for comments from another singer in a genre associated with some degree of homophobia who has come out of the closet recently. Country singer Chely Wright came out as a lesbian in 2010 and claims that since then her record sales have fallen to a third of what they were before and that some country music venues will simply no longer book her because they fear country music fans will boycott her performances.
Gawker has performed the valuable public service of reproducing most of Ocean’s statement in a more readable format, replacing the almost unreadable typography (for old people like me) of the way it was posted on his tumblr.
Frank Ocean Comes Out [Gawker]