Singer Frank Ocean somewhat shocked the hip-hop world this week when he came out of the closet.
In a letter posted on his tumblr page, Frank Ocean revealed that his first love was, in fact, a man. It’s unclear whether Frank Ocean is gay or bisexual–nor should it necessarily matter. What matters is that he’s being awesome for being so open and honest about his sexuality. Frank Ocean coming out is important not just for the LGBTQ community, but also for the hip-hop community, which is commonly regarded–earned or not–as relatively homophobic and, consequently, as often harboring a lot of closeted stars.
One particularly remarkable part of Frank Ocean coming out is the support he’s getting from the same hip-hop community that often is accused of homophobia, whether in lyrics or general attitudes. As a member of Odd Future, which spouts some less-than-friendly lyrics towards homosexuals, it’s an even bigger deal than it may be otherwise. Odd Future rapper Tyler, the Creator–who often uses the word “faggot,” which we’re not fans of, but hey, free speech and all–defended his language in an interview, telling press, “I’m not homophobic. I just think ‘faggot’ hits and hurts people. It hits. And ‘gay’ just means you’re stupid. I don’t know, we don’t think about it, we’re just kids. We don’t think about that s—. But I don’t hate gay people. I don’t want anyone to think I’m homophobic.”
Indeed, Tyler, the Creator even tweeted his support for his pal and collaborator, writing, “My Big Brother Finally F—ing Did That. Proud Of That N—a Cause I Know That S— Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.” Uh, alright!
The fact that Tyler, the Creator vocally supports Frank Ocean, even not eloquently, despite spitting some Odd Future homophobic lyrics speaks volumes, as well as his endorsement from hip-hop magnate and scene staple Russell Simmons.
Other rappers have shown support for the LGBTQ community before, whether or not they consider themselves part of it. Rapper A$AP Rocky told Complex, “I’m not homosexual. That’s not where I’m at with my life. But I can still be greatly inspired by a homosexual. It has nothing to do with their sexuality. If I start discriminating against people, that will stop me as a person. That’s ignorant. What the f— does that have to do with anything?” Can we please get an amen here?
Of course, not everyone is quite so enthusiastic about Frank Ocean coming out. Country singer Chely Wright, the (so far) only out lesbian in the genre, said coming out hurt her record sales. While she did tell press, “I can’t think of a better way for Frank to celebrate Independence Day. It’s spectacular,” she also noted that her sales are 1/3 of what they were before she came out–and that some venues have banned her for fear of fans protesting her performances.
No offense to Chely Wright–we totally respect her decision to come out–but we kinda think the whole “coming out will hurt Frank Ocean’s career” thing is bull dookie. First off, we’re talking about Frank Ocean right now. Was the press discussing him last week? No? Point: Frank Ocean. Additionally, Frank Ocean had more casual exposure to music fans even if they weren’t necessarily Frank Ocean, Odd Future, or hip-hop fans because of his features and credits on high-profile projects like his collaborations with Jay-Z and Kanye West (he appears–and steals the show–on two tracks on Watch the Throne, “No Church in the Wild” and “Made in America”). Before Chely Wright came out, only country fans really knew who she was–and her sales were beginning to dwindle before she came out in an ultra-hyped, super public way (hello, People magazine cover!). Plus, Wright’s music appeals to a different generation–one that, unlike ours, is a little less openminded about homosexuality.
While Frank Ocean should ultimately be recognized and celebrated for his immense talent as a singer and a songwriter, not everyone was exposed to his art until the media began covering his sexuality, so it will probably earn him more than enough fans to compensate for the few he’d lose by being honest about his own life. If people are ignorant and homophobic enough to stop buying his records just because he’s not straight, chances are those are sales he wouldn’t necessarily want anyway.
Only time will tell how Frank Ocean coming out will affect his career, but so far, it doesn’t look like he’s going to be crying about it. His new album, Channel Orange, in which his lyrics also convey and confirm his orientation (he often uses “he” and “him” in romantic tracks), hits shelves July 17–so if you’re looking for some good new music or even just want to show support for an out artist, be sure to nab it (and you can check out some more songs here). And if you’re thinking about following Frank Ocean’s example and taking the brave step to come out yourself, you can get help doing so here. Bonus points if you, like Frank Ocean, can also sing like an angel!
Do you think it was a good idea for Frank Ocean to come out? Do you think coming out is going to hurt Frank Ocean’s album sales? Do you think musicians and stars coming out helps the LGBTQ community in general, or that it’s not a big deal? Tell us in the comments!