[Editorial] Frank Ocean Becomes As Influential As His Music
I woke up a little later than usual today after going out for a bit and staying up watching fireworks fill the sky near my Logan Square home. After waking up, I reached for my phone and did the usual check of emails, instagram, and twitter. One of the first tweets that I saw was from RapRadar, a headline that said Frank Ocean has come out of the closet. Is it weird or wrong that for a second I thought it might be a false story or even a hack of RapRadar’s twitter account? We’re conditioned so much in Hip Hop music against that kind of thing. I was in somewhat disbelief not that Frank Ocean could be gay, but that his sexuality would just be announced out of nowhere like that. That I would see such a headline.
I turned over and read the tweet to my girlfriend, a huge Frank Ocean fan, so much so that she threatened me with a break up if I don’t score tickets to his Lollapalooza after show at the Metro next month. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “There have been rumors going on for the last couple days. Doesn’t matter to me. What’s for breakfast?” And just like that we were discussing the lack of food in our apartment, who would walk the dog today, and the baseball game we are going to this evening. I really don’t think that Frank Ocean’s sexuality will make a big difference to her, a social worker and casual music fan. She loves Frank Ocean and his classic mixtape still plays regularly in her car. I think many fans like her won’t change how they listen to Frank or let his sexuality get in the way of his talents. It is nothing to stop and really think about.
But, I’m not like her. I work live and work in music. All day. Everyday. A large chuck of my time is spent with Hip Hop artists who repeatedly talk shit, boast, and clown each other, sometimes walking the thin line of homophobia. In Hip Hop, Frank Ocean’s open letter that he released via his Tumblr on the earliest hours of Independence Day is a huge deal. It’s something that no other Hip Hop artists as popular and acclaimed as Frank has ever done, and definitely not one that comes from a crew like Odd Future, who’s content is regularly attacked by Gay Rights Groups and regularly drop the “other F-word.”
For Frank Ocean to do what he did took a lot of bravery, both publicly and privately. In his statement, Frank wrote that he met a guy four summers ago that changed his definition of love and made him question his sexuality. Their relationship and everything it brought out shaped his life the last four years, and is found throughout his debut album, Channel Orange. Frank’s coming out letter was originally intended to be that album’s liner notes, but he decided to release it early after speculation arose a few days ago when a writer noticed that Frank was singing “he” and “him” where one would expect “her” and “she.” Rather than let people assume or deny, Frank became proactive. For that, Frank Ocean the individual became just as trendsetting as his music.
After I read the quick article on RapRadar, I read another piece by my friend John Gotty at the SmokingSection. I then read Frank’s full statements, and several other articles about the matter, plus tweets showing support and giving props. At first I thought I wasn’t going to write anything. We don’t really cover personal matters like this one on rubyhornet, and shit, it’s 4th of July. I don’t want to be a computer all day. Maybe I too didn’t think that Frank Ocean’s letter was that big of a deal either. It doesn’t change what I think of his music. I don’t like “Novacane” or “No Church In The Wild” any less. And I still plan to pull any string I can to get a couple tickets to his Lollapalooza after set. But Frank Ocean’s announcement is a big deal for the culture, one that has never had to confront an openly gay Hip Hop artist as dope or as recognizable as Frank. He moved the needle when he came out with Nostalgia Ultra. He moved it again when he came out today. Happy 4th of July, Frank. Happy Independence Day.