For The Record | Issue 16
“Today is a big day for hip hop,” said Def Jam co-founder and hip hop heavyweight Russell Simmons, talking about Frank Ocean recently proclaiming his bisexuality. In a poetically intimate Tumblr post, the Odd Future member and saccharine crooner revealed that his first love was a man. Cue the internet machine exploding with articles like “Frank Is Gay” and “Is This The End of Hip Hop’s Homophobia?”
Before we get any further, I want to confess that I’m a dedicated OFWGKTA fan. I believe that Tyler, The Creator’s debauched, demented and demonic Goblin was one of the best records of 2011. It’s as shrewd a social critique as hip hop does, and while it isn’t always easy to consume, the naked and hypnotic intensity of Tyler’s music overshadows any questionable lyrical content.
But I digress. Ocean’s musings are not going to change hip hop or stop the homophobia that plagues both the industry and mainstream “street” culture. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that Frank’s frankness (yes I went there) is nothing more than a marketing ploy intended to boost album sales.
I’m in no way belittling Ocean’s honesty. It’s not easy to admit this kind of thing in our suffocatingly heterosexual society, let alone in the hyper-masculine world of hip hop. But it was a dubious and surely premeditated move.
Ocean’s major label debut Channel Orange will be released tomorrow, a mere two weeks after his “astonishing confession”. According to Google Trends, in the days following Ocean’s post his search hits nearly tripled. And that’s not to mention the exposure from international newspapers, magazines and websites. The media loves a bit of homoeroticism.
In my humble opinion it was Tyler, The Creator who offered the most sincere response to the “game-changing” news: “My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult.”
In a classic example of his scatological sensitivity, Tyler first acknowledges Ocean’s move and then awkwardly diffuses the severity of the matter in an oddly metaphysical way. Tyler’s been viciously criticised for misogynistic lyrics, and the counter-argument has always been “well, Syd The Kid is an out lesbian.” Now Odd Future fans can add Frank Ocean’s ostensible bisexuality to their justification for Tyler’s offensiveness.
For the record, I don’t think it matters in the slightest who Ocean chooses to shack up with. The guy is a fantastic singer who has managed to breathe new life into contemporary R&B. An artist shouldn’t be judged on their sexuality, but they shouldn’t try to capitalise on or exploit it either. So while Ocean’s note was indeed honest, its promotional undertones corrupt the authenticity of the message.