The rising superstar and 24-year-old American R & B singer, song-writer and producer Frank Ocean took to his Tumblr and rightfully declared his independence by ‘coming out the closet’ yesterday, stating, “I feel like a free man” on the 4th July, the USA’s 236th Independence Day. Now, this in itself might not seem that ‘newsworthy’ – to me personally – I love his voice, his artistry – his musical genius. His personal life and sexual preferences, behind closed doors is irrelevant. It is that simple. However, this is a historic moment for the Hip Hop generation as Complex Music states, Frank is, ‘the first of the hip-hop generation to come out the closet’.
Born Christopher Breaux in New Orleans in 1987 and raised single-handedly by his mother following his father’s departure – A very common, yet insipid theme within the black community. Ocean is also a member of the Hip Hop group, Odd Future, whom incidentally are quite notorious for championing homophobic and misogynistic lyrics – this is sweet music to the mainstream media’s ear and is of a ground breaking magnitude within the largely Alpha male dominated Hip Hop industry . For a young, black man, especially one among the perceived ‘Thug Life’, Hip Hop collective within the music industry – this, purported ‘coming out’ of sorts, is as rare as the oceans of the world one day drying up.
The relatively new artist is yet to release his début album entitled, Channel Orange, via Def Jam, scheduled for release on the July 17, 2012. On an ‘off-shore’ note, let’s be fair, in the Hip Hop industry business is business and Ocean’s ‘coming out’, will certainly make for good PR – Regardless of whether this was part of the labels initial intentions or not. Yet, Ocean has already garnered much respect and recognition from music lovers around the world and his music industry peers such as Kanye West and Jay Z whose album, Watch The Throne, features Oceans soothing vocals. Ocean has also caused much waves as a ghost song-writer, having penned songs for Justin Bieber and Beyoncé. The Thinking About You singer will also be the opening act for the Grammy Award winning British band, Coldplay later this year – And earlier this year, the BBC announced that Ocean had finished in second place in the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll.
In February last year, Ocean released his début mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra to great critical acclaim. Releasing two singles entitled, ‘Novacane’ and ‘Swim Good’ which both achieved success in the US charts – leading Ocean on a 7 show tour through North America and Europe. After much speculation and rumours over the past year from music industry folk like myself, who read between the lyrical lines of Ocean’s songs, this does not come as a huge surprise. However, what is significant is that Ocean never openly states his sexuality in his Tumblr post but talks very honestly and lovingly about his ‘first love’ at age 19, for a man .
This could be seen as a very dangerous yet courageous move so early in Oceans career, but the rumour mill within the music industry was already churning out claims that the singer would silence rumours about his sexuality on his début album. Some incompetent critics have suggested, this could have a harmful effect on Ocean’s career. However, the reaction to his open letter which, is said to have been written for the CD sleeve of début album Channel Orange has been hugely positive.
Leading the Editor of gay magazine Attitude Matthew Todd, to tell the Guardian newspaper that Ocean’s Tumblr post caused, ‘ripples of excitement in their office’. as Todd stated:
“For anyone to come out this early in their career is unusual; that Ocean is one of the most hotly tipped new names in music only amplifies the effect. “There’s still a lot of homophobic abuse around, as you can see by some of the responses on Twitter. But it’s an interesting time in the US with Obama supporting gay marriage and Jay-Z supporting it also.”
Read Frank Ocean’s personal declaration of his independence below:
Whoever you are. Wherever you are… I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to. My loved ones are everything to me here. In the last year or 3 I’ve screamed at my creator, screamed at clouds in the sky, for some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow. 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. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating to the women I had been with, the ones I cared for and thought I was in love with. I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager. The ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend too quickly. Imagine being thrown from a plane. I wasn’t in a plane though. I was in a Nissan Maxima, the same car I packed up with bags and drove to Los Angeles in. I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for then. 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 the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I felt like I’d only imagined reciprocity for years. Now imagine being thrown from a cliff. No, I wasn’t on a cliff. I was still in my car telling myself it was gonna be find and to take deep breaths. I took the breaths and carried on. I kept up a peculiar friendship with him because I couldn’t imagine keeping up my life without him. I struggled to master myself and my emotions. I wasn’t always successful.
The dance went on. I kept the rhythm for several summers after. It’s winter now. I’m typing this on a plane back to Los Angeles from New Orleans. I flew home for another marred Christmas. I have a windowseat. It’s December 27, 2011. 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. I’m surprise at how far all of it has taken me. 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. Everyone of you knows who you are. Great humans, probably angels. I don’t know what happens now. And that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore. There’s probably some small shit still, but you know what I mean. I was never alone, as much as it felt like it. As much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be. Thanks. To my first love, I’m grateful for you. Grateful that even thought it wasn’t what I hoped for and even thought it was never enough, it was. Some things never are. And we were. 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 stayed the same. I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now. Maybe it takes a near death experience to feel alive. Thanks. To my mother. You raised me strong. I know I’m only brave because you were first. So thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man. If I listen closely, I can hear the sky falling too.
My personal message to Frank Ocean – continue to swim like the ‘free man’ you are, as in the best way possible the world is now – Thinking About YOU.