I’m admittedly not a big fan of hip-hop music. I’m a middle aged white woman who was raised on rock when Springsteen was “The Boss” and he and groups like Journey and Genesis ruled the airwaves. My son’s generation, on the other hand, loves hip-hop. Even my country born and bred nieces and nephews have been listing to an unbelievable to my ears blend of hip-hop and country music. Will wonders never cease? Anyway, I digress.
I want to talk about Frank Ocean and to do that, I first have to make a confession. Before he came out as gay on the 4th of July – Independence Day for him, in more ways than one – I, being the middle aged white woman that I am, didn’t have a clue who he was. My apologies Mr. Ocean! I’m paying attention now!
I talked to you about Anderson Cooper last week. I never mentioned that Cooper was brave or courageous for coming out. Cooper’s membership in the LGBT community had long been assumed. It’s not unusual for a white male celebrity – in the news business or otherwise – to come out anymore. It is unusual for a black male celebrity – or a female one for that matter – to come out. It’s so much harder for the black community to accept a gay brother.
Some felt that Anderson Cooper, despite his protestations to the contrary, was worried about damaging his career if he came out. Meanwhile, the world was shocked that Frank Ocean did – he was never suspected beyond his innermost circle – and many, many feel he may have done irreparable harm to his career.
Since there are no other good examples in R&B (Queen Latifah aside since acting is more her thing than singing these), I have to point you to the case of Chely Wright in country music for a reasonable comparison. Now, her career wasn’t technically on the fast track anymore, but she wasn’t off the radar either when she came out publicly. She’s been all but publicly shunned by the country music establishment and by legions of her former fans. Ocean could face the same or significantly worse backlash from the R&B/Hip-Hop realm.
Why would Ocean come out with so much at stake? Why would he write “the letter” he wrote with his debut album (as a solo artist) on the line?
You come out because you can’t stand to hide any longer. That’s where he was. He’s a hero to young people everywhere who listen to him and who feel through his music and because of his music.
Early indications are showing strong sales for Ocean’s debut, channel ORANGE. The reviews that focus on the music are very, very positive. Let’s hope it stays that way and that people, for once, focus on the music and not on a perception based on someone else’s sexual preference or perceived lifestyle.
Admittedly, I’m not going to buy “Channel ORANGE” because hip-hop isn’t my thing but, if it’s your thing, you should at least hit his tumblr site and listen to a track or two. Please support a gay brother at a time when he needs it most.