Music First, Always
Published: Friday, July 6, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
If you don’t fit the bill – the traditional look of hip-hop – it’s hard to break through or seem genuine. Just ask Eminem or Eve.
This week, however, singer and Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean shattered said bill by sharing a story about his first love – a man.
R&B singers have always been hit with allegations about their sexuality. They’ve said it all about Trey Songz, R. Kelly and even legends like Luther Vandross, so when rumors about Frank began to circulate, I ignored them.
Even after the singer went to his Tumblr on July 4 and confessed that his first love at the age of 19 was a man, I was more confused than anything. Then I was scared for him.
The Boondocks didn’t prepare us well enough for this.
To an outsider, hip-hop is a violent land run by misogynistic black men. But the way the real hip-hop community embraced and applauded Frank was heartwarming.
Rappers, actors, singers and the music industry elites like Russell Simmons and Joie Manda all showed nothing but positivity for Frank. All of his Odd Future cohorts sent out their tweets of encouragement and love. Christian and Kelly Clancy, the couple which manages OF, each tweeted about his announcement like proud parents.
How ironic. A collective chastised for their violent and supposed homophobic lifestyle now has two openly homosexual members (the other being producer/artist Syd Tha Kid).
Who shall the public judge now?
What’s beautiful about Frank’s story isn’t just that he had the courage to tell his fans, peers and colleagues about this love affair, but that he wasn’t shallow enough to stamp a label on his forehead by doing so.
I’m a firm believer against labels mainly because of the irrational responsibilities that come with them. Frank Ocean’s job isn’t to tell us who he loves or has sex with, his job is to continue making music that’s real.
I remember the first time I listened to his debut mixtape, nostalgia, Ultra, and feeling like every emotion I can’t say or express with words had been delivered.
After hard days where I couldn’t process life’s speed bumps, I play “Swim Good” and just let my brain ride the wave. The conviction behind Frank’s voice isn’t just a voice for black men or the hip-hop community; it’s a voice for anybody who’s been through situations where they thought there would be no other outcome but to escape.
And listening to him now, knowing what his past consists of only makes me appreciate him more. Not because he’s the first person to take the step in telling people a “secret” such as this one, but because he’s courageous enough to take his negative experiences and construct them in such a manner that I can relate to it in my own way, with my own struggles.
For a person like me who turns to music for encouragement, that means the world.
To those upset because Frank isn’t just stealing their women with his music, or those who claim he’s milking his story to benefit his career, you’re not about hip-hop.
This culture and music came up on the basis that a group of people whose story wasn’t getting told, got told. N.W.A., Nas, Grandmaster Flash and the countless pioneers of hip-hop told what their reality was in their lifetime.
We live in a new world with new struggles and new stories, and although Frank doesn’t rap for a living, he’s part of the hip-hop culture, and real fans will continue to hold him down.
Swim good, Lonny.