When Frank Ocean clicked ‘Create post’ on his Tumblr account and sent a beautifully written open letter acknowledging his sexuality into the world he must have known it would change his life forever. Just like when he leaked the ‘Nostalgia/ Ultra’ mixtape in 2011, this was a bold and brave move to buck convention and make it on his own agenda.
Many of the thousands of messages of support, tweets and re-blogs on Tumblr have praised Ocean for his honesty and today’s events are characteristic of one of the most independent artists operating in music today. There was little to no rumour about Ocean’s sexuality prior to this week, nobody listened to his song ‘Novacane’ and its tale of falling for a girl at Coachella and thought that the protagonist once harboured an unreciprocated love with a man. In fact, it was early playbacks of Ocean’s new album ’Channel Orange’, with it’s direct lyrics to ’him’ and not ’her’ that led sections of the media to begin speculating. In many ways it is unfortunate that Ocean was not allowed to present the letter in its original form, as the liner notes to the album, accompanied by the songs which are the product of his emotions. Ocean didn’t need to come out but, having establishing himself as a star who operate by his own rules, he didn’t need to lie either. Though likely to be coincidence, it is fitting that the blog post will be forever dated July 4 - Independence Day.
Much discussion of Ocean’s words have revolved around how this changes the landscape for other gay and homosexual artists in the hip-hop and RnB world who possibly are keeping things under wraps at the moment. Realistically, you’d have to admit that it probably won’t change very much at all. It would be nice to think that a rapper could take inspiration from Ocean’s blog post and come out too but, apart from professional sport and Hollywood, the world of rap remains one of the most closeted scenes around. If anything, the fact Ocean’s actions are ‘a thing’ highlights just how far behind the community is with other sections of the modern world.
Instead of looking at this as a chapter in the often unclear correlation between music and sexuality, we should instead look at it as a heroic moment in the career of a hugely promising singer/ songwriter. Ocean has rarely played the game since his arrival, ignoring the temptation to jump on his friends Odd Future’s bandwagon, not packing his forthcoming album with star names and rarely giving interviews and always keeping his emotions cryptic. Frank Ocean lives in a world of his own and, in that sense, today’s news changes nothing. Now we just want to hear that album even more than we previously thought possible.