Frank Ocean, the acclaimed R&B singer and member of L.A. hip-hop collective Odd Future, published a statement on his Tumblr site early Wednesday morning in which he opened up about his sexuality, and revealed that he had fallen in love with a man. The acknowledgment, he wrote, was supposed to be first published in the liner notes to his highly anticipated new album, “Channel Orange,” which comes out July 17.
The singer, who dropped his first bombshell -- his stunning mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra” -- via the same Tumblr site in 2010, published a short preamble to his statement earlier, explaining why he was headed down the path of openness. Referencing a line from rapper Lil B, Ocean wrote:
we’re all a bunch of golden million dollar babies. my hope is that the babies born these days will inherit less of the ... than we did. anyhow, what i’m about to post is for anyone who cares to read. it was intended to fill the thank you’s section in my album credits, but with all the rumors going round... i figured it’d be good to clarify...
He then posted the full statement, a long, smart, honest explanation that addressed the rumors sparked by some of the lyrics on his new album, some of which use the pronoun “he” instead of “she” during its more intimate moments. The statement begins: “Whoever 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.”
In the note, he told of falling in love for the first time, with a man, and the rush of confusing emotions: “By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant, it was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life.”
The announcement is rare in the world of male-dominated hip hop and R&B, which has long struggled with sexual intolerance, and homophobic lyrics have often gone unchecked. Few are the artists willing to risk alienating a potential fanbase whose feelings on the topic may be less forgiving. So by making the announcement, Ocean, who has penned songs for, among others, Beyonce, Kanye West and Jay-Z, has become one of the first high-profile male R&B singers to acknowledge his love for a man -- although, it should be stressed, never in his statement did he use the word “gay” or “bisexual.” Rather, he simply told the story of his first love, and the confusion that came with it.
Early reactions on Wednesday morning were positive. Def Jam records founder and hip hop icon Russell Simmons released a statement in support: "Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do, and because of that I decided to write this short statement of support for one of the greatest new artists we have."
Twitter reaction, however, has been mixed, with some saying the news was timed to draw more attention his new album’s release date.
Ocean’s post also changes the conversation about the controversial hip hop group that Ocean is a member of, Odd Future. Long decried for homophobic and misogynist lyrics, all of the sudden one could argue that they’re the most open and tolerant high-profile group in hip hop. In addition to Ocean, the group’s producer and DJ, Syd the Kid, is openly lesbian. This morning Odd Future’s founder, Tyler, the Creator, tweeted a typically explicit message of support, which read, in part, “My brother finally ... did that. Proud of that ... because I know that ... is difficult or whatever. Anyway. I’m a toilet.” (No, we have no idea what that last part meant.).
Frank Ocean’s talent and sexuality could push musical boundaries