Does Rap Have Room For A Gay Singer?

Amongst the cry of respect and shock of Odd Future singer Frank Ocean’s recent ‘coming out’ as gay, there has been a sense of rap-culture conflict and confusion. So, does Frank Ocean still fit in with the themes of misogamy, violence and hip-hop street life?

First of all, fair play to Frank Ocean. And fair play to Tyler, the creator who has had the full backing of the young singer. Although, the vast majority of people who have followed this story have adopted Tyler as “homophobic” and “hypocritical” about his support of Frank Ocean’s homosexuality, as it goes against the general Odd Future lyrical consensus. What is the world coming to? When you tell people what they want to hear, they spit it back into your face.

Anyway, this isn’t really about Tyler, this is about Frank Ocean. Tyler, the creator, is just a bi-product of surely one of the most poignant stories in musical history. Music has always showed off it’s gay icons, from popular culture’s biggest gay icon Elton John, obviously after this marriage to German sound engineer Renate Blauel in 1984, to the more alternative gay musicians, such as Grizzly Bears lovely voiced vocalist Edward Droste. Thankfully, and as far as i’m aware, when musicians come out of the closet they usually seem to be very genuine about their private affairs and that are not forced into the public media attention, but merely eased into it. Almost like being it has been said in passing.

Bloc Party’s indie/dance singer and guitarist Kele Okereke came out publicly in march 2010, and perhaps shocked people in a similar way that Frank Ocean has. It was almost as if half the nation stood up and said “wow, a black singer who is gay” and saluted the idea. Then again, the other half (typical daily mail readers) probably stood up and spat their tea out and uttered the same thing only in a more negative tone. However, Frank Ocean’s opening up to the public is a whole new kettle of fish. Remember, he is an American. America has an even greater divide of opinions then Britain does, especially in the deep south. States like Alabama are riddled with the classic ‘christian‘ view (using the term extremely loosely) that homosexuality is against God’s will, evolution and all of that usual uneducated bullshit.

There was something refreshingly touching and honest about the way Frank Ocean came out. His tender story of summer romance and beginning to feel comfortable about his sexuality briefly reduced the distance the public felt with celebrities. His tale of confusion and awakened love reminded the public that celebrities are human beings; capable of leading a life away from the spotlight, sales figures and public relations (the devils work). Ultimately, however, Frank Ocean needs to sustain a living through singing solo, as well as part of the infamous rap collective Odd Future, with such fellow artists as Hodgey Beats, Earl Sweatshirt and, of course, Tyler, the creator.

We’ve never had an openly gay member of a rap collective before. Hip-hop has never been openly supportive of homosexuality, either. Like I mentioned earlier, Tyler, the creator has openly supported Frank Oceans brave decision to go public over his sexuality. Even 50 Cent has come out saying that “anyone who has an issue with him [Frank Ocean] is an idiot”. So, why is there such a stigma in rap music with homosexuality if, actually, it’s very much supported and respected as a lifestyle choice? Why are homophobic lyrics flaunted in hip-hop so carelessly and freely? As some of you may remember, Singer Sara Quin criticised Tyler, the creator for his homophobic lyrics. She said “When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry?”.

Quin was questioning the lyrical proclamations and heavy broadcasting of homophobic words and phrases such as “faggot”, “pretty bitch” and many other crude dictions. The outcry and profanity of Tyler’s lyrics even brought The Guardian newspaper to question whether rap had reached the “hip-hop homophobia tipping point?”. So, how did Tyler respond to these accusations? Very directly and sincerely, is the answer to that question. “People take things too seriously”. Damn right they do, Tyler. At the end of the day, these are just lyrics in songs. Surely if there was more behind the words, Tyler would have blasted and disowned Frank Ocean from his life completely. Instead, he posted on his twitter “my big brother finally fucking did it”.

If anything, hip-hop, rap etc are one of the most accepting genres of music when it comes to people and reality. For instance, My Chemical Romance were blasted for their musical influence on a small string of teenage suicides with the ‘emo’ phenomena in late 2008 and early 2009, prompting a slight change to their music. Again, although it’s just music and people read too much behind the lyrics, it forced avid listeners to feel worthless and extradited from society, arguably  leading to their deaths. Last time I checked, Hip-Hop spoke of collect-ability, companionship and now, clemency and acceptance. To me, that sounds a lot more real that songs about death and sorrow.

Frank Oceans opening up to the world is, in my opinion, one of the best things to ever happen to music. The open critics of artists such as the Odd Future collective have had their side of the argument blown completely out of the water.

Frank Ocean is gay. And hip-hop is dealing with it. And, in truth, they’re dealing with it a lot better than the media has. Frank Ocean and hip-hop will be fine. No doubt about it.

Listen to our last ever show as Tom, Ed and Rudy at http://www.sparksite.co.uk for a two hour special! Start at 7:00pm.

 
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Latitude 2012 – The Review:

Parties in the woods, trippy screens and multi-coloured sheep. Amongst the forests and lake side views, there was a real sense that ‘festival season’ had sprouted its seed and wound itself tightly on to the summer podium. A summer seemingly filled with sport hasn’t forgotten its usual alternatives and triumphs.

Best Act – Metronomy: After a lucrative year of touring, mercury prize award nominations  and album success, Brighton’s fairest group have started to trickle along a distant line of festival appearances that they will be making this summer, adding to their string of ascendency. However, Latitude showcased one of their only main stage performances, and, in true fashion, they delivered a performance to remember on the friday that sparked off the feel of the whole weekend. In a sense, this years musical accolade was summed up by songs like ‘The Look’ and ‘Everything Goes My Way’, as well as Joseph Mount and co making room for older tunes such as ‘Heartbreaker’. Sublime stage presence, effortlessly majestic and suited pursuance of the festival spirit from one of the bands of the year.

Best Alternative Act – Django Django: Scotland’s answer to Hot Chip filled the I-Arena to the brim with excelling electro ambiance and a blend of confused dance music and indie pop guitar riffs. Perhaps summing their own year up, in a way, the foursome made up of David Maclean, Vincent Neff, Jimmy Dixon and Tommy Grace graced the thick foliage of Latitudes hidden stage, and fought off rivals such as Laura Marling, who were playing around the same time. Nevertheless, the packed tent witnessed a valiant display of garage electro pop and rampant dessert sounds.

Worst Act – Soko: We’ll off been there at a festival. We want to get a good place to see an act so we hang back for a little bit before making our way into their allocated stage whilst another act is play. And, of course, you’re then forced to watched whoever is on. When listening to her perform, it became blatantly obvious that she is a former model. Pretentious, badly played and utterly French ‘punk’ rock music, using the term loosely. Even her stage presence annoyed me. Jeers from the crowd like “I love you” were met with a very unconvincing French accent spawning cringing words of “I don’t know you, but I think I would love you to” or “I want you to all dance like Aliens for me, because that’s the album title”. No.

Biggest Disappointment – Alt-J: I love Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave. They came out of virtually nowhere and delivered the rebirth that math rock needed, and managed to differentiate themselves from the already established math rock bands, such as Foals and Dutch Uncles. Live, however, something went wrong. Maybe it was the sound quality, the tentativeness of the band or the awkward ‘triangle’ symbol (matching the bands logo) formed by the hands of the crowd, which I’m still not sure was ironic or not. Even worse, Yeasayer were also playing at the same time. You learn fro your mistakes, I guess.

Biggest Surprise – Lianne La Havas: Having been stuck in a period of nothingness, with no acts on worth seeing, me and my companions found ourselves watching pop prodigy Lianne La Havas in the Word Arena. And, to our delight, she was lovely. She played her songs really well, charmed the crowd and even fit in a few covers of Everything Everything and Scott Matthews. It was refreshing to see a performer who was just like any other person. She arrived looking lovely, played a lovely set and even took a lovely photograph of the crowd for her first major festival stage performance. Highly recommended.

Funniest Act – Reginald D Hunter: A decade and a half after moving over to Britain, Virginias solemn comedy hero brought his American twist of ‘faggotry’ to the crisp fields of Latitude Festival. Rivaled by the musical trolling of Australian Tim Minchen and the comic rap of Doc Brown completed surprisingly varied comedy line-up, as well as springing up usual headliners and stars Jack Dee, Phil Jupitus, Infinite Monkey Cage and Rich Hall.

Best Poetry Act – Tim Key/John Cooper Clark: I love a good cynic who can scribble a sentence or two, and Tim Key was just the ticket for those who share my passion. The simple mix of angry comedy and cleverly short, ironic poems have helped propel Tim Key to the heights of radio stardom. Sadly, the award for best poetry act is a shared one for Tim Key, only due to the surprising late appearance of Mancunian poet legend John Cooper Clark. Evidently Chicken Town.

Best Night Event – ‘Trippy Screen’: Overall, the vast amount of DJ sets and club nights that glittered the Latitude site at night brought up many fond memories and tastes in music to be enjoyed by everyone and anyone. Reggae, dance, mixes etc were all very much appreciated. Having said that, each venue, I-Arena, Lake Stage, Disco Shed etc were all beaten by the one alternative and exclusive show. The Screen In The Woods, or ‘Trippy Screen’, as we dubbed it, offered lasers, visual tripster ecstasy and odd music. Everything you need at a festival.

Cutest Site Characteristic – Coloured Sheep: Even when walking through the Latitude grounds, there is always something to look at. Projected images on a fountain, fairies in the woods etc. However, it was the sweet innocence and serenity of the multi-coloured sheep. Pink, red, blue, green and yellow sheep flocked the closed off pathways of the site, and really summed up the hippyish sector that Latitude offers the festival season.