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.

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