This article was published on September 5th, 2016
Frank Ocean’s highly anticipated album, Blonde, released on August 20th has taken the music world by storm. Being welcomed by almost universal critical acclaim, it has not let down the audiences who so eagerly awaited the next chapter in Ocean’s musical career. Ocean has come into the LGBT and gay community spotlight since he came out in an emotional open letter, published on his own Tumblr account back in 2012.
Ocean released his first album back in 2012, his début studio album ‘Channel Orange’, it is said to have been one of the most influential albums in the R&B genre in recent times. Winning an incredible six Grammy nominations and topping HMV’s poll of polls as being the best album of the year, Channel Orange attracted attention for its innovative story telling style and its fusion of different genres, including hip hop and soul. Oceans announcement of his sexuality came prior to the release of his début album, and perhaps accounts for the critical focus on his love songs, which make references to and are addressed towards a male figure.
Frank Ocean’s coming out was a phenomenally important for the rap and hiphop industry. A genre that focuses and holds hyper masculinity in high esteem, hip hop has always been an area in which same sex attraction, particularly between males is not only disapproved of, its openly not tolerated. It is a genre in which it is not difficult to find homophobic slurs casually thrown into lyrics and aggression and masculinity greatly revered within the same songs. As a young, successful hiphop artist, Ocean’s coming out does a lot to raise the visibility of gay men within this subculture.
Ocean operates within a notoriously homophobic genre, there are very few openly gay urban artists and fewer still who embrace and discuss their sexuality with the elegance and dignity that Frank Ocean has managed to maintain. He has straddled the fine line between being taken seriously as a musician and becoming the token gay singer of urban music and emerged as a powerful figure representing the diversity of the gay community and the power of breaking down barriers.
What is perhaps his biggest success is that although his coming out has been massively important and influential, it hasn’t overshadowed his abilities as a talented musician. Ocean the face of gay hiphop and Frank Ocean the ground breaking and genre redefining musician are two separate, but equally important, sides of the same incredible person. His strength and the manner in which he has conducted himself deserve respect and what his bravery has done for the gay community is priceless.
Blonde not only epitomises the next chapter for an extraordinarily talented musician, it embodies the start of a new stage of tolerance and diversity within hiphop.