"Whoever you are, wherever you are, I'm beginning to think we're a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to. My loved ones are everything to me here. In the last year or 3 i've screamed at my creator. Screamed at clouds in the sky. For some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow. 4 summers ago, i met somebody.."]
A musician called Frank Ocean put out a letter via his Tumblr page letting us know his first love was a man he met at the age of 19 and struggled with the feeling being reciprocated. Frank is a 24-year-old black man, who sings about love and life, and is a part of a hip hop collective Odd Future and inevitably a public letter of this nature comes with huge cultural impact.
After listening back to his first offering the "Lonny Breaux Collection" I realised Frank references 'him' a lot, so although the move to release the letter was prompted by a blogger who went viral after being 'observant' it's clear in hindsight this wasn't anything new. Their review of his forthcoming album "channel ORANGE" seemingly chose to focus on a specific element of the album whereas others chose to focus on the art, thus turning it into an issue he felt he had to address sooner than anticipated.
Most of us, however, picked up on his reference to marriage being not being between a man and woman, but 'between love and love' on the track "We All Try" taken from nostalgia, ULTRA, the album that was his introduction to the masses. Funnily enough though, his verse on "Oldie" where he features with Odd Future he clearly states "I'm high and I'm bi/wait I mean I'm straight". When reading a few interviews with Frank that have been published since his revelation, they too referenced his sexual ambiguity but this simply written, poetic letter sensitively explains the story behind the first love he speaks of so often.
He didn't emerge from any type of closet - he actually hasn't been hiding anything. In light of the rumours he chose to give some context to the story of his first love, it being a man, how it made him feel and how he's evolved into who he is today because of that experience. He didn't say he was gay either so whatever labels that are placed upon him are open to interpretation.
Janelle Monae tweeted that he didn't come out, he let us in and that's the job of a true artist and I couldnt agree more. Frank let us into a tender moment of the residue left from a first love and anyone who who can relate knows the unique feeling and the scars that can leave. This reminds us that ultimately love is love and that we connect with his songs because we relate to the emotion and not sexuality.
Soul music often speaks pain and usually in RnB it speaks from broken hearts. Frank sharing with us this beautifully written note let's us understand his music that much more and to be allowed that is a lovely thing.
We complain about black music so much. Just the other day we had a whole debate about whether hip hop was degrading society with one of the arguments being the use of language. And here, we have music sold to us on the basis of the most beautiful human emotion, that being love, rather than sex and misogyny.
Men listen to women sing about women in love songs and feel it - and vice versa. I believe there are black male music artists, who are gay and not open with it, for the fact alone that there are homosexual people in the world. Simple as that. Black men 'coming out' in particular, especially in the media are few and fair between because fear of rejection can cripple them from being able to be proud of their true selves. This man has stepped into his and courageously shined a line on the importance of not only acknowledging your truth but walking in it too. So if the truth offends you, that's sad because the fact is the truth is liberating. It was reported that Reggae singer Diana King also recently opened up about her sexual preference, as well as CNN talk show host Anderson Cooper.
There's an Oscar Wilde quote, "Be yourself; everyone else is taken already".
Obama just made his monumental statement about gay marriage, we encourage honesty as the best policy but there were still the narrow minds amongst us that inevitably spewed the 'I'm not listening to his music anymore' line, whilst fellow musicians from Beyonce to the Scissor Sisterssaluted his bravery. If he's cool to not have anymore secrets and bear his soul to the world, we should be encouraged and encourage more open dialogue of the same. He's taken a step in the direction of truth for humanity and when all the hype dies down, Frank will have not stepped into his truth in vain.
Fearless people make a difference. Historically, we know that. He might not even have the aim to do so, but Frank Ocean may have liberated a few minds that are fans of his musical unconditionally; equally as importantly though, other young people who may be struggling to admit their sexual preference as it's still a taboo one. Even in 2012. He reportedly gained additional 120000 Twitter followers overnight.
Love has no gender, music has no sexual preference. Truth is universal and he speaks his through his words.
He ended his letter, meant for the thank you's in his album sleeve "If I listen carefully I can hear the sky falling too". We feel ya.
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