I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that a good number of my readers don't know who Frank Ocean, Tyler the Creator, or Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All are. That's okay. As a life-long hip hop fan I can't help but pay attention. You don't need to. But stay with me.
OFWGKTA is a sort of alternative hip hop collective, with a changing roster of artists who work together sometimes. Tyler is generally considered their de facto leader. I first heard them a couple of years ago and was wholly unimpressed. Their gross-out lyrics, mostly violent and juvenile, really turned me off.
Then in 2011, when Kanye West and Jay-Z released Watch the Throne, I was intrigued by the haunting voice that introduces the song "No Church in the Wild" and weaves the chorus of "Made In America." When I read that it was Frank Ocean from OFWGKTA, I gave it the 'eyebrow raise, mouth turn down, shrug' that accompanies bits of information that make you say, "Hmh. Interesting" before you go on about your day.
Fast forward to about a week ago when Frank Ocean quietly made history. In a long post on his Tumblr, he released a statement*, intended to accompany the liner notes to his album (which dropped today!) that reveals that a past love was a man. It's beautifully written and well worth the read. Predictably, the media went crazy; blathering about how hip hop is a macho boys club and this is a really big deal.
Partly, that's true. Hip hop is pretty notoriously anti-homo. But have you heard of any male country stars who are gay? Are you aware of a country song in which a man reminisces about his feelings for another man? I'm not. And I don't exactly recall "rock music" - whatever that means these days - greeting gays without a gasp of scandal. On Global Grind, Russell Simmons wrote about the "courage" of Frank Ocean. Yeah, it's still kind of revolutionary to be an openly gay or questioning musician.
Except that it's not.
What's interesting - and inspiring - about Frank Ocean revealing that he loved a man, is how little it matters to younger folk. Here's the conversation I had with my 15 year old when I picked her up today...
Me: Hey, you know Frank Ocean?
Me: Did you hear his big news?
Her: No. What?! (looking shocked, expecting me to tell her he died or something)
Me: He's gay. Maybe. Or bi.
Her: Oh my Goddd, Mom! Ugh (eyeroll). SOO?!
I get so overwhelmed sometimes thinking that the world is going to hell. Handbasket and all that. My head gets all cloudy with thoughts of our horrible elected officials; the ever-widening gap between the classes in our country; agribusiness and the danger to our food supply; obesity; AIDS; too much trash; plummeting air quality, on and on and on.
And then a hip hop star (and that's what Frank Ocean is: a star) reveals he once loved a man, and no one freaks out.
And for a minute, the clouds part.
*Click on it and it enlarges. But you'll still need your cheaters.