Ocean – the rising R&B singer behind the single “Novacane” and the self-released album nostalgia, ULTRA, which critics heralded as among the best of 2011 – announced on his Tumblr page Wednesday that his first love was a man. He also tweeted a link to the post.
Earlier this week, CNN’s Cooper acknowledged that he was gay. But the admission from the 24-year-old Ocean – who is part of the hip-hop collective Odd Future and was prominently featured on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne album – is noteworthy because he inhabits the world of rap, where anti-gay sentiments have long been part of the regular vocabulary. Gay epithets are often used in lyrics – one of Lil Wayne’s catch phrases is “no homo.”
“I think it’s definitely important and it really signifies that there is a changing of the face of hip-hop,” said Chuck Creekmur, founder of the leading website allhiphop.com. He called Ocean’s announcement “a sign of the times,” noting Cooper’s announcement and President Barack Obama’s recent support of gay marriage.
Ocean wrote: “4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.”
Ocean concludes the post: “I don’t have any secrets I need to keep anymore. ... I feel like a free man. If I listen closely. I can hear the sky falling too.”
While Creekmur stressed that Ocean’s announcement did not hold the same weight as if a rapper had come out, he said it was significant that the hip-hop community’s initial reaction was positive.
“I don’t believe that Frank Ocean revealing his gay experience at the age of 19 will cause a bunch of rappers to come out of the closet. I don’t think that we’re there yet. I do think that we’ll see a lot of support for him. ... I think that it’s a process,” he said. “Just a few years ago, if this had happened, it could have marked the end of his career. This could mark the beginning of his career.”
Creekmur also noted that Odd Future is known for being progressive, despite the fact that its leader – Tyler, The Creator – has been fiercely criticized for his use of anti-gay lyrics in songs. GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, criticized Tyler last year and called him “irresponsible.”
Tyler expressed support for his friend on Twitter, in typical crude fashion, saying that it was a difficult to acknowledge and that he was proud of him.
Ocean has a new album, Channel Orange, coming out July 17. Creekmur said it was hard to determine what impact the announcement would have on its sales.
“I think to it could work to his benefit. I think he’ll definitely get more sort of praise and acclaim, and it will probably help his sales,” he said. “But I think a lot of men will have difficulty singing his songs knowing they may have been penned to another man.”
Ocean said he had intended his post to be part of his album credits, but because there have been recent rumors about his sexuality, he decided to post it on his Tumblr page.
“My hope is that the babies born these days will inherit less of the (expletive) than we did,” he wrote.