Frank’s Tumblr letter was the fuel for his Fallon fire. Hip-hop has an ugly history of homophobia, and he paid it no mind. Now, he’s currently on top of the world and the iTunes chart. Check out his refreshing earnestness after the jump.
Hip-hop isn’t exactly a genre welcoming of otherness.
Take Danny Brown for instance. His Flock of Seagulls hairdo and crotch constricting skinny jeans made 50 Cent pass on signing him. The subtext there was simple: Danny’s bugged-out appearance meant he was gay, at least to Curtis Jackson. And rappers can’t be gay.
The chest-pounding braggadocio of hip-hop pits MCs against “sucka MCs.” The MC on the mic usually gets mad girls, unless he’s a self-deprecating rhymer like Fatlip, but the sucka MC repeatedly is labeled a “faggot.” In Nas’s “Ether,” the quintessential beef rap track, he calls Jay-Z “a dick riding faggot that loves the attention.” Even Jay, the king who sits in the gold burnished throne, can’t escape the epithet.
When Frank Ocean came out last week in a thinly veiled letter on his Tumblr, he obviously knew this ugly history with hip-hop and homophobia. And that didn’t stop him. I know what you’re thinking—Frank is an R&B artist, which has looser rules for gender expectations (see: Little Richard, Prince, etc.) But Frank is a different breed. He had more features than any other artist on Watch the Throne. He fucks with hip-hop, and hip-hop fucks with him.
This wasn’t Lance Bass peeking out of the closet with a beach-bleached coif ready for the cover of People. This was Frank Ocean, the velvet voiced crooner from Odd Future. Even though his own crew cartoonishly hated on gays, it didn’t stop him from getting something off his chest.
By having the audacity to call out the elephant in his own existential room, he became one of the bravest figures in modern music.
Kanye may have a big ego, but Frank Ocean has bigger balls.
When he made his national debut on Jimmy Fallon’s show on Monday night, performing “Bad Religion” with a backing string section, this bombshell news was backstory. Instead of hanging in the air like noxious cigarette smoke, it propelled him, giving him a quiet confidence. He felt lighter, with the anvil monkey off his back.
Channel Orange dropped a week earlier than expected and is already #1 on iTunes, but the Tumblr letter wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was an earnest unearthing of the heart.