Frank Ocean ,The Brave and The Timid
By: Glennisha Morgan
It has been exactly one month since the release of Frank Ocean’s groundbreaking and tumultuous album, Channel Orange. It has been a little over a month since Ocean’s candid, brave, popular and unprecedented letter that revealed his love for another man. Ocean has sold out many shows, sold 238,000 records (as of Aug. 5), according to Nielsen Soundscan and has landed on Billboard’s 200 chart as number two. He deserves every bit of the applause that he has received.
But what about the openly-queer artists who have been “out” since day one? There are countless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender artists who will most likely never have the privilege or opportunity to sell 238,000 records, be signed to a major record label and sell out international shows because they chose to be liberated and honest in their artistry from jump street. Or will they? There are a handful of queer artists who have had potential record deals contingent upon the change of their image and the masking of their sexuality. There are also a myriad of queer artists who have had their own amount of success, but their careers are somewhat stagnant because potential listeners can’t get past their sexuality and image. What is the difference between them and Frank Ocean? Is Ocean so talented that people just don’t care and others need to step their game up? Or is it that Ocean played it safe in the beginning and had a well planned and calculated “coming out” affair?
Back in May, President Barack Obama announced his support of gay marriage. Mogul, emcee, and highly raved about celebrity, Jay-Z later backed the president’s stance. Hip Hop pioneer Chuck D also followed suit. So it wasn’t surprising when Ocean penned his revealing letter, two months afterward. It was only inevitable that an artist or some artists would “come out of the closet”. It was just uncertain who exactly would come out. But why does it take the president and a few emcees’ support of the LGBT community in order for people to become more receptive of other human beings, who just happen to be attracted to the same sex? Does this support mean that the music industry and hip hop community has changed? Maybe so. Maybe not.
Even in the mist of and on the heels of Ocean’s current success, there are some artists who are still afraid to be open about their sexuality because they feel it is a gigantic risk to their careers. And can you blame them?