The Meaning of Frank Ocean

When the up-and-coming musician came out, he drew praise from celebrities and his hip-hop collaborators, and revived the question of whether gays have a place in the industry.

BY Terrance Dean

September 14 2012 4:20 AM ET

It was a sweltering Fourth of July. People across the country were in parks, in backyards, and lined up along waterfronts anxiously awaiting the fireworks displays. The smell of barbecue, hot dogs, and hamburgers being grilled wafted through the air. It was a celebration of our great nation. And all the while, Twitter and Facebook were buzzing about an entertainer, a relatively unknown young man from California who posted a letter on his Tumblr page about having been in love with another man. The Internet was suddenly in a frenzy about this guy.

“Who is Frank Ocean?” a million tweets asked. Google searches began.

In 2010, Frank Ocean, born Christopher Breaux in New Orleans, became a member of the alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. His solo debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, was released the following year to critical acclaim. He released two singles, “Novacane,” and “Swim Good,” and both achieved chart success.

Ocean’s first full-length studio album, Channel Orange, was set to be released July 17, and a letter in which he declared his first love, for another man, was initially meant to be a part of the album’s liner notes. But following an early listening party, BBC Radio 1Xtra personality Max pointed out that the lyrics referred to “he” and “him” instead of “she” and “her,” which she took to be an indication that Ocean is gay or bisexual. Ocean took matters into his own hands, and on Independence Day he posted that letter on his Tumblr for the entire world to see.

My hope is that the babies born these days will inherit less of the bullshit than we did. anyhow, what I’m about to post is for anyone who cares to read. It was intended to fill the thank you’s section in my album credits, but with all the rumors going around…I figured it’d be good to clarify...

His letter went viral and traveled worldwide in a matter of moments. Suddenly, everyone knew his name.

4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence…until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless.... It was my first love, it changed my life.

Instantly, it seemed those words changed the entertainment industry. The letter caused its own fireworks.

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