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 5:20 AM ET

Bisexual crooner Meshell Ndegeocello (left) performs during the Melbourne Festival finale concert at Sidney Myer Music Bowl in October 2010.
 

“I saw people like Ellen [DeGeneres] and what she had to go through for people to accept her and all that she achieved,” she says. “She is a ray of light. That is what I’m trying to bring to the LGBT community. We are exceptional people. Let’s share our gifts, and don’t shun my gifts because of who I have a personal relationship with. Especially the NAACP and the black pastors who quit and are upset over Obama and him supporting gay marriage. You embrace a religion that aided in slavery, but you judge me on my sexuality? Let’s be rational. I want to help people to rise above that.”

Though a few brave artists have come out, rising above homophobia will require significant effort from the R&B and hip-hop communities, both gay and straight. Ndegeocello acknowledges the difficulty: “I think it’s harder for men,” she says. “Men need a movement. It’s harder to be black, gay, and male. It makes me have the utmost respect for black gay men in an industry of hypermasculinity.”

For several years hip-hop has been described as being at a tipping point with regard to homophobia, yet the toppling of a pervasive attitude has yet to be achieved. Frank Ocean hasn’t yet said what it means to be Frank Ocean, but with each significant coming-out, the haters have less standing to insist that LGBTs have no place in hip-hop.

“The ones who are hiding are the main ones with the commentary, and want to beat you up,” Murs acknowledges. But he says there’s a greater purpose in coming out despite the difficulty. “You don’t have to be afraid. You can come out. All the directors, rappers, producers, and all your homeboys, why don’t you all come out together instead of partying in the hills and being secretive? You have to stop being selfish, and come out and help some other young person who is struggling.”

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