Why Frank Ocean Coming Out Is A Breakthrough For Urban Music

Today, a groundbreaking event in the R&B world took place. 24-year-old-Christopher Breaux, aka Frank Ocean, wrote a letter on his tumblr coming out as gay, making him the first modern black RnB star to come out.

It read like this:

4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. It was my first love. It changed my life.

The crux of the story here is the nature of being a gay male in the mainstream community. A world which is rife with homophobia, and one that is still shockingly backward in its intolerance of homosexuals. In the hours that have followed, it has been touching to see his support on Twitter – that the potency of his lyrics have been unaffected by the knowledge that some of them may have been written with a man in mind.

Of course, he will be subject to the usual cynicism that music fans are always on hand to dole out – he has a new album out! It’s a marketing ploy! Open your eyes! ILLUMINATI! Personally, though, I found his blog post touchingly honest and believe it comes from the heart – Ocean doesn’t seem to be the type to adhere to a PR machine.

As a musician, Ocean has always broken boundaries, sonically and professionally. On one hand, this news could be the shock to the system we need – the first gay R&B star in a position that is in desperate need of being filled. Though perhaps, with our knowledge of Odd Future, he is one of the acts we should be least surprised by. This is really, in line with OF’s commitment to breaking down barriers, squaring off against mainstream taste. They have never tried to adhere to the status quo, and in a funny way, that is precisely what makes it less shocking.

It might be more surprising to hear from someone like Trey Songz, or Usher, than Frank, who seems to have always done things his own way – from his playful relationship with the press (anyone remember when he used to tell journalists that he was Billy Ocean’s nephew?) to releasing a 10 minute long single, telling Def Jam to fuck off, and even distancing himself from OF for a period.

It will be interesting to see if this revelation affects his album sales. If not, then perhaps much bigger questions about whether others coming out, will follow, highlighting exactly what we expect as fans, and being made privy to the innermost secrets of our musicians personal lives. Frank Ocean is standing alone at the moment, but the real question is for how long.

Perhaps the question is not whether he will be the first in a long line to come out, but whether future stars in the hostile environment of urban music will choose to sacrifice privacy and let us in. Either way, he has made himself a yardstick against which homophobia in the genre will be measured in the weeks to come, and for that, we need to salute him.