BY AUDRA D.S. BURCH, ABURCH@MIAMIHERALD.COM
Frank Ocean, contemplative voice of the collective Odd Future, gifted new solo artist, Watch the Throne collaborator, fell in love with a man four summers ago.
He wrote authentically and tenderly about the power of loving for the first time, an open love letter meant to be added to the liner notes of his debut album, Channel Orange, due out next week.
But facing the relentless urgency of social media, the long simmering speculation about his sexuality, his own honest lyrics and a moment that simply felt right, Ocean, 24, posted the letter on Tumblr last week, releasing his intimate admission into the ether and an urban music world still thick with homophobia, misogyny and materialism.
On a flight from his native New Orleans to Los Angeles in December, the avant-garde artist — whose music lives somewhere between hip hop and R&B, wrote “4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Every day almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.”
With that, Ocean — who landed on the broader public radar last year with the single Novacane — became the first major hip-hop or R&B artist to publicly acknowledge a same-sex relationship, done so with a beautifully uncomplicated much-ado-about-nothing air.
And in the week since, he has been praised as a pioneer, a poignant reflection of his generation. With his simple letter, he presented himself as an alternative to the archetype, emotionally challenged b-boy.
“It wasn’t a coming-out story as much as a love story. He writes about unrequited love, like Adele and Mary J Blige did so painfully, so soulfully on 21, and My Life,” says Terrance Dean, author of the memoirHiding In Hip Hop: On The Down Low in the Entertainment Industry From Music to Hollywood. “He showed remarkable courage and bravery, and the letter showed his humanity. It is historic because there is no major rapper or R&B singer who is openly gay or bisexual.”