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July 06, 2012  | by: Latonya Darrisaw

R&B Singer Frank Ocean

On Monday, news anchor Anderson Cooper revealed he was gay. And this past Wednesday, R&B crooner and Odd Future member Frank Ocean penned and released a heartfelt letter revealing his first love was a man he met at the age of 19. While both are celebratory milestones for two popular men in their respective fields, Frank Ocean’s coming out marks one of the first in the hip-hop culture.

Early reviews on Ocean’s new album, Channel Orange, questioned some of the lyrics on certain songs. Intended to be written in the “Thank You” section on the album, which is scheduled to be released on July 17, the singer and songwriter decided to address the rumors by releasing a screenshot of the text document on his Tumblr. In the letter, Ocean vividly transcribes the encounter with his first love and the heartbreak he felt because it wasn’t reciprocated. It’s as honest and thoughtful as any song Ocean has ever written.

“4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide,” Ocean wrote. “I don’t have any secrets I need to keep anymore. I feel like a free man. If I listen closely. I can hear the sky falling too.”

Ocean performs at 2012 Coachella (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Ocean, born Christopher Breaux, is known for his candid and conscious lyrics on songs like “Novacane,” “Swim Good” and “Thinking about You.” His nostalgia, ULTRA album was lauded by critics and fans alike. Needless to say, after singing on two songs from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne album, the 24-year-old singer was steadily rising up the charts and becoming one to watch in the industry.

Now, just two weeks away from the release of his new album, many are wondering how the announcement could affect his future in music and sales. Will the same culture that responded so positively to Ocean’s songwriting and singing skills now abandon him because of his choice in sexuality? While Ocean is more of a singer than rapper, he is a part of an industry that often raps about homosexuality in a negative way. Some fans have expressed their disappointment in Ocean’s choice. Others, however, have offered nothing but encouragement in Ocean’s brave decision, including tweets from his mom, Katonya Breaux Riley, Odd Future frontman Tyler, the Creator and an open letter from author Dream Hampton on Jay-Z’s Life + Times website.

Hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons, who co-founded the label Ocean is signed to, applauded Ocean in a post for Global Grind entitled “The Courage of Frank Ocean just Changed the Game!”

Simmons wrote, “Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do.”

While Ocean’s announcement may not change any of the hurtful, homophobic lyrics in hip-hop, it does show a progression in the right direction for a genre stereotyped for its masculinity and misogynistic lyrics. Before, there were only a few singers in R&B and hip-hop to admit they were gay. With Ocean’s recent revelation, there may be many more who have lived in fear of coming out but can now muster up the courage to divulge their true nature.

Yes, his decision could affect or damage his career. But that makes his confession even more poignant and courageous because he isn’t worried about the possible ramifications. Ocean’s brave decision may even allow him to write better lyrics and songs because he has nothing to hide anymore. So, I’d like to think of it as Frank Ocean not necessarily coming out, but more so letting the world in.

What do you think about Frank Ocean’s open letter revealing his sexuality? Will you continue to listen to his music, why or why not? Could his and Cooper’s groundbreaking announcements change an issue still regarded as taboo?

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