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What It Means to be Gay in the World of Rap

For me, it’s clear that in the past rap culture has been hateful and aggressive, making it a difficult place to find acceptance of any sort. Such boundaries didn’t stop one artist who openly came out to the community and chose to not to care about the reaction from the public. Frank Ocean, member of the notoriously harsh Odd Future and solo artist with two albums Nostalgia, Ultra and Channel Orange came out in the summer of 2012 via a letter on Tumblr to all of his followers:

Ocean is the first and currently only active, gay rap artist. In a world of perceived gangbangers, womanizers, and pimps, being gay doesn’t really have a place unless it’s rage fueled, homophobic slurs in the lyrics. The general reaction was surprised, but supportive, for the most part. What intrigued fans the most was Ocean’s close friend and fellow member of Odd Future, Tyler, the Creator, and what he would have to say about it. Tyler is known for his abuse of homophobic slurs. 

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In fact, Tyler used derogatory terms for gay over 200 times on his album Goblin. He’s not the only one either, Eminem is still under fire for his prevalent homophobic insults on his recent album. Tyler’s response was endearing, saying “ I kinda knew, because he likes Pop Tarts without frosting on them, so I knew something was weird about him” to a Rolling Stone interview in early 2013. It turns out, Tyler was one of the first people Frank came out to, telling him and the rest of the world that “he feels like a free man.”

Machoism is rampant in rap and hip hop, with rappers trying to be hardcore and the most intense and threatening (50 Cent circa 2003 ring any bells?). Frank hasn’t let that threaten him – he embraces his emotional openness and vulnerability, and his fans love him even more for it. 

Not only did Ocean change his own life, but he opened up an interesting and valuable issue that’s rarely addressed in the rap community. Well-known rapper T-Pain recently mentioned in an interview that he thinks Frank Ocean hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves for his work due to his sexuality. However, he did just appear on Beyoncé’s song “Superpower,” though she isn’t considered an urban rap artist. But she is the queen, and she loves Frank, so that’s all that matters, really.

To me, Frank Ocean is as lovely as ever, and I’m inspired by his courage. Sexuality has always been a central focus in hip hop and rap, but Frank has made it more interesting by talking about his own relationships with men and how love is the same no matter what gender you are. 

His message is pure and beautiful, just like love. In one of my favorite songs “We All Try,” he croons, “I believe that marriage isn’t between a man and woman but between love and love” and nothing is truer than that. Being gay has made him a better artist because he can finally write about who he loves and has loved, without the fear of questioning. He owns his sexuality and we respect him for it! If anyone still isn’t sure how they feel about Frank Ocean, scroll through these lovely GIFs of Frank and the rest of Odd Future being weird, funny, and adorable as ever!


All hail king Frank.

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

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Elena Lopez

U Mass Amherst

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