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Frank Ocean Makes TV Debut With Same-Sex Relationship Jam

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Jul 11, 2012
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Rising R&B singer-songwriter Frank Ocean has been in the media spotlight since he opened up about his sexuality last weekend and confessed that he had once fallen in love with a man. On a recent episode of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," Ocean made his television debut and surprisingly performed a non-single track off his forthcoming album "Channel Orange" that deals with his love for another man.

Instead of singing his latest single "Pyramids," Ocean, perhaps addressing the elephant in the room, decided to go with "Bad Religion" -- a song that alludes to a past gay relationship where Ocean was left heartbroken by a man.

"This unrequited love / To me it’s nothing but a one-man cult / And cyanide in my Styrofoam cup / I could never make him love me /Never make him love me," Ocean, 24, confidently sang while being backed by a small string section. "It’s a bad religion to be in love with someone / Who could never love you / I know only bad religion could have me feeling the way I do," he cooed in his signature falsetto voice over warm goth-like synths.

Last week, the singer took to his Tumblr and revealed that his first love was with a man.

"Four 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," he wrote.

The rapper concluded the post: "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."

Many have marked Ocean’s announcement as a brave and as an important step, since homophobic sentiments are far too common in the rap community.

"I think it’s definitely important and it really signifies that there is a changing of the face of hip-hop," said Chuck Creekmur, founder of the leading website allhiphop.com. Creekmur also called Ocean’s announcement "a sign of the times."

The New York Times profiled Ocean and wrote, "No other mainstream R&B artists have acknowledged having homosexual relationships" and reported that the rising musician has received plenty of support from his peers.

"There is still a very nasty streak of homophobia in this country that we have to overcome," Russell Simmons, a founder and former owner of Def Jam, said. "I’m hoping the support by his friends and the members of the creative community will override it and, whatever he loses, he will gain more."

Joie Manda, the president of Def Jam, said that Ocean "broke down a wall that should never have been built." R&B artist Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s sister) and Rita Ora also supported the 24-year-old in online messages.

The face of rap may be experiencing a great shift, however. When President Barack Obama made his endorsement for marriage equality, a number of rappers applauded the announcement. Rappers, including Jay-Z, 50 Cent, T.I. and more, all voiced their support for gay marriage soon after the president did. Additionally, the 23-year-old rapper A$AP Rocky told indie music critic website Pitchfork that he used to be homophobic but now is more accepting of the LGBT community.

I think it’s definitely important and it really signifies that there is a changing of the face of hip-hop

"I’m going to be honest with you-- I used to be homophobic, but that’s fucked up. I had to look in the mirror and say, ’All the designers I’m wearing are gay.’ I hear stories about all these industry motherfuckers who are gay, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that shit don’t matter. It’s so immature."

Ocean, who has worked with Beyonce and appeared on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s "Watch the Throne," is a member of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All -- a controversial rap group who have been greatly criticized for their lyrics, which focus on sexual activity, violence, belittling women and are full of anti-gay slurs.

But even Odd Future’s outrageous leader Tyler, the Creator tweeted his support for his friend (in his own strange and unique way).

"My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That," he tweeted. "Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet."

Last year Ocean put out a self-released mix tape titled "Nostalgia, Ultra," which received positive reviews from most critics. His debut album "Channel Orange" was digitally released on iTunes on July 10 (a week earlier than expected) and can be streamed in its entirely on his Tumblr. Physical copies of the record hit stores July 17.

MTV’s RapFix points out that there hasn’t been major promotion behind the LP except for a few private listening sessions for music journalists and a commercial that aired during the BET Awards. After the "Pyramids" singer made his announcement, however, the public’s interest sharply rose.

RapFix reported that official projections for his first-week album sales have not been confirmed, but Keith Caulfield, associate director of charts at Billboard, says all the press could create a larger audience for Ocean.

"On one hand, it could give him visibility that he didn’t have before, because suddenly people are writing about him and headlines with his name are coming across people’s Facebook and Twitter dashboard and they’re wondering, ’Who is this dude? Let me read about him, let me listen to his music, I’ve never heard of him before now,’ so it could help," Caulfield said. "No one in R&B music who’s that huge, or could be huge, has ever been frank, so to speak, about their sexuality in this way."

Some speculated that Ocean’s revelation was too coincidental with the release of his first album but Caulfield says that it was a good idea for the singer to come out early in his career.

"It’s better to do it now instead of two or three albums into your career when you have all this pressure mounting on you to be a ladies man and to sing all these songs to women in your videos," Caulfield told RapFix. "Everyone knows that there are rumors and allegations haunting some celebrities in the closet, and they’ve had to continue a career fronting something else.

"People were anticipating that the album was going to debut in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 charts, but the jury is still out as to how his recent news will affect his first week," he added.

Watch Ocean perform the haunting "Bad Religion" on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" below:


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