n a watershed year for same-sex marriage and celebrities casually coming out as gay — see, most recently, CNN icon Anderson Cooper — up-and-coming R&B singer Frank Ocean's public stepping out of the closet is still big news. Ocean, who sings with the hip-hop collective Odd Future and is featured on the Jay-Z and Kanye West album Watch the Throne, came out indirectly by posting the story of his first love, a man, on his Tumblr page. Yes, Anderson Cooper is a household name, says Nekesa Mumbi Mood of The Associated Press, but because Ocean is a black denizen of the lyrically homophobic rap/hip-hop world, his coming-out "could end up being the more significant announcement." Well, is it?
Yes, Ocean trumps Anderson: Never mind about Cooper, "this is a bigger deal," says Sharon Pian Chan at The Seattle Times. The black community has an "uncomfortable relationship... with open homosexuality," politically and culturally, and that's even more true in rap, where gay epithets mingle comfortably with "odes to the African American musician as a hyper-sexualized womanizer." Now, with a respected black singer coming out, it will be "just a little easier for a younger generation African Americans to live openly gay."
"A hip hop artist comes out of the closet"
Ocean's coming-out isn't that groundbreaking: It's true that "hip-hop has been notoriously unwelcoming to homosexuality," says Bethonie Butler at The Washington Post, "but Ocean's announcement isn't the only recent event that might signal a change in the culture." Jay-Z and 50 Cent recently backed gay marriage, following President Obama, and straight rapper Lil' B released an album last summer titled I'm Gay, to fight homophobia. So maybe there's a reason "Ocean's announcement didn't garner as much buzz" as Anderson Cooper's.
"Frank Ocean comes out as bisexual: A game-changer for hip-hop?"
Each coming-out has its own story: "The talk surrounding Anderson Cooper's coming out largely focused on the idea that coming out just isn't a big deal anymore," says Forrest Wickman at Slate. "Ocean's coming out, at the most pivotal moment of his career (his debut LP hits stores this month)... is undeniably a big deal." In fact, Ocean will continue to write and sing love songs, making his sexuality more central to his work than Cooper's news broadcasts. If Ocean's self-outing isn't a bigger deal, it's certainly a braver step.
"Frank Ocean comes out"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Who are the real gay marriage bigots?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why is American internet so slow?
- Don't worry: World War III will almost certainly never happen
- What the collapse of the Ming Dynasty can tell us about American decline
- Religious liberty should be a liberal value, too
- Watch The Daily Show mock Fox News' confused man-crush on Vladimir Putin
- 22 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The new bride who had a horrifying allergic reaction to her husband's sperm
5 surprising facts about left-handed people
Subscribe to the Week