The Transcendent Mr. Frank Ocean
Art and the role of artist should not be limiting in its practice or its lifestyle.
In our commodity, brand-driven society we actively corner our artists into the often too acute genres that their expressive works fall into. With this comes the expectations associated with the lifestyle displayed by the artist’s peers, and in Rap and R&B music they are a sort of rock stardom and fierce heterosexuality.
Traditionally the herd yearns to make these star-tists relatable to themselves and is taught to categorize people in order that they are understood relative to one’s own life. Anyone who breaches the realm of categorizing does not fit into the equation of modern culture, leaving them to the outsider or weird class. Lifestyles of the “other” have received this treatment for centuries; the visual formula Western artists used to display the Orient come to mind. Then, culturally foreign people were considered first and foremost in terms of their sexuality. In retrospect, and with great liberty I believe that sexuality is arguably the seed of many large shifts in society, and the artistic culture that reacts to it. Awareness of homosexual lifestyles and the need for its acceptance by one and all is the dark mountain society is currently climbing, and within the resultant cultural reactions I have noticed many artists deciding to either vehemently deny homosexuality or steer clear of the subject altogether. Even fewer artists transcend the labels they are given through expectation, their comfort zones are too reassuring, and the friction might be too damaging.
The transcendence of Mr. Frank Ocean is awe-inspiring. Following the rumors surrounding lyrics of certain songs on “Channel Orange” his moody, crooning debut album, which were sung about “he” and “him” as the object of affection, Ocean released a note on his tumblr.The note is a beautiful explanation of his first love, something unavoidable, real and unexpected with another man. He recounts how time would “glide” over their all-too-short summers together and the ensuing heart-break when his significant other was not brave enough to return his affection. Ocean avoids using gender constructs like “homosexual” or “bisexual” and instead recounted an honest and touching encounter with true love, and how he has grown out of its ashes.
His fearlessness in the face of an R&B and Rap community that is hardly sensitive toward sexual ambiguity, even verging toward violence toward homosexuals in certain circles and eras, is electrifying. It fulfills the original brazen promise of hip-hop and art in general to speak one’s mind without abandon. As a hip-hop head and devoted appreciator of art I hope this moment does not go forgotten or overlooked as the unimportant whispers of a budding star. He is not an activist, rather a talented individual who prefers to share the actuality of his existence with the world instead of living within the confines of what we decide he is. For me, Frank Ocean conveys the progression of a generation that is ready to be more than labels and genuinely strives to embody freedom to live and love without foreboding.
Written for FIKA