The hip hop community has always been associated with every kind of atrocious vulgarity. Racism, murder, drugs and gang association has been the order of the day since its conceptualisation over 30 years ago. Though many communities have felt victimised by hip hop, the pinch of its prejudice has been rather brutal and extremely direct in the case of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay ,Bisexual ,and transgender) community. With homophobic slurs forming the everyday dialogue of this alpha-male dominated industry, there wouldn’t have possibly been a place for a proudly LGBT individual in this community.
The question has been posed, but never quite as seriously as on the 4th July 2012 when 24 year old hip hop singer/songwriter and member of OFWGKTA, Frank Ocean, confessed on his Tumblr to his first love being a man by means of an open letter to his fans. “By the time I realised I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless, there was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling, no choice, it was my first love,’’ Frank wrote. Sending shockwaves through the music world but at the same time gaining support from hip hop community members such as Russell Simmons, HYPE went out to find out from young up and comers from different industries how this has impacted them personally and what they think the impact on hip hop will be, whether this will bring a sea of change or if – like the LGBT members – hip hop was just simply born this way?
Occupation: Model and student
University of Western Cape B.Sc (Hons) Environment and Water Sciences student and model who has done work for the likes of Nivea, Mamane Moeketsane says, “I see a major change occurring through Frank Ocean. What Frank did will inspire a generation to stand for who they are and what they believe in regardless of the circumstances surrounding them. I think that Frank’s talent is bigger than the perception the world has of the LGBT community and just big enough to make the hip hop community and the world sit back and review their ideas of the LGBT community. I love Frank Ocean for what he did because it inspires me too as a young person to fight and stay true to me even if the society I live in may detest who that person who I believe me is (deep, I know) , so I think people should just let Frank be and take a note from his page.”
Abiah Superstar Mahlase
Occupation: Reality TV star, fashion designer, stylist and blogger.
Cream Cartel star, designer ,blogger and a stylist who has worked for the likes of Rolling Stone, and one of VISI Magazine’s 2010’s 100 coolest South Africans Abiah Mahlase had this to say: “Oooooooh Lawwwwdy, where does one start?. Firstly, concerning Mr Ocean dropping news of his bisexuality weeks before the release of his album, I find that somewhat of a publicity stunt. He used a still very sensitive issue, especially in the hip hop ‘game’ which is largely patriarchal in every aspect of testosterone, to get consumers of his music talking. I applaud him though for putting himself in the firing line like that because in these rapidly changing media times where scandals are released faster than a 140 character tweet, staying ‘relevant’ is quite a job and a half on its own.”
“These days the quality of the product being delivered is just as important as the artist delivering it cc Jennifer Hudson who dropped that weight to give the soulful big mamas a chance of making hits that sell faster than cereal, faster than superman changes into his outfit or Nicki Minaj who transformed into a rapping Barbie doll to “put all these rap bitches on the map again”. Interesting times indeed. Frank Ocean’s music/message does not discriminate whereas the majority of hip hop does. “Know that I don’t make music for niggas who don’t get pussy” – Drake. Such statements say it all! Music is meant to appeal to an audience and within any majority of that audience there will always be a loyal minority who appreciates Frank Ocean’s artistry despite the person he may be in his personal life. Kanye West said it best when he said “As a person, I’m flawed but my music is perfect”. After all, isn’t that what we should be judging them on…their music/craft? What they do and who they do it with has no bearing on them clocking in to work. When they say ‘hip hop is dead’, I say hip hop ain’t dead, but ‘Real niggas’ are dead! Hip hop lacks emotion – that is considered ‘Gay’ because a man who feels is somehow considered ‘gay’. What bafooonery is that? There’s a lack of ‘niggas’ who are willing to put their emotions on the frontline.”
“The majority of the top selling hip hop artists all spit rhymes about popping bottles of Ciroc and Belvedere and bedding girl upon girl, but when does the party end and we start talking about issues that actually add substance? Frank Ocean is exactly that artist who made us listen instead of shaking our tail feathers 24/7. If he acquired his talent from the gods and goddesses of ‘bisexuality’, then Amen Hallelujaaaahness to that because we, as a hybrid society of many subcultures need that! As to his collaboration with Odd Future – that’s TerriFantastik because they are both changing stereotypes and perceptions. This is needed in hip hop because that is hip hop! The future is Odd and that’s the beauty of it. The world is never ready for a good thing. That’s the beauty of God because he runs this and knows what we need above what we want!”
“If hip hop is going to allocate categories (aside from good and bad hip hop) based on the sexual orientation of the hip hop artist, then we’ve lost the plot and should all switch our radios frequency to 102.7 ClassicFm.”
Up and coming rapper whose track ‘The Funeral’ off his 2010 mix-tape Street Knowledge was featured on one of HYPE’s past mixtapes, Hypodermic, says this about Frank’s coming out: “MCs have unleashed homophobic rants and hurled slurs in songs without fear of censorship or reprisal for over three decades. Rap music has stood apart as anti-gay, lesbian and bisexual hate speech. It’s more like we knew all along that in the community there were a lot gay MCs hiding in the hip hop closet. I mean I’m sure there must be a lot out there just not brave enough to just admit it, but through rhymes and the concepts of songs some of us can spot a gay MC from far. Truth of the matter is homosexuality is in existence and I guess it’s time hip hop faces this reality just like everyone else, so how we used to see hip hop back in the days will be totally different. Everybody can do whatever and be whatever they want to be. Let the culture of hip hop live and let the real MCs stand still and do the right thing to save hip hop. Let the gay MCs sell same sex gender to kids and make headlines about it and make money… I could care less!”
Pretoria based hip hop DJ/MC and all around hip hop enthusiast, Marlin Noble, says the following as a bit of an old skooler: “I think Franky just needs to be real with himself more importantly than being fake to the rest of the world and I speak personally when I say hip hop is a culture with so many parts and contributions to where it is now. Frank’s so-called coming out will in no way change hip hop because he doesn’t seem to be a major player in the hip hop industry. We the people who are part of the hip hop culture can decide to think differently and by so doing say hip hop is hip-hop no matter what, and just keep doing what we do because hip hop has been looked upon with a bad eye forever due to the language, slander towards women, gay people and the so-called gangster rap. It all just boils down to SELF EXPRESSION, so Frank can express himself as much as he wants yo , but I’m just saying I won’t buy or listen to him because that’s just not my type of music, I like the real hip hop…”
Occupation: Script writer and aspiring actor
Isidingo script writer and actor who portays the character of Andile in the popular soapie believes the following about Frank Ocean’s revelations: “I don’t think it should affect the hip hop industry in any way. Frank is an individual who has his own identity and still making good music that is still enjoyed by many. His sexual orientation should have no negative bearing. He did what he saw as best for him and for that I take my hat off. He saw that he didn’t want to hide who he truly is and who knows, maybe he has sparked a lot of other young people to stand up for who they are and what they believe in? I cannot say if what he did is right or wrong. He saw the need that to come out and it worked for him. I’m not sure what doors it has opened. Perhaps it could’ve closed some too? I know that there are still a lot of homophobic people in the entertainment industry and perhaps now some would be wary of working with him. But I think this has also earned him a lot of respect. He stood up and refused to live a lie. He showed people that you can be this great person and produce amazing records regardless of your sexual orientation. Like I said previously he is a good artist, bisexual or not. I grew up listening to rap and I’m very critical when it comes to it, and I still enjoy his work regardless. His success shows that people choose to listen to music regardless of who made it. If it is good music you will have fans either way.”
Boston college marketing student and one of hip hop’s biggest homosexual fans (so he says) Trevor Nemaungani had the following to say about Frank’s announcement: “Frank Ocean’s coming out came as a shock to all people heterosexual and homosexual, but I believe this should not affect his career, the talent is still there bi or straight. We are living in the 21st century so it should be easier for people to come out and be who they really are. His sexual preference is his choice and hip hop must realise that homosexuality exists and not only in a certain type of man. As a gay guy myself I think it’s an eye opener for people as a whole to not just stereotype gay men and realise that you get gay men of every calibre (truck drivers, plumbers, even construction workers ). I think his coming out will inspire more individuals to be who they really are. Let’s all stop living in the dark ages and move on with the times…Geez!”