Rising R&B singer Frank Ocean,who has appeared on tracks with Kanye West and Jay-Z, revealed Tuesday that his first love was a man.
Ocean, whose debut album “Channel Orange” is set for release July 17, posted a photo on his Tumblr blog of a text file describing the relationship he had with a man at 19 and how he struggled with his feelings.
Here’s an excerpt from the open letter:
4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the days I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence..until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized 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, it changed my life.
As a culture, hip-hop has been notoriously unwelcoming to homosexuality. Masculinity and bravado have played a prominent — if complicated — role, leading to misogyny and attacks on anything (or anyone) deemed feminine.
But Ocean’s announcement isn’t the only recent event that might signal a change in the culture. Rapper Jay-Z recently announced his support of gay marriage, following President Obama’s endorsement. Ice Cube, T.I. and Bun B also spoke out against discrimination.
Indie rapper Lil’ B made waves last summer when he released an album called “I’m Gay.” The heterosexual rapper told CNN that he wanted to send a message, particularly to his fans that might be homophobic.
“It’s just respect, and I did that to bring people together and bring more love and to spark the minds of people and not let words and judgments and stereotypes stop you from loving,” he told the network.
But fans and celebrities alike responded on Twitter and Facebook. Not surprisingly, reactions to Ocean’s statement have been mixed. According to Twitter Counter, a site that tracks statistics for users of the social media network, the singer gained more than 15,000 followers in the day following his Tumblr post.
Rapper Tyler The Creator, who along with Ocean is part of the hip-hop collective Odd Future, voiced his support for Ocean in a (caution: strongly-worded) tweet, which got more than 15,000 retweets in one day, according to Buzzfeed’s Mike Hayes.
In a post on Global Grind, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons wrote that he was “profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean.”
“Today is a big day for hip-hop,” Simmons wrote. “It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be?”
We’ve rounded up some more reactions in the Storify below. What impact, if any, do you think Ocean’s announcement will have on the future of hip-hop? Add your thoughts in the comments. Remember to follow our discussion policy.