I loved Tyler, the Creator’s response.
On Wednesday morning, when Frank Ocean Tweeted out a beautiful and poetic letter dedicated to a past male lover — according to Frank, his “first love” — one of the first responses came from Odd Future head honcho, Tyler, the Creator. The rapper applauded him for the letter by saying:
“My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult. Or Whatever.”
This response came, of course, after the rapper made some mildly offensive jokes (which was sooo Tyler of him.)
Maybe some found Tyler’s gesture immature or offensive. I found it endearing and interesting.
Endearing because, well, it’s how I’d probably react if a close friend of mine revealed to me that he was once in love with another man. And interesting because, with the exception of Russell Simmons and a couple of the culture’s notable journalists, Tyler and his Odd Future crew gave hip-hip’s only reaction towards Frank’s bombshell letter.
The loud silence heard yesterday was clearly not an endorsement, which is not surprising.
Despite how progressive hip-hop can be, the culture and the people who have resonated closest with it throughout its evolution — mainly the poor, angry, black youth — have been harshly conservative and close-minded towards homosexuality.
I consider myself hip-hop. From the way I walk to how I dres,s to how I talk (especially how I talk) hip-hop’s scarlet letter is branded into my skin, for better or worse. I’ve spent most of my life in sh*tty, poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and I know first-hand the apprehensiveness we’ve had with homosexuality (one of my day-one friends once told me that he would “rather have a son in prison than one that is gay.”)
I’ve also shared this apprehensiveness.
Maybe not so much in the mind — I truly don’t think I’ve ever had any hatred towards gay people — but 100 percent in how I talked. Looking back, most of what I portrayed was based on my own insecurity, how I felt like I should act around my friends, rather than any kind of malice.
I’ve grown. I’m about as secure with myself as I can be, and I don’t feel any hate towards a gay or bisexual person — and I no longer pretend to.
When I read Frank’s letter yesterday I had questions, for Frank, for hip-hop and for myself: Will rap artists still want to do songs with Frank? Will urban radio play a song where Frank is clearly talking about another man? Will we be comfortable if Frank makes a song about making love to another man? Will we let Frank be himself? Will we let Frank be great?
Or has he hindered his career?
With the exception of the last question, I want all those answers to be yes. I can say it, and want it, but even I have my doubts of how much I will embrace his new music. This is troubling to me, since I consider myself decently reasonable and fair-minded, more so than a lot of the hardheaded hip-hop fans.
I spent some time looking through Twitter the last couple of days and there was a solid swirl of confusion, acceptance and hate towards the letter.
I saw a lot of “it doesn’t matter what his sexual preference is…” kind-of mini-rants, but I also saw a good amount of “I’m not gonna listen to songs about dudes” tweets.
Yesterday, many outlets called what Frank did brave and historic, considering that he was the first black artist to admit to homosexual behavior.
Brave, I’ll give you, but historic is an exaggeration.
If Frank Ocean, who is an amazing songwriter and performer, blows on urban and commercial radio, despite his revelation, then that would be historic.
Despite his talents, this is not a sure thing. Frank Ocean is an outsider who often makes somber, reflective music that is different from the frantic dubstep sound that has taken over radio. So, if his upcoming debut album, Channel Orange, which drops on July 14th, is not a big seller, and chances are it won’t be, how much of Frank’s note will people blame? Will that stop other hip-hop acts from revealing that they are gay?
That’s OK, though: We’re all being tested, and we’ll have answers soon enough.
Play the Twitter game with me, folks @Milkman__Dead.