Socialist Worker

Coming out in style: the radical rap of Frank Ocean

Hip-hop artist Frank Ocean has inspired fans with his innovative sound and the story of how he fell in love with a male friend

Issue No. 2313

Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean


Frank Ocean has hit the hip-hop and R&B scene hard with his new wave style.

Not only has he created a refreshing album with Channel Orange but has also made quite a splash within the industry by coming out as bisexual prior to the album’s release.

He wrote a poetic and romantic account of falling in love for the first time, with another man when he was 19 years old.

Channel Orange has received widespread praise, and its easy to hear why. He has created a fresh album. His sampling of clean beats, the infusion of guitar solos and his unusual use of synth sparkle throughout the album. The content is socially conscious but clearly very personal to Ocean.

This is not Ocean’s first release. After failing to find a label to release his work he did it himself. Last year he put Nostalgia, Ultra—a mixtape of his own music—on his Tumblr site for free download.

Channel Orange shows the diversity of his influences. Bad Religion opens with some mellow organ chords setting and continues with a full orchestra flowing over sets of switching beats.

On this track Ocean uses a taxi driver as a priest or psychiatrist-type character who he confesses his feelings for another man to. He sings, “If it brings me to my knees, it’s a bad religion/ Unrequited love, to me it’s nothing but a one man cult.” Ocean also tussles with his relationship with God in the song and considers praying to relieve his pain.

Unhappy

Super Rich Kids accounts for the unhappy lives of rich kids and draws parallels with Brett Easton Ellis’ 1985 novel Less Than Zero. There are no boundaries for these silver spoon yuppies, yet their story intertwines with that of the financial crisis and the prospect of their gilded youth crashing before their eyes.

In Pyramids, Ocean compares the fall of Cleopatra to the life of a working class woman today, making a living in a strip club and through prostitution.

The male protagonist in the song laments the destruction of “the jewel of Africa/black queen Cleopatra” which has transitioned to “bad dreams Cleopatra”. The content of the song is matched with varying rhythms—fluctuating with the downfall of “Cleopatra”.

Channel Orange is definitely worth a listen. Not only has Frank Ocean produced some really good music but his lyrical content provides something that many can relate to.

There is no doubt that his coming out and the songs about his love for another man will provide comfort for young LGBT people.

Ocean has clearly stepped well away from the homophobic and misogynistic lyrics favoured by the front man of his old collective, Odd Future. He speaks truthfully about of the many burdens that LGBT people carry in or out of the closet.

When you discover and listen to mainstream music that mirrors the way you feel and see yourself, it can provide a small sparkle of liberation and support. Perhaps more artists will follow Frank Ocean’s lead and we will see a greater number of LGBT artists having the confidence to come out in the music industry.

Channel Orange by Frank Ocean is out now on Def Jam Recordings


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Reviews
Tue 24 Jul 2012, 16:43 BST
Issue No. 2313
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.