The Love Letter That Shook Hip-Hop

Even as rap has grown more tolerant, it's shied away from talking directly about same-sex relationships—and love in general. That's why Frank Ocean's coming-out note is important.

Michael P. Jeffries in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_30 Jul. 08 15.20So even though Ocean is not a rapper, the impact of the letter echoes throughout hip-hop, which has a history of casual and vicious homophobia among its most commercially successful artists (and many fans). As DJ and hip-hop journalist Davey D points out, this history includes repeated attempts to erase and forget LGBT hip-hop artists. But beyond that erasure, bigoted notions of manliness permeate hip-hop. Rappers persist in using homophobic slurs and descriptions of gay sex acts as lyrical weapons for demeaning opponents and critics. And when same-gender-loving women are discussed by men in hip-hop, it's usually as part of the man's spectacular descriptions of his own sexual conquests and fantasies.

The recent history of hip-hop is encouraging, though. Tyler and Jay-Z issued immediate statements of support for Ocean once the letter became news. Several years ago, Kanye West discussed his adoption and subsequent rejection of homophobia as a young man and a hip-hop artist. When famed hip-hop DJ Mr. Cee was arrested while having sex with a man in his car, 50 Cent—a prime example of cartoonish hypermasculinity—emphasized Mr. Cee's contributions to rap and affirmed that he would still work with the DJ “any time.”

More here.