An unexpected turn came for the 25-year-old this year when he ended up releasing his major label debut, channel ORANGE. The first bits of controversy came when a music reviewer cited bits of lyrics in songs like ‘Forrest Gump” and “Bad Religion”, inferring that Ocean was singing about another man in the songs.
Then, old lyrics originally ignored in the song and first single off the project, “Thinking ‘Bout You”, below, were brought forward, once again, and analyzed in a new light. The world of Twitter was buzzed about what it could mean if Frank Ocean was bisexual or gay and what it would mean to the music industry to have an openly queer artist in hip-hop.
What came from the controversy and the album’s release back in July is the opening up of a discussion and dialogue not only in the hip hop community, but in the world of mainstream music as well, regarding the issues of sexuality, race, gender and even class.
Within channel ORANGE is a combination of soul, funk, rap and pop that takes the listener to a different kin of time space. One feels a levity among the lyrics and among Ocean’s struggles. “Lost’, the highlight of the album, recalls thoughts – whether fact or fiction – on his struggles. “She’s at a stove / Can’t believe I got her out here cooking dope”, Frank sings. “I promise, she’ll be / Whipping meals up for a family of her own.”
The lead single off the album, “Thinking ‘Bout You” offers just as much insight to Ocean’s troubled mind as well. “My eyes don’t shed tears / But they pour, boy, when I’m thinking ’bout you”. The song hints at Ocean’s struggles with his own identity and love for the man he would later go on to describe as his first true love in a note on his blog. “No, I don’t like you / I just thought you were cute / That why’s I kissed you”.
In the note, below, Ocean expressed his thoughts concerning his experiences regarding how he identifies his own sexuality, his first experience of true love, and how all those thoughts contributed to the making of the album.
Overall, there is still much to discuss concerning the issues of “queer rap” and the problems in defining musical artists’ output by the binary restrictions of “straight rap” and “gay rap”.
However, Ocean’s possibly honesty and forwardness in his own experiences opens up new possibilities in the mainstream spectrum of music for artists who may not conform to a heteronormative understanding of gender and sex.
While also, in the process, offering the world a series of jams like “Thinking ‘Bout You”, “Lost” and “Pilot Jones”. Ocean is expected to be a big contender at the 2013 Grammy’s, which will hopefully bring forward the same discussion that his album release did.