Thoughts On Frank Ocean + Hyper-Masculinity In Hip-Hop Culture

I sat on Twitter early Wednesday morning and watched the tides turn for a young man whose remarkable talent has gifted us with some of the best music we’ve heard in recent history.

Frank Ocean, a 24 year old singer/songwriter from New Orleans, LA is preparing for the release of his debut album on Def Jam Records. He’s already lent his pen to some of the biggest names in the music industry, earning placements with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Beyonce, John Legend and more. In other words, he’s made a huge impact in a few short years.. and with little fanfare. Known for his ability to take the simplest of feelings and translate them beautifully into lyrics, Frank is aligning himself to become one of our generation’s greatest songwriters. But on Wednesday, which also happened to be the day that America celebrates it’s freedom, he made his own declaration… one that drudged up the dark side of hip-hop culture. The one that we so often choose to ignore.

In a letter on his Tumblr page, Frank told his fans a story about how he was rejected by his first love. It was eloquent yet simplistic, making the emotion all the more real. His pain was evident, but so was his strength. The “shocking” part: that love, the object of his affection and quite possibly the inspiration behind so many of his popular songs, was male.

And with that revelation, the flood gates opened. At first, there was an overwhelming outpouring of support… but as the news began to spread…so did the hate. Slurs, expressions of disgust, and complete cancellation of fandom were common place. After about an hour, I had witnessed all that I could handle. I went to sleep wondering what had changed about his music that made people so adverse to him, a man whose work they were clamoring for just a few days earlier. I was baffled.

When I woke up, it all clicked. Unfortunately, the reality was more cumbersome than I cared to admit.

Hyper-masculinity (and subsequently homophobia) in hip-hop have fostered a culture of untruths, where men are expected to be hard, stoic and with unyielding strength. Those of us not fooled by the facade, those of us who live in the real world, know that is the furthest thing from the truth.

Men feel. They love. They hurt… and they cry, just like women do. That is fact, not fiction… whether you choose to accept it or not. The problem begins when people buy into the idea that the expression of emotion is something that is only acceptible for women.

That’s also where the attacks on guys like Drake begin. As an artist, he’s been transparent with his range of emotions, but is often met with criticism from his male peers for “simping” or being too soft. As a result, he’s conformed a bit to the industry standard, more frequently speaking about f***ing b****es and catching bodies. I wonder, which is more damaging?

Frank is not a martyr, he’s just a guy who shared his truth. Frankly, I couldn’t care less about whether he’s bi, homo, or heterosexual. All I know is that when his album drops, I’m expecting the same quality of music that I’m used to from him.

How about you? Is this hyper-masculinity in our culture worth attacking? Can it be fixed? Or are we all just stuck living a societal lie. You tell me.

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