Frank Ocean’s Place in Hip-Hop

In a recent interview with Vlad TV T-Pain spoke about homophobia and hip-hop – a debatable topic, and one that I’m often very outspoken and opinionated about. Now, T-Pain’s intentions may have been benevolent despite his coarse rhetoric, but I’m personally not too interested in what T-Pain has to say about homophobia and hip-hop. There are other voices much more finely tuned to lead this argument – but I am glad he did speak up nonetheless.

What did cause a lot of raised eyebrows was his statement saying that some rappers don’t want to work with the Odd Future member and successful singer and songwriter Frank Ocean, solely because of his sexuality. Frank Ocean has never come out as gay – but he has publically declared having been in love with a man. In some circles this has lead to him automatically being assigned an identity of non-heterosexuality, which is the assumption it allegedly has taken in the hip-hop community.

To be honest I don’t really care how Frank Ocean identifies his sexuality – but T-Pain’s statement came as a bit of a reality check. There are of course a lot of queer rappers on the scene, but the genre does have a steadfast history of homophobia (as well as racism and misogyny, let’s not forget that) – so a statement like this is pretty plausible.

However, I’m not sure whether to take T-Pain’s statement with a pinch or a massive scoop of salt. He mentioned that Frank Ocean was featured on Watch the Throne before ‘coming out’, but that neither Jay-Z nor Kanye West wanted to work with him after that. I don’t know where he’s gotten his facts from but Jay-Z openly supports gay marriage, and Frank Ocean was indeed featured on his most recent album Magna Carta… Holy Grail – released after his ‘coming out’.

It’s also been rumoured that Pharrell Williams has collaborated on his upcoming studio album, and let’s not forget that Frank Ocean is part of the influential hip-hop collective Odd Future. So there are obviously people within the genre who are working with him.  Even outside hip-hop he does still hold a strong position in the industry, his feature on Beyoncé’s recent album was, for the lack of a better word, just stunning.

T-Pain’s statement just promotes an image of homophobia in hip-hop that we already know exists. I would’ve had much more respect for him if he had the guts to more openly name drop people who had chosen not to work with Frank Ocean based on his sexuality. However, what he might have achieved – in a very clumsy way – is to act as a catalyst for subsequent commentary. Hopefully we will hear more about this in the future, not only from the queer and non-queer hip-hop scene, but also from the wider music industry.