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[2 Cents] @Frank_Ocean and His “Gay Marketing Gimmick”
Written by Karlie Hustle
Singer Frank Ocean had social networks by the nads earlier this month after posting his now-infamous love letter on Tumblr. As a superfan of Frank since my first nostalgia, ULTRA listen, I too was caught up in the hype of dissecting his words and trying to figure out just exactly what he’d meant. I spent the greater part of July 4th coming to terms with Frank’s purposely-ambiguous Independence Day message.
The hype machine in full effect, my twitter feed was on fire with judgments regarding Frank’s potential gayness. These included what “percentage of gay” Frank would be if he were in fact a mathematical equation and not a human being. Clearly some of the commentary bordered on ridiculous, but for the most part, the music community applauded a man for his bravery and willingness to be honest about his life. It was nice to see.
Six days after the letter, Channel Orange was officially released on iTunes. In the week following, I began to see an interesting cynicism set in among several of my online friends. While folks were still overwhelmingly supportive of Frank and the contents of his letter, some expressed the sentiment that they felt they may have been duped. Was Frank Ocean really into men? Did he use his “gayness” as a publicity stunt to sell albums? What if he hadn’t made this statement in an online letter just days before the project dropped–would anyone have cared about Frank Ocean the “assumed-to-be-heterosexual” artist and Channel Orange?
I began analyzing Frank’s approach to his album cycle and the criticism it was garnering on my timelines. It didn’t seem fair that the man was being questioned regarding his intention to share a piece of his intimate life with his fans. After all, Frank isn’t the first artist to use personal anecdotes to create interest in a brand or musical product.
I recall a rapper by the name of 50 Cent moving nearly one million units in the first week of his debut album, much of the hype due to a storyline centering around him being shot nine times and living to tell about it. I also recollect one young Kanye West, whose first hit single was recorded with his jaw wired shut after a heavily-marketed near-fatal car accident. More recently, Nas conjured up quite a buzz around his new album Life is Good by choosing to discuss his recent divorce and personal dealings with ex-wife Kelis in the lyrics. These experiences are tolerated without question. Frank’s are scrutinized as some kind of ploy. I don’t find this logical.
We spend a lot of time in the hip-hop community telling people to “keep it real”. Frank’s story is a love story. 50’s is one of violence and survival. Both artists are speaking their truths as they’ve experienced them. I understand the propensity for jadedness that we all seem to possess in this generation, but as far as I’m concerned, truth can never be amounted to a gimmick.