Frank Ocean

Religion, politics, and ideas ofFrank Ocean

Summary

Ocean comes from a Christian background--with a little agnosticism and Islam thrown in as well. But now he seems to still be searching.

Ocean is bi-sexual and as a member of the hip-hop community, this news was shocking. But he is instrumental in inspiring a sea change in attitudes on the topic of homosexuality, both in hip-hop and possibly the greater society.

Editorial

Frank Ocean, whose real name is Christopher Francis Ocean, was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Ocean seems to have a need for catharsis. He pours his heart out, for better or worse, on his Tumblr blog. He'll discuss anything about himself, just putting it out there unprovoked. Religion is one topic he's come out about, we'll get to another big one later.

From Ocean's blog, it seems like he's confused about religion–either that or he's accepted his ambiguous feelings about it. He admits to being a practicing Catholic for a short time, and that he and his mother started going to different churches at some point during his childhood. He talks about the religious diversity in his family, from "agnostic to Islam." Ocean muses about his grandmother's "fire and brimstone" devotion to the Pentecostal Church and how his mother reacted to it by becoming more open and liberal toward religion. But most of all, he cites his time at church as his music school, saying:

Church was the hood Julliard to me. All the coldest musicians came out of there.[1]

The wider scope of hip-hop politics

Frank Ocean unwittingly unleashed a political firestorm on hip-hop in his Tumblr blog by openly admitting to being bi-sexual. Furthermore, he contributed to a banner year for gay people and their movement. As U.S. President Obama told the world that he was "OK" with gay marriage, Frank Ocean, who had already infiltrated the boy's club that is hip-hop, openly admitted to being bi-sexual. He wrote about a young man he had spent a couple of summers with when he was a teenager, saying:

By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant, It was hopeless, There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling, no choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.[2]

The institution of hip-hop, where the word "fag" is almost as prolific as "bitch" or "nigga," was blindsided by the announcement. One of the forefathers of the genre, Russell Simmons, summed up the tension best when he said:

Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we?[3]

Hip-hop came through and Ocean received words of support from some of its biggest names, from Jay-Z to 50 Cent and even one of the word "fag's" biggest fans, Tyler the Creator.[4]

Ocean is honest and forthright and possibly represents the complex, unsure and nuanced dynamic of religion and politics. They say these are the two topics you shouldn't talk about in polite company, but Ocean's willingness to be so outspoken is a sign of great courage.

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