Dream Hampton's Thank-You to Frank Ocean
In a heartfelt letter grounded in the perspective of cultural commentator and longtime hip-hop insider, Dream Hampton took to Jay-Z's Life & Times to thank singer Frank Ocean for opening up about his sexuality. In it, the journalist and co-author of Jay-Z's Decoded places Ocean's brave choice both in the context of the black music community's relationship with the sexual orientation of its artists, and in that of the larger shared human experience of falling in and out of love ("The male pronoun of the object of your desire," she writes, " is practically incidental.")
Although she makes certain to acknowledge that Ocean isn't an activist, for Hampton the bottom line is this: "We are all made better by your decision to share publicly." Read an excerpt here:
Your relieving yourself of your "secret" is as much about wanting to honestly connect as it is about exhibition. We are all made better by your decision to share publicly.
You and Anderson Cooper have the same coming out calendar week in common, but in many obvious ways, you couldn't be more different. Anderson Cooper is an heir to one of America's great Industrial Age fortunes and a network professional whose maleness and whiteness backed by his considerable accomplishments guarantee him work. You are a young Black man from New Orleans who fled your still struggling city. You didn't arrive in Los Angeles with generational wealth and privilege, only the beautiful lyrics and melodies that danced through you and your dream of making it in a music industry whose sand castles were crumbling.
You are in fact, connected to one of hip-hop's great cadres, in the tradition of Oakland's Heiroglyphics, The Native Tongues and The Juice Crew. Your music family, like all the rest, will likely grow apart, but in this moment Odd Future bends hip-hop's imagination with utter abandon. You fulfill hip-hop's early promise to not give a fuck about what others think of you. The 200 times Tyler says "faggot" and the wonderful way he held you up and down on Twitter today, Syd the Kid's sexy stud profile and her confusing, misogynistic videos speak to the many contradictions and posturing your generation inherited from the hip-hop generation before you. I'm sure you know a rumor about Big Daddy Kane having AIDS and with it, the suggestion that he was bisexual, effectively ended his career. You must have seen the pictures of pioneer Afrika "Baby Bam" from the Jungle Brothers in drag and read the blogs ridiculing him, despite the fact that he's been leading a civilian life for nearly two decades. I know as a singer you love Rahsaan Patterson and bemoan the fact that homophobia prevented him from being the huge star his talent deserves. Only last month Queen Latifah unnecessarily released a statement denying that her performing at a Gay Pride event meant she was finally affirming her identity for thousands of Black girls. Imagine if Luther had been able to write, as you closed your letter, "I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore ... I feel like a free man."
Read more at Life & Times.