A Few Thoughts on Frank Ocean ‘Coming Out’ -Don’t Forget Those Who Came Before Him

As Frank Ocean steps up and talks about being a bi-sexual, all sorts of folks are reacting and proving that no matter what folks say or think, there is still a fascination with the sexual preference of those who entertain us… On one level we can unpack that and ask whats really going here? It’s not like gay folks haven’t been around.. There’s something about gays in Hip Hop that touches a cord with folks..This more than most other topics seems deeply personal and each person will eventually have to grapple with why this garners strong reaction..

In Hip Hop and the music industry in general, we’ve long had folks with ‘colorful’ backgrounds. Some sold drugs. Others have been members of gangs. Some have been wife beaters, while others have murdered. And while I would never equate being gay w/ being ‘criminal’ or one expressing their sexuality with the activities mentioned above, it’s interesting to note how so many of us don’t seem to have the same fascination or supposed concern about what I mentioned vs Frank Ocean’s revelations. Him coming out should never have been a big deal. Sadly it is because there’s been a climate of intolerance, which makes someone speaking or expressing their personal truth in this arena noteworthy and in some instances even dangerous.

Frank Ocean

While its good that there are many who have publicly stated they don’t have a problem, they aren’t tripping and have given Frank Ocean kudos, there are still those who express anger, outrage while going all Biblical on folks… They are quick to tell you all about God’s commandments, ‘universal laws’ and what’s ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’. The contradiction is their deafening silence and in many cases acceptance of other acts and actions that seem to go against such laws and Biblical tenets. We can rap along and dance to misogyny, incarceration and other pathologies that compromise our collective humanity, but then wanna say the sky is falling because we have a LGBT community. The selective intolerance makes no sense.

With respect to those praising Frank Ocean for coming out there’s a few things to keep in mind. First, lets recognize that there have been LGBT folks in Hip Hop for a very long time.. many are framing this as the first time someone in Hip Hop has ‘come out’.. Frank may arguably be one of the most well known, but that shouldn’t erase history.  There are many LGBT artists and practioners who proceeded Ocean who are very outspoken and doing quite well for themselves in this culture called Hip Hop. Some are authors. Some are professors. Some are bloggers.. Some are program directors at major radio stations that play your records..Some are incredible organizers who speak out daily to injustices around them.. Most can rock a mic, rock the tables, hit up a wall or execute dope dance moves with the best of them..I think its important that we don’t rewrite history or ignore their tremendous contributions as they’ve been breaking serious ground for minute..

DJ Page Hodel is a ground breaking DJ on many fronts here in the Bay Area

Here in the Bay Area you had to be sleeping under a rock to not know about DJ Page Hodel who is openly Gay and pioneering figure. She was one of the first women nationally to do a mix show on commercial radio (KSOL)..We’re talking about mid 80s. She was no joke on the tables.. She threw a weekly club called The Box was to this day the longest running Hip Hop spot the Bay Area has ever had…It survived at a time when local police were aggressive about shutting down Hip Hop clubs and concerts. The Box was legendary, was always packed and was a place where many records were broken.. The mostly LGBT crowd was racially mixed and defied the stereotypes of who was into Hip Hop and who wasn’t. Hearing Page rock the tables was a treat, she used to rock a lot of joints that at the time had a harder edge. From 2 Live Crew to Big Daddy Kane, to Marley Marl to NWA and all the dope underground stuff..

Also on the radio in the 80s, was an openly gay cat named Dave Moss who was the Hip Hop buyer for the largest Tower Records in San Francisco. He had a lot of sway as to what records would be exposed to the buying public and he did not disappoint..He was true to the culture.  On air Moss was a beast. Whereas Page was prime time coming on at 5 in the afternoon, Moss was featured late nights on then emerging KMEL which would eventually become KSOL’s rival. Moss was allowed to dig deep in the crates and had everyone checking for him as he would rock vintage break beats and unreleased test pressings of everyone from Public Enemy to KRS-One.. Moss would later go onto to be an A&R rep for Profile Records which was home to Run DMC.. Also around that same time you had well respected deejays who were part of the LGBT community but did huge Hip Hop parties at straight clubs like DJ Blackstone and Neon Leon. As KMEL itself emerged to be one of the most influential Hip Hop stations in the country, during its hey days in the early to mid 90s, you had quite a few programmers and deejays within the LGBT community who played key roles helping break and exposing Hip Hop. Quite a few very popular Hip Hop acts owe their commercial success to some LGBT folks who embraced and pushed their music on those airwaves.

In the 90s we had Rainbow Flava a queer Hip Hop group that was breaking ground and making noise..They used to do some big parties, the name of their monthly event escapes me.. By 2000 out of Oakland, we had the forming of  DDC (Deep Dickollective ) with founding members Juba Kalamka, Tim’m T. West and Phillip Atiba Goff. They busted on the scene battling as they took on the folks from the spoken word scene and began mocking what they saw as pretentious posturing.They came to the table with keen intellect, skillz and brazen attitudes that demanded respect.

Pioneering group Deep Dickollective (DDC)

They used the name Deep Dickollective because there was a popular women’s spoken word group called Punany Poets and it was a good way to bring queerness to the center of the stage.. I recall Juba noting they didn’t want there to be any mistakes or misinterpretations..It was important for those cats to purposely hit Hip Hop’s third rail in the spirit of whoo-riding and taking space if none was given. They were all about challenging ‘lazy thinking about race, homosexuality and identity’..

Over the next 10 years DDC would encompass more members in a Wu-Tang like fashion.. In addition Kalamka, West and Goff, DDC also had Jeree Brown, Rashad Pridgen, Leslie Taylor, Ryan Burke, Baraka Noel and Marcus Rene’ Vanput. They put out several albums and was voted Best Hip Hop Group via the Bay Guardian in 2004. They were also founding members for a popular Oakland PeaceOUT Music festival which became a major hub for LGBT Hip Hop community all over the country. There was an accompanying festival back east.. They also formed their own record label Sugartruck Recordings where they released a number of recordings. Most recently some of their songs an lyrics were featured in the book Anthology of Rap.

Over the years we’ve seen a number of openly gay emcees hit the scene.. JenRo, Invincible, Katastrophe, Mistermaker, Cazwell, God-dess and She, Deadlee and Dutchboy just to name a few. Many of them were profiled in the 2006 documentary Pick up the Mic.. This is just a small list..

We could go on and on with history, theres so much to tell, but the point being made here its good Frank Ocean stepped up and out..It was courageous.  No one should be denied their humanity and their personal truths. Hopefully him being as popular and talented as he is, will open up more folks. At the same time, it’s equally important to understand that within Hip Hop there are many truths, many stories and lots of history yet to be told. We should be cautious about NOT erasing or ignoring the histories of marginalized groups.. Hip Hop came about because we as a group of people were ignored, demonized and marginalized. Why turn around and do that today? Why become like the institutions and forces we fought against?  I gave you a few names.. Hopefully all of us will reach out and create space at the table. LGBT folks especially those in Hip Hop aren’t going away anytime soon..

written by

Davey D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tkuUlAQhbY

A video from DDC co-founder Tim’m T. West

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYmHMKwifQI

Comments

  1. i was excited to read your take, but then quickly became disappointed from jump, when you started talking about gay hip hop artists. being bi is no way the same as being gay. the fact you equate ocean’s bisexuality with “being gay” highlights the importance of different folks embracing who they are in private and public spheres.

    and while you say you don’t equate the LGBT sexuality spectrum with being in a gang or being a dope dealer, just by placing them in the same breath you do create otherness around it…which is why people have more interest in this than you think they should.

  2. lol this is a stupid article Davey D. comparing Frank Ocean to these no names (they were no names then, they are all no names now) is insulting and hilarious. you are reaching for straws. hip hop has never embraced male gay rappers, and shouldnt have to if it doesnt want to. there doesnt need to be a reason to rewrite history to try and make it seem like anyone cared about these guys; we all know they never had national audiences or any clout whatsoever. and we should be okay with that. hip hop was what it was. good bad how ever people want to see it, I loved the music that I grew up on. it was bravado, it was pro masculinity, not anti gay, and there was nothing wrong with that. yea people said fag, but they also said nigga too. they also drank too. they also shot other black men in their records too. wrong or good, I loved it all. Id never give up the great redman verses for some politically correct nonsense they want now. take it or leave it.

    • Carlton its only stupid bc you cant read and missed the point.. First, what national audience are u talking about Carlton.. BET? MTV? Hot 97? What because you never heard of anything mentioned it doesn’t exist?. A million plus people showed up Gay Pride celebrations were u at those events? If you didn’t hear about it does it mean it wasn’t viable? Obviously there’s an audience.. You might not be included in that audience..

      second, not once did I ever say Hip Hop has embraced gay male rappers..I did say that there was a history and a info on a vibrant scene.. Frank coming out is not the first time its happened and for those who are interested and feel its great thing, they were given a bit more info.. If that’s not for you homie, that’s fine..Your argument made my point..The fact u felt a need to be so reactionary speaks volumes..

  3. Yvonne I’ll be the first to admit I’m no expert.. I will also say, that depending on who I speak with folks have a variety of takes on how they define themselves who identify as part of LGBT community.. This story has been presented as Frank ‘coming out’.. I know there are lots of takes on what that means and if he even really came out.. which is why I put quotations around that.. The larger issue at hand whether he’s gay, bi or any other label we wanna put to it, there’s a significant public who are reacting in a negative discriminatory way and that’s what I’m addressing . Second my comparison was directed at those who have and continue to express outrage and use a morality test to justify discrimination.. So yes, they do as exactly as described.. embrace some very real pathologies and then get upset around the issues of one’s sexual orientation.. So that comparison is a direct challenge and highlighting of their contradictions..

    As I said in the piece, Frank has ever right to his own personal truths and should not be denied that.. If I missed something then I’ll learn a few things when I read ur essay on this..

  4. Reblogged this on bunita muhe loko.

  5. Thanks for remembering and reminding people of the history, Davey D. Another early hip-hop musician who is openly gay – Man Parrish.

  6. Leroy Moore says:

    Thanks for remembering history and some people who laid the foundation small or large. Mainstream Hip-Hop/culture lately thinks they invented stuff. Just like many Blind Blues artists back in the day who laid the foundation for all of us but still get no love as they die in nursing homes, will that continue to happen to Hip-Hop elders. Like some authors of these stupid comments will get older and will be toss into the garbage of yesterday then it will hit them. Anyway yes great article and love the statement: “We should be cautious about NOT erasing or ignoring the histories of marginalized groups.. Hip Hop came about because we as a group of people were ignored, demonized and marginalized. Why turn around and do that today?” We do this because it doesn’t hit us. Read some Blind Blues artists books and you will see the same cycle. Yes, I’m glad he, Frank is out but more important I hope he learns from our Blues elders’ mistakes or how the system pimped them and follow what Curtis Mayfield did and that is own your own rights to his/Frank’s music and put some bling bling money away so he can live semi well when the 2 second mainstream labels go off to the next hot thang, that is what we should be talking about but I guess that is too deep.

    Leroy Moore

  7. increidble post. If only I came across it yesterday I would have reblogged. Again, the anti-sexual agenda ys “coming out.”
    This seems to change the meaning of the term “Novacaine.”

  8. B/C bi-sexuality or same sex relations, and particularly between men, is frowned upon in what’s presented to be a patriarchal culture, people would be surprised to find out that many of their so-called favorite rappers or emcees fall in that category. I was surprised to know, when I found out. Remember, there are different rules for men and women in this genre, of which I speak to some extent in my recent first publication [Hip Hop and the Art of Peace Education]. We may also note that Frank is a singer and more in the R&B genre than hip hop, per se. We might recall a number of R&B artists over the years who are openly into same sex relations or who are highly suspect of it. Frank “coming out” will not garner the same response from the masses as if say Wayne or Jay-Z [and do not misread me; I'm not claiming that these two are] declared such to be their sexual orientation. The reader might ask themselves, why is that?

    • Saylove I agree and you’re right.. I been in this industry for over 25 years and during that time there are quite a few folks who you see on their off hours.. The unwritten rule is there are some things u simply do not broadcast.. Luther Vandross is a great example.. We knew Luther was gay.. He was actually pretty transparent about it.. But no one ever went on the air and announced it..There are certain rappers who have been at our concerts who backstage you see whats really going on.. Again u didn’t out them.. Same thing in Hollywood.. Call it a professional courtesy.. Why ruin careers? I know all my old bosses were gay.. In fact if you really wanna get down to it a substantial amount of the brain trust behind some of the biggest stations back in the days were part of LGBT community..Some our out others have kinda kept it to themselves.. But its funny when you see folks react all crazy.. and your thinking to yourself.. wow they have this uber anti-gay attitude when it was gay folks all up in the mix behind their favorite song or artist.. With respect to Frank.. Like I said earlier its good he found strength to speak his personal truth… At the same time.. its important that folks began to go a bit deeper in the history..While Frank may be what some describe and R&B singer, he’s still part of the Hip Hop generation.. and is aligned with rappers like Odd Future.. We knew him thru that arena as opposed to a Luther who we knew via the quiet storm arena..

  9. vbrizzles says:

    To add to this discussion, I think its important to highlight New Orleans’ Sissy Bounce…don’t sleep its been a movement in the deep south

    • Yes indeed Vbrizzle.. I completely forgot about Sissy Bounce.. There are lots of names and places to cite.. that’s major one…

  10. Thank you Davey D for the mention! IT feels great to help pave the way for many out artists out today. Davey D has alway been a true supporter and I thank you.
    -JENRO

  11. “like”

  12. Oh & we could post our students’ guides to LBGTQI Hiphop here, too!!

  13. Davey D – appreciate the mention too – and Mr @americanwaybro Tell young LGBT men & women who have told me I saved their lives for being an out rapper that my NO NAME hasn’t made a difference! Maybe you didn’t listen to Howard Stern watch CNN See VIBE , ROLLING STONE , SPIN – LGBT rappers have been talked about & played Prides & universities around the world! The climate is different now , and a lot of people took the lead of Prez Obama and his Pro Gay rights stand but some of us took the lead years ago! WE are LEADERS and not Followers! Sometimes those that pave the road don’t get the credit but next time you drive down the freeway remember you wouldn’t be able to if someone didn’t build it for you! WE are the foundation and were around being TRUE when it wasn’t “in” to be “out”

  14. me myself and I says:

    Sad that the list is so short, but I didn’t see Missy Elliott in there. She was a pretty big name in hiphop.

  15. Davey D,
    People are fascinated with this issue because homosexuality, for the most part, is a taboo subject. We all seem to have some type of fascination with something society holds as taboo. The “colorful backgrounds” you mentioned, though most are illegal acts, aren’t taboo. Unfortunately, they’re just common occurrences, many of which publicly happen and/or are discussed daily. For the point I’m making, homosexuality is in the same bag as topics like porn, satanism, incest, slavery, pedophilia, marijuana, cannibalism, etc. They’re all subjects that, from a collective society’s perspective, are publicly frowned upon. However, many people (including many of the frowners) can personally relate to and/or are highly interested in them, and will quickly tune in when any of those topics hit the various media outlets (especially if it deals with a public figure). There seems to be a “fear of the unknown” and a “fascination with the forbidden” that has been around almost since the beginning of humans.

    Today, especially in America, we’re literally and figuratively being constantly programmed to live vicariously through the media driven creations that are aimed at our five senses. Though there is a much, much higher level of acceptance of alternative lifestyles, and laws are changing, they are still just that, alternative, not the norm. The overwhelming collective consciousness is still “pro traditional heterosexual” (but not necessarily anti homosexual). So whenever someone “comes out”, whether average Joe or celebrity, it’ll always garner attention. Think about the openly gay people in your school, on your block, at your job, at your church, in your family, etc. They all get ostracized in some way, or at the very least, they get dirty looks and/or gossiped about. This is what happens when someone does or expresses something in a society where that something is publicly frowned upon. That’s why there’s so many homosexual average Joes and celebrities who stay in the closet (helping to keep up the pro traditional collective consciousness).

    The contradiction you write of does exist, and I’m glad you brought it out. It’s like people who selectively complain about their tax dollars at work, but don’t vote. They ignore government processes daily, but become pissed off experts when they damage their car on a pothole on their block. It’s a programmed response!!!

    jubiq

  16. All my years listening to Hip-Hop I never cared if anyone was gay or not. Why should we care now? Why do artist think we care who they sexing? People want to hear the music not what man you in love with. Dear gay people, we don’t care about your sex life. Live your life and be happy. Stop telling us things we don’t want to hear like I’m gay. The fact that you have to mention it shows signs of insecurity. We are here to create, and make this place a better place. Sex is dividing us more than we know.

    • Mr wow would that include the hundreds of artists who do songs..about their sexual exploits with women? or the numerous female artists who have bragged about how they get down in song?

  17. DJ Baker of Da Doo-Dirty Show says:

    David D;

    First I have appreciated your support since the beginning.. And I appreciate you mentioning all the LGBT rappers that I have supported, and the reason I have the longest running LGBT Hip Hop Urban Daily Radio Show on the planet.. If some of the readers don’t know them its because they chose not to pay Attention… Like Deadlee said Rolling Stone, Howard Stern, Tyra Banks, most recently Vibe.com, Essence.com, Ebony.com also Sirius/XM Drama King. It’s understandable if you are not open to it, why most people don’t know these names. But from Deadlee, JenRo, Tori Fixx, Foxxjazell, and Tim’m West are just the tip of the iceberg. I would love to have you on my show David when I come back off hiatus to talk more in detail about the history of Out Hip Hop.. This is the best account of Frank Ocean coming out I have read yet!! Da Doo-Dirty Show will always be all about Out Hip Hop and giving them platforms to be heard!! Thanks D!

  18. johnny wishbone says:

    hip hop is for straight people.. from the days of fly guys grab a GIRL to fly girls grab a guy in the earliest hip hop songs.. its OUR music as it were. thats why people have to hide if they are gay in the music.. you want hip hop? its hetero.. is it inclusive of drug dealers and misogynyst lyrics? NOPE.. thats NOT HIP HOP.. thats music with a hip hop feel designed to help subjugate its black, brown and poor audience.. the OPPOSITE of what hip hop is supposed to do.. its like christianity.. its not supposed to be all inclusive .. its supposed to have people who are not part of it.. and when it got bastardized it helped subjugate and know this.. the homo component that is being introduced is part of the subjugation.

    • Nope Johnny.. that’s not true at all… first of all Hip Hop uses music made by everyone including beats made by quite a few gay folks.. The early art scene that Hip Hop was very much a part of when it was all up in the village had all sorts of LGBT folks involved..Were talking early Hip Hop right Johnny? What about Malcolm mcLaren and his songs Buffalo Gals and Hobo Scratch..one of the earliest and most dominant Hip Hop records that introduced us to scratching on vinyl.. Malcolm was gay.. A lot of what he did borrowed from gay culture.. As far as what Hip Hop included or didn’t include.. I suggest u read the interview w/ Coke La Rock who lays out who exactly was part of the culture back in the days.. http://www.thafoundation.com/coke.htm

  19. Tori Fixx says:

    Davey D. Thank you for this piece. Though it is both informative and thought provoking for many. I appreciate that it is causing dialogue and bringing even more awareness to our scene. Again, much appreciation.

  20. Reblogged this on Watch Ya Step, Kid and commented:
    “Hip Hop came about because we as a group of people were ignored, demonized and marginalized. Why turn around and do that today? Why become like the institutions and forces we fought against?”

  21. Good stuff, enjoyed this post a great deal.
    The truth is, homosexuality is practised in hip-hop and practised a lot.
    At least I experienced it that way in New York and in places like Cleveland.
    I never went West Coast.
    Homosexual activity, and very deep bonding happens.
    The thing is – the identification as gay is stigmatised. And it’s harmful to career.
    So it happens in this strange bubble – like what is, is not.
    There is no engagement around the relationship that is happening AND if it’s kept that way, it can survive.
    The minute it is seen as a relationship using the terms that define relationships with women, boom.

    Anyway, this was really well written, really good reading.
    http://kolembo.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/nigger-whore-bitch/

  22. Krushworld says:

    Davey you really seem homo sensitive….. I’m hip hop and homo-like things aren’t hip hop at all, not to the core at least. We in hip hop, along with everyone else are getting flooded with this gay onslaught. I’m sick of it. Hell I dont even know who frank ocean is……

    • Krushworld if homo sensitive means I defend against those who are being dehumanized because of who they are, then yeah.. call me homo sensitive..As for Hip Hop its about expression and creativity.. If its about that there should be no issue at all as to who one is attractive to or who one sleeps with..If anything one should be encouraged to express those feelings in their ‘art’.. As for the gay onslaught.. well perhaps the quicker we start recognizing folks for their humanity then there will be less of a need for folks to stand up and demand they not be treated less then human.. Frank Ocean is a dope singer…

  23. It’s real cool how you backtracked other artists who have expressed their sexual preference in Hip Hop. Personally I agree it shouldn’t be a big deal as it’s nothing new. I mean didn’t Mister Cee get caught with a man last year, obviously it’s not the same as openly admitting you like men like Ocean did but it’s still verification that this isn’t brand new. People shouldn’t be so shocked to know that black men are bisexual & gay. Frank Ocean never portrayed himself as some Casonova to begin with, his music is incredible and is the only reason such interest has gone into it. For those who believe it was a gimmick they have to understand that Ocean has been on the radar for almost a year now, outlets were already anticipating his album, he was already going to have hype surrounding him, he already had buzz and backing from some of the biggest stars in the business. Of course his letter catapulted his name further but I think Nas was right when he said in an interview that now more people are listening to his music for the wrong reasons.

    However most importantly for me is that people shouldn’t default sexual preference on the basis that they’re from the Hip Hop community so that automatically signs them off as straight, it’s silly. Anyway I really enjoyed the post, thanks for the lil hip hop history lesson.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] its most commercially successful artists (and many fans). As DJ and hip-hop journalist Davey D points out, this history includes repeated attempts to erase and forget LGBT hip-hop artists. But beyond that [...]

  2. [...] a many commercially successful artists (and many fans). As DJ as well as hip-hop publisher Davey D points out, this story includes steady attempts to erase as well as dont consider about LGBT hip-hop artists. [...]

  3. [...] A Few Thoughts on Frank Ocean ‘Coming Out’ -Don’t Forget Those Who Came Before Him [...]

  4. [...] among a many commercially successful artists (and many fans). As DJ and hip-hop publisher Davey D points out, this story includes steady attempts to erase and forget LGBT hip-hop artists. But over that [...]

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