Since its inception, the Odd Future collective has been criticized for its often harshly homophobic and misogynistic lyricism. So it's slightly startling that in a surprising admission early this morning, the group's Frank Ocean, who releases his first full-length solo album Channel Orange on July 17, has revealed that his first true romance was with another man.
Describing a profound but one-sided love affair that unfolded over three years, Ocean published an emotional, public letter on his Tumblr account and website on Independence Day, noting that by discussing the relationship, which began when he was 19, he feels like a "free man.
In the lengthy story, detailing the shift from friendship to sexual attraction to love, Ocean writes, "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."
Unfortunately, there was an unrequited slant to the relationship, Ocean continues, saying, "He wouldn't tell me the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I kept up a peculiar friendship with him because I couldn't imagine keeping up my life without him."
He poignantly observes: "To my first love, I'm grateful for you. Grateful that even though it wasn't what I hoped for and even though it was never enough, it was. Some things never are ... and we were."
Ocean, who has also written songs for Beyoncé and is considered a protégé of Kanye West, has been widely praised for his candid confession, a brave, even groundbreaking one for the hip hop community. Russell Simmons writes on Global Grind on Wednesday that Ocean has just "changed the game" with his admission. "I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean," continues Simmons. "Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear."
Fellow Odd Future member Tyler the Creator also tweeted his support, saying that he was "proud" of Ocean. Well, he said much more, mostly profanity-laced but affectionate, all of which can be read more fully here.
There is speculation that Ocean felt it was time to respond to rumors after blogger and BBC 1Xtra personality Max discussed some of his upcoming songs on Channel Orange, like "Bad Religion" or "Pink Matter" that she felt were lyrically open about a same-sex relationship.
Below, check out Ocean's smooth and rapturous song "Sweet Life," the second track leaked from Channel Orange.