NEW ORLEANS — It may have come as a surprise, but after Frank Ocean made the Fourth of July revelation that his first brush with true love had been with a man, rappers from Mobb Deep's Prodigy to 50 Cent expressed not just support but were quick to note they were fans of the "Novacane" singer.
While hip-hop has had a reputation for being homophobic, R&B hasn't exactly laid out a rainbow welcome mat when it comes to guys who don't necessarily make songs for women. In fact, before Ocean's disclosure, we scratched our heads and couldn't come up with a precedent. The predominantly female R&B fanbase demands boyfriend swag, which is predicated on being able to project your boy-meets-girl fantasy onto your favorite singer (think Usher or Trey Songz). With that in mind, we thought it'd be interesting to ask card-carrying crooners how they reacted to the news.
MTV News touched down in New Orleans for the Essence Music Festival — just a day after the Odd Future singer posted that game-changing note to his Tumblr — and we spoke to rhythm-and-blues vets like Tank, Carl Thomas and 112 alum Q (as well as a pair of femcees) and got them to open up about Ocean.
"I don't think it does anything, it doesn't make him any more or less talented," Tank told us of F.O.'s decision to go public about his sexuality. "I mean, if anything, I'm proud of him, you know what I mean?" the chiseled "Please Don't Go" singer added. "That he can be himself and be free and not have to ... duck and dodge and worry about who's saying this and [their] opinions."
Pioneering rapper/actress MC Lyte echoed Tank's sentiments, saying, "That's his life and I don't think one has to do with the other." She went on to add that Frank's candor could have a positive influence, but she also predicted he'll have "some naysayers." "Hopefully, it'll free some people up, you know?" Lyte said. "But he's such a talented guy, what he brings to music, and his creativity — his level of creativity — [that his sexuality] doesn't matter."
"Everybody is free to express whatever they have going on, whether that's, you know, any personal feelings about anything," a dapper Q said when asked about the Channel Orange singer. "If that's what he wants to let everybody know, then good job for him."
Like ex-Bad Boy Records singer Q, Eve hadn't heard about Ocean's revelatory liner notes when we caught up with her that weekend, but she had a "to each his own" outlook.
"I think he is very talented, I think he's dope, I think his choices are his choices, and I think he didn't need to confess but if he felt like it — hey, to each his own," Eve said. "The way that the music is right now, it's so open anyway."
Carl Thomas, whose Bad Boy album Emotional was bursting with hypnotic bedroom tracks when it dropped back in 2000, knows a thing or two about a classic soul track. Thomas professed his love for Ocean's 2011 breakout single, explaining that was far more important to him than who the 24-year-old had spent a handful of summers with.
"I don't think that someone's sexual preference has a bearing on the music or their level of conviction," the "I Wish" belter said. "God bless the brother, you know, I think he's incredibly talented. I loved the single 'Novacane' when I first heard it. In order to hit the kind of notes that he was hitting on that record, you know, you have to come from a different perspective, and I've appreciated everything I've heard to this point.
"As far as me judging his personal life, I don't really think that's necessary," he continued. "He puts the music out, I'll judge the music, but no different than anyone else would."
What do you think of Frank's Channel Orange? Share your thoughts and reviews in the comments!