In less than a week, a concrete ceiling has been semi-demolished; it used to separate the societal perception of what constitutes manhood among black men and the homophobic and misogynistic hip-hop culture, but now the two are blurring. All thanks to Frank Ocean and Soulja Boy. The Twitterverse and all of the feminists/womanists/intellectuals/and the pseudo literati are rejoicing at these two small steps for mankind and one major step for the seemingly unchanging hip-hop landscape.
This progress is due to two unrelated, but significant events that have changed the conversation about what “tendencies” are acceptable from those immersed in the culture. Let’s start with budding R&B and soul phenom, Frank Ocean, shall we? The poet, songwriter, and crooner, whose credits include a rare feature on the Watch the Throne album, released a thoughtfully-penned Tumblr post. Outside of aweing us with his amazing use of language, fans and foes paused and pondered his decision to speak about the first love of his life – who happens to be a man. The bombshell, which was quietly released on Twitter with the introduction “God was right – we’re all a bunch of golden million dollar babies…” instantly sparked dialogue about how hip-hop and homosexuality or bisexuality can co-exist.
Then, there’s Soulja Boy, a tattooed-face rapper, that we never suspected would be prominent in the smashing of the proverbial ceiling. The tears that rolled down his face as Cissy Houston paid tribute to Whitney at the BET Awards were a defiant symbol of everything that his musical genre doesn’t represent: raw emotion, caving to pain, and shedding tears to move past grief. The woman-stealer (hello Diamond!) broke that barrier with a single vulnerable moment – which the BET cameras couldn’t help but capture.
As these two separate events unfolded, people watched, ridiculed, applauded, condemned, and analyzed their decisions; their displays of contrasting emotions are rooted in an authentic need to embrace who they are at the core of their beings. While some praised Soulja and Ocean, others ridiculed them – with MediaTakeOut even referring to the latter as a “down low” brother, a title that comes with stigmas and angry black women with pitchforks.