Frank Ocean Releases "Channel Orange"
Frank Ocean's debut album, "Channel Orange" is a refreshing departure from the droll orthodoxy of recent pop/R&B/soul music. Wikipedia Commons

On July 4th, Frank Ocean dropped a bombshell on the hip-hop community when he (kind of) came out of the closet via Tumblr: The Novacane singer and talented protégé of Kanye West revealed that he fell in love with a man at the age of 19.

4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19. He was too, Ocean wrote.. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide.... Sleep I would often share with him.... There was no escaping. No negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love.

50 Cent made a public show of support in the wake of Ocean's statement, insisting that his music is what matters, not his presumed sexual preference.

Anyone that has an issue with Frank Ocean is an idiot, he told MTV UK. I think Frank Ocean is a talented artist, I think he's created material that made me know his name, that impressed me, with things he said on a song like 'Novacane.'

Hip-Hop mogul, Russell Simmons also voiced his support for Ocean. Simmons wrote a piece for Global Grind praising him for his bravery.

I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean, wrote Simmons. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do, and because of that I decided to write this short statement of support for one of the greatest new artists we have.

It seems that the hip-hop/R&B community is gradually becoming more conscious of the prejudices against homosexuality that exist. On Monday, the popular rapper Murs released a video for his song Animal Style, which chronicles a homosexual couple dealing with the pitfalls of being in an interracial relationship.

The video, set on a high school campus, has the feel of an instructional short film. It includes several shots of a budding same-sex romance-intercut with shots of Murs wearing a Legalize Gay t-shirt. As the video's plot unfolds, it's clear that one of the men is still in the closet. The conflict leads to an eruption of violence and verbal abuse.

For Murs, who is heterosexual, the video is an artistic means of presenting his own social commentary on bigotry.

'Animal Style' is a song I did for many reasons, said Murs via Youtube. The first was to be an advocate for people close to me who are out, and those who have yet to come out. It's also a love song, which is nothing new for me. But with this one I wanted to challenge the listener to ask themselves: Is the love shared by two people of the same gender, really that different than the love I have for my partner of the opposite sex?

It's not difficult to understand why Ocean's personal revelation has inspired other artists. His message to the public differs from the typical, PR tailored coming-out statement. More a stream of consciousness musing than a press release, the R&B sensation is thoughtfully recounting a sentimental moment.

In A Closer Look At Frank Ocean's Coming-Out Letter, Ann Powers compares his declaration of sexual preference to that of Anderson Cooper's and applauds Ocean's method of announcement.

There is another reason why Ocean can't be saddled with an easy label, and it points to an interesting aspect of his newly minted self-conception, Powers noted. In his note, instead of embracing an identity, Ocean shared a set of memories and explored complex feelings, just as he does in his songs. Unlike the standard coming out gesture ;-- newsman Anderson Cooper's public email to his friend Andrew Sullivan, 'The fact is, I'm gay' -- Ocean's presented sexuality as something that arises within particular circumstances, defined by shifting desire and individual encounters rather than solidifying as an identity' she continued.

In the age-old debate about whether sexuality emerges as something we are or through something we want or do, Ocean carefully rested on the side of feeling and deed.