In the late 2000s, a small collective of hip-hop artists created a group known as Odd Future. The group was known for being extremely eccentric, having beats and lyrics that were far from mainstream. The group was headed by Tyler, the Creator, who is notorious for doing some pretty ridiculous things, such as eating a cockroach for a music video. The group offered something different from the mainstream hip-hop of the time, which is why it appealed to the younger generations. It was a group of misfits, making music for misfits.
Frank Ocean was one of the members who specifically didn’t seem like the rest. His specialty was smooth vocals, as opposed to being able to flow quickly or add catchy lyrics. In 2012, Frank Ocean released his debut album Channel Orange, which was widely popular for his hit song “Thinking Bout You,” which offered a refreshing change of pace. It later became known that Frank was actually bisexual, which led to an interesting turn of events in the hip-hop community. Ultimately, Ocean was very much excepted, and even appreciated for being courageous enough to stand up for himself in an industry dominated by heterosexual males. However, it was a lot for Ocean to deal with. Ocean took a break from releasing music until 2016, where he released his second album, Blonde.
Upon the release of his second album, Ocean had become a superstar within the hip-hop community. He was collaborating with artists such as Kanye West, Calvin Harris and Jay-Z. Ocean’s influence is due in part to the fact that he offered something that no one else could: an emotional perspective. While artists like Drake and The Weeknd manage to portray emotion in their lyrics, the way Ocean does it is more than lyrical—he is a singer, not a rapper. He has the power to control the emotion in his voice and offer experimental sounds on tracks that have not existed until now. He rarely plays concerts, but when he does, they are something theatrical. Ocean has also tuned in to his creative side to go beyond music, and created a magazine titled ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ which features images curated by Ocean that have influenced him in his life and his music. He is also a modern day style icon, as he is one of the most uniquely appreciated artists. After wearing a shirt at a concert which read, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” the shirt went on to sell out in a matter of minutes.
Ocean’s uniqueness, passion and emotional connection to his music has changed the future of the hip-hop industry to come. We see more rappers being comfortable being themselves, such as the up and coming group BROCKHAMPTON, whose leader raps about being gay and discrimination he has faced on many tracks. Ocean has opened the door for many who are both artists and listeners in hip-hop, and the future of the industry will never be the same thanks to his courageous efforts.