R&B crooner/songwriter Frank Ocean released his debut album Channel Orange this week (last week in a digital format) to stellar reviews, reaching number one on iTunes immediately after its release on Monday night and ending up taking the second spot on the Billboard charts after it’s release online last week. The artist not only released his album a week early, but also told the world a story about his first love being a guy on his Tumblr page. The story was not only beautifully written, but its affect has also showed how much the hip-hop community is changing.
Many people were in support of Ocean, seeing him for the artist that he is and not his sexual preference, and some saw it as a marketing ploy. Either way, he had a slew of celebs and fans behind him, and sold a great deal of albums in the process. While Ocean may be the first R&B singer to openly talk about his preference (he never defined if he was gay or bisexual), in the past, some artists have waited to reveal their sexual preferences, had speculation surround them for their entire careers or had their sexuality used as a way to get attention. Some artists have walked away from the industry, stayed and battled accusations, and others have seen more success from the speculation or their big reveals. Take a look at a few…
R&B singer Tevin Campbell was introduced to the world by Grammy winning producer Quincy Jones in 1989 with his first single “Tomorrow (A Better You a Better Me)” topping the Billboard R&B Charts. A teen idol in his own right, Campbell also achieved success with the singles “Can We Talk,” “Tell Me What You want Me To Do,” and “Ready.” Though their were murmurs about his sexuality before the fact, people really started speculating after an arrest in 1999 where he was caught by an undercover male cop soliciting “lewd acts.” He plead no contest to the charges, paid his fines, and had to attend Narcotics Anonymous classes as well as an AIDS awareness course, but his career fell off at that point. While many people believe that he is openly gay, in an interview he claims that he could care less what people think of his sexuality. Well, at least he stands out now.
“That’s nobody’s business. If someone is interested in me and they wanna be my friend or whatever, then we can talk. It’s nobody’s business what I like to do behind closed doors, ……And I like the fact that people wanna know. Let ‘em wonder. I like to leave a little bit to the imagination. But if you happen to get to know me and we hit it off… I share a lot of personal things with friends, which is a normal thing to do.”
The rapper, singer, songwriter, actress and owner of many more hats has been constantly bugged with lesbian rumors for most of her career. Some of her best work includes her debut album All Hail the Queen, Black Reign, an Oscar nomination for her role as “Mama” in Chicago, the production company Flavor Unit Studios and the popular TV show “Single Ladies.” While some say the CoverGirl isn’t officially out because she hasn’t confirmed or denied it, she has been seen canoodling with trainer Jeanette Jenkins over the years. Though it’s something that people often bring up when Latifah discusses her plans for children and anything personal, I’m pretty sure there’s no way it can break her empire. At this point, I think people just want to see Queen La happy.
RuPaul, singer, actor and creator of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” was never forced to come out, as he already was, but forced to play into a certain stereotype. When his career took off in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the singer had two successful albums- Supermodel of the World, and Foxy Lady. While these did great on the Dance Charts, Ru was creating his brand with TV shows, huge endorsement deals with M.A.C. and appearing in several movies. When he decided to release another album in 2004 entitled Red Hot, Ru claims that people (mainly the gay community actually) refused to review the album so no one virtually knew about it.
“Betrayed might be the wrong word. ‘Betrayed’ alludes to an idea that there was some kind of a promise made to me, and there never was. More so, I was disappointed. I don’t feel like it was a betrayal. Nobody promises anything in show business and you understand that from day one. But, I don’t know what happened. It seemed I couldn’t get press on my album unless I was willing to play into the role that the mainstream press has assigned to gay people, which is as servants of straight ideals.”
Today, Ru has the success of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “DragU” for introducing him to a whole new generation. His latest album Glamazon debuted at number 11 and number 8 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Albums and Top Heatseekers charts, in May 2011. The digital album sold 2,000 copies, Ru’s highest first-week sales since 1997.
When it comes to your sexuality and the music industry there is always a battle. Many people in the LGBT community feel this way about R&B/Jazz singer Me’Shell Ndegeocello. The singer was the first female to be signed to Madonna’s Maverick music label and just 18 years old when she hit success with the Grammy-nominated single “If That’s Your Boyfriend (He Wasn’t Last Night).” With eight albums under her belt, she still hasn’t broken into the mainstream. Why? Because being labeled as a bi-sexual almost hurt her career. In an interview she did with AfterEllen.com, she said she felt that her sexuality was brought up more than her music was:
“I feel like my sexuality preceded my music for a long time. It was used as a marketing tool in the beginning, pretty blatantly, and I didn’t really get it at the time. I was just out. I didn’t realize it was a selling point and it took a lot of years to get any sense of privacy back into my life, where people didn’t feel entitled to talk to me about who I was having sex with, as if it weren’t a personal question.”
The singer of famous love songs such as “You Are My Lady” and “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake)” had his career riddled with accusations that he was gay, even if his classic tracks were ones dedicated to the sistas. According to Zimbio, there were even rumors spread for a while that his drastic weight loss was attributed to the fact that he could possibly have contracted AIDS. However, Jackson refuted that claim, saying he just went on a healthy diet to get his weight in control. And he finally addressed the gay rumors during his episode of TV One’s “Unsung,” where he pretty much made it seem that he was, without just going ahead and saying so. Beating around the bush, indeed:
Remember when Nicki Minaj used to talk about having sex with girls in her earlier mixtapes? No? Well before the Nicki went pop she went lesbian…then bisexual–at least in her songs. Minaj gained a large gay fan base in the beginning of her career in 2009, (also rumors of links to Rihanna, Amber Rose, and Remy Ma) even saying that she was a gay rapper last year, but it seems as though that image has been watered down because of her new fan base. Or better yet, maybe it was a lie to gain a larger fan base. To those of the LGBT community, the way she throws the titles around isn’t really helping the cause, but saying she was definitely helped her career.
For many years, people speculated about the sexuality of one of R&B’s greatest voices. There were very few music videos of the singer crooning to women, and people who called themselves friends of the singer publicly said he was struggling to live his life the way he wanted because of his worries of public opinion. In an Out magazine article, writer Bruce Vilanch had the following to say: “He had very few sexual contacts…He was way ‘in’ (the closet). He said to me, ‘No one knows I’m in the life.'” No matter what people thought of Vandross’ sexuality, it didn’t seem to have an effect on the fans he had or the albums he was able to sell. His talents were just too great to be overshadowed by rumors, even if they followed him to the grave.
While I’m a fan of hip hop newcomer Azealia Banks, it seems like she is rubbing almost everyone the wrong way. In a spread Banks did for the Life and Style section of the New York Times, the writer states that Banks is bisexual but claims the rapper said, “I’m not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don’t live on other people’s terms.'” While this hasn’t helped or hurt her career as of yet, it did raise eyebrows about females and the notion that she may be saying it for attention.
Since it has been done before it can’t be put past her because of what record labels want you to portray to pull fans. While her career is just getting started, it looks like there isn’t any damage…yet.
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