Music Review: Frank Ocean channel ORANGE

Whether or not Frank Ocean’s recent coming out is a game-changer in the hip-hop world (and it certainly feels like it might be), that should in no way detract from his superb new release, channel ORANGE. Sure, there are the two songs that deal directly in the homo vernacular—the ruminative “Bad Religion,” wherein Ocean makes a real taxi-cab confession to a Muslim cabbie; and “Forrest Gump,” a love “so buff and so strong,” Ocean can’t forget him. And though it’s liberating to hear a soul man sing openly of his feelings—sexual or otherwise—to another man, it’d also be limiting to insist this is all Ocean is or can be about. His love song about the conception of a child, “Sierre Leone,” is as erotic as his same-sex jams. Elsewhere he observes the social life around him like the best rappers of the last 30 years. A SoCal transplant from Louisiana, the life he sees includes both the “Super Rich Kids” who’ve got “too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce” and the meth-cooking single mother of “Lost.” Gay or straight, whatever—Ocean’s the real thing, a great artist. channel ORANGE is the best hip-hop release of 2012 thus far.

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