Bill Wolff: Hello, and welcome back to Protest Anthems about all things music, protest, and social justice. In this episode, we will listen to Julia discuss Frank Ocean’s Chanel and the context in which it was made; culturally, socially, and personally.

Narrator (Julia Olaguer): On March 10th of 2017, during the second episode of his radio show, Frank Ocean premiered his new single Chanel. He proceeded to play Chanel on a loop for the following hour, including slight variations and one added verse by A$AP rocky.
Chanel by Frank Ocean:


My guy pretty like a girl
And he got fight stories to tell
I see both sides like Chanel
See on both sides like Chanel

Narrator: Ocean’s male partner seems to have feminine features, but also a history of performative masculinity in the form of fighting.  Frank compares these this duality to the Chanel logo which is comprised of two Cs facing opposite directions.  Frank could also be highlighting his attraction to both men and women, using the Chanel logo to represent a different duality in this life and as a symbol of bisexuality.  To top it all off, the last lyric sounds like “C on both sides like Chanel” as if he is just describing the Chanel logo.

Chanel by Frank Ocean:    Swimmin’ laps through pool water
                                              Heated like I’m underworld


Frank Ocean held a listening party for his album Channel Orange in 2012, which raised questions from those around him about many lyrics that were addressed to a male lover. After the listening party, on July 3rd, Frank Ocean wrote a two paragraph letter to his fans on Tumblr opening up about his sexuality and attractions.

This is a condensed version of his letter.

what i’m about to post is for anyone who cares to read. it was intended to fill the thank you’s section in my album credits, but with all the rumors going round.. I figured it’d be good to clarify…

Whoever you are. Wherever you are… I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike. Human beings spinning on blackness. All wanting to be seen, touched, heard, paid attention to. My loved ones are everything to me here. In the last year or 3 I’ve screamed at my creator, screamed at clouds in the sky, for some explanation.

4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence…until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life. Back then, my mind would wander to the women I had been with, the ones I cared for and thought I was in love with. I reminisced about the sentimental songs I enjoyed when I was a teenager.. The ones I played when I experienced a girlfriend for the first time. I realised they were written in a language I did not yet speak. I realised too much, too quickly.

I sat there and told my friend how I felt. I wept as the words left my mouth. I grieved for them, knowing I could never take them back for myself. He patted my back. He said kind things. He did his best, but he wouldn’t admit the same. He had to go back inside soon, it was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs. He wouldn’t tell the truth about his feelings for me for another 3 years. I felt like I’d only imagined reciprocity for years.

I struggled to master myself and my emotions. I wasn’t always successful

By now I’ve written two albums. This being the second. I wrote to keep myself busy and sane. I wanted to create worlds that were rosier than mine. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions. I’m surprised at how far all of it has taken me.

I don’t know what happens now, and that’s alrite. I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore. There’s probably some small shit still, but you know what I mean. I was never alone, as much as it felt like it.

I’ve never had more respect for life and living than I have right now.

To my mother. You raised me strong. I know I’m only brave because you were first. So thank you. All of you. For everything good. I feel like a free man. If I listen closely.. I can hear the sky falling too



Three years later, same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States.

Clip of cheers: 

Same-Sex Marriage is Legal:


Chanel’s first verse continues with

Chanel by Frank Ocean:

Police think I’m of the underworld / 12 treat a nigga like he twelve.” 

Narrator: 12 is a popular slang term for the police, and Ocean is saying here that even though he is a critically acclaimed artist, the police are still talking to him and treating him as if he were 12 years old, highlighting that fame is not a remedy to racial profiling.  There is also speculation that this line is an allusion of Tamir Rice, who was 12-years-old when he was shot by the police in 2014 because they mistook his air-soft gun for a real firearm.

Pulse Shooting:

Narrator: In June of 2016, a 29-year-old man entered the LGBTQ+ nightclub Pulse with a rifle and a pistol, killing 49 people and wounding 53. This attack became the deadliest incident in the history of violence against LGBTQ+ people in the United States, and the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11. Outside of the Pulse shooting, more than 1,000 LGBTQ+ lives were lost to incidents of hate violence from 2015-2016.

A few months later, Moonlight, written by Tarell McCraney and Barry Jenkins, follows the life of gay Chiron in Miami and the mental, emotional, and physical abuse he receives. Moonlight tackles the inner diversity and turmoil that comes with being a black gay man. Barry Jenkins dives further into what this means.

Barry Jenkins:

You know I just want people to maybe through these characters understand how the world can affect some of these kids that grew up in this community like Tyrell and I did. And how it can promote the idea of performing this version of masculinity that isn’t truly who these men are, you know? And sometimes can lead you to become something that you aren’t necessarily.

Narrator: 15 lines down, still in the first verse Frank says

Chanel by Frank Ocean:

Got one that’s straight actin’

  Turnt out like some dirty plastic (Ride)

Narrator: Straight acting is when a person attracted to the same gender does not act according to the stereotypical mannerisms expected of their sexuality.  Ocean reemphasizes his feminine gay lover putting up a front of hyper-masculinity and Frank is the only person who can see the other side.  Frank wants his partner to “turnt out” (open up) and embrace their sexuality.  Frank’s social critiques come from his personal experiences, but are relatable for many people, especially the younger generations who are learning who they are and how to accept who they are.  Frank Ocean in many ways is a voice and simultaneous role model for many people struggling with their identity and relationships.

Chanel by Frank Ocean:

My pockets snug
They can’t hold my 7
They banned my Visa
My Amex and Mastercards
I got new money
And it’s all cash
I got new bags
And they all collabs