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There’s A Tiny Piece Of Queer History Hiding In Frank Ocean’s Visual Album

Crystal LaBeija’s legacy is Endless.

August 19, 2016
There’s A Tiny Piece Of Queer History Hiding In Frank Ocean’s Visual Album The Queen / YouTube

On Frank Ocean's new visual album Endless, there's a small gem of queer history that pops out for just a quick second. "Ambience 001 - In A Certain Way," is the album's sixth track, an ultra short interlude that has a sample of Wee's "I Think I am in Love with You." Then a clear voice comes and says, "Cause you are beautiful and young, you deserve to have the best in life." That voice belongs to ballroom legend Crystal LaBeija, and it's from a clip in the 1967 film The Queen.

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In the film, LaBeija has just lost a drag ball crown to a younger, less experienced queen named Harlow. She goes on a tear while walking through the back dressing room. “Look at Harlow’s outfit," she says. "She can’t help it. ‘Cause you’re beautiful and you’re young. You deserve to have the best in life, but you didn’t deserve… I don’t say she’s not beautiful, but she wasn’t looking beautiful tonight! She doesn’t equal me. Look at her makeup! It’s terrible!”

The interlude is sandwiched in between "U-N-I-T-Y," a slow rap song about love and heartbreak, and "Comme Des Garçons," a flowery ballad about a new love. Both songs use male pronouns when talking about the song's subject. It's possible Ocean flipped LaBeija's vocal as a subliminal to the guy in song number one, or maybe it's some commentary on the second guy in question, or maybe it's a self-read? Either way, the sample is a nod to LGBTQ past on an album that in a lot of ways represents its mainstream and complex future.

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There’s A Tiny Piece Of Queer History Hiding In Frank Ocean’s Visual Album