The path of social progress can take loopy turns. In the week since the R&B singer Frank Ocean announced the not-such-big-news that his first love was a man, influential figures in contemporary black music have portrayed the not-so-big event as a major test of character in the world of hip-hop and R&B.
ON THE SEATING CHART of the creative fraternity, record producers occupy one of the rows behind film directors and in front of book editors. In recording, it is the performers who are the "artists," as the music press and the people who run the Grammys like to remind us. Producers, as a rule, are hired by record companies to produce in a fundamentally commercial sense: to supply product. The task involves extraction (from the artists), organization and supervision (of those artists and their work), and collaboration (with the artists), in varying measures; the producer's job is essentially sus