Frank Ocean is the Genius Our Generation Needs
Give me one reason to believe that we deserve Frank Ocean.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
I’m guessing we came to the same conclusion: we don’t. For some of us, we hadn’t thought of Frank Ocean since 2012 (much like the current Knicks roster). Some of us have been dreaming of a new 30-second snippet from him everyday since Channel Orange was released. Regardless of what side of this hypothetical fence you may fall on, a majority of us will take new music from him whenever we can get it.
When rumors began to circulate around the internet saying that a new release was coming from the modern hero of soul music, everyone was naturally excited. Granted, the rumors seemed to be coming from every angle and it was difficult to discern what we could trust and what we shouldn’t. I tried my best not to trust any of them, but I couldn’t help being excited when the rumored release dates came around, hoping there was a slim chance that they could be true. They usually weren’t, and life eventually moved on as scheduled.
Then this mastermind does something that no one could’ve possibly predicted. He builds a staircase. No, this is not a metaphor or some kind of “read between the lines, the staircase is just an illusion” deal. The man showed up on a live stream and proceeded to build a staircase (editor’s note: the man built a freaking staircase). Occasionally, what sounded like it could possibly be new music from Mr. Ocean would play in the background. WHAT IS THIS? HE’S DRIVING US INSANE. IS THIS ALL AN ELABORATE SCHEME TO DISTRACT US FROM THE UNJUST DEATH OF HARAMBE?
Fortunately, no. It was all a part of the plan.
What plan is that? Great question. I still have no idea, but I trust the Holy Frank. Let’s get back to the staircase, shall we? He continues to build and ambient sounds continue to play, and the rumor of all rumors surfaces.
“August 5th, Frank Ocean’s new album is coming”. AUGUST 5th? THAT’S SO CLOSE! What did I do? I got my hopes up, as everyone else did. August 5th came and went without any new music from Frank, and my heart was heavy. Did I feel betrayed? Yes. Did I feel as though my heart had been ripped from my chest? Yes. Am I exaggerating right now? Not at all.
A new rumor quickly surfaced that we should expect the album in November. This didn’t make me feel any better, but it did seem more reasonable. After hours of tears and heartbreak, I moved on with my life.
But then, THEN, everything began to make sense. The live stream was opened up again, and the staircase was near completion. Honestly, I figured it would make sense that the album would release whenever the staircase was finished, but everyone jumped on the August 5th bandwagon. Turns out I was right, and we were finally blessed after four long years in the wilderness with a new project from the one and only Frank Ocean.
The project was a visual album entitled “Endless”. For those of you who may not be familiar with what a visual album is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s basically an album-length video centered around the soundtrack. So you’re taking in an album worth of new music, and at the same time there’s accompanying visuals for you. If you haven’t watched it yet (which you can’t without Apple Music, Steve Jobs would be proud of this achievement), the visual is still Frank in the workshop, but this time with a brand new album accentuating his every move.
The music of “Endless” is far better than anything I could’ve asked for. If you know me at all, or have read any of my writings, it’s clear how much I love and adore music. I’m a critic, I speculate, I break every album I hear down to fine bits until I feel like I’ve heard all there is to hear. I can honestly say, even this early on, “Endless” is some of the best music I’ve heard in years.
I don’t say that lightly, the last few years have produced some of my favorite albums of all time. “Forest Hills Drive” by J. Cole will forever be in my top 5 albums. We’ve seen Chance the Rapper turn the idea of mixtapes on its head with “Coloring Book”. Another little-known performer named Adele came back forcefully from a hiatus with “25”. I can truly say, everything I’ve heard from Frank Ocean off of this album can stand with the best music of this generation.
Aside from “Endless”, if you’ve been living under a rock or simply don’t have twitter, Frank wasn’t finished there. This visual album didn’t replace “Boys Don’t Cry”, we quickly found out that the mastermind had ANOTHER album dropping in the same weekend. When that news came about, I looped “Endless” constantly and awaited the next gem from Father Frank.
Finally. On August 20th, 2016, the genius that brought us three packed projects throughout his career (everyone always forgets his debut mixtape, “Nostalgia, Ultra”) released his sophomore album. “Boys Don’t Cry” was retitled and released as “Blond”. Folks, who does this? Who releases two quality albums in a weekend?
It goes deeper than the two albums, though. As great as they are, this is about Frank Ocean (which is now his legal name) the person. We live in a generation that is filled with selfishness and people doing the smallest amount of work for the biggest reward. A lot of the “new wave” hip-hop artists make such painfully low quality music, but they get away with it because they have rambunctious personalities and they can keep themselves in the news. Frank Ocean is a clear difference from this ideology. He has no Twitter, he mainly communicates through his Tumblr. Even at that, he isn’t extremely active. He takes himself out of the lime light more than putting himself in it. The entire process of these two albums was pretty much a complete mystery to everyone in the public.
Needless to say, the final product(s) was immeasurably rewarding. In an age of musicians who will do and say anything to stay relevant, we need someone who will let their work speak. We need someone who sounds so familiar, yet so set apart from the rest of their class. We need Frank.