Mr. Ocean, 24, is an extremely unflashy songwriter, avoiding big proclamations and broad brush strokes, instead leaning on conversational gambits and the power of detail. He makes warm, cloudy soul with echoes of Stevie Wonder, Prince and Pharrell Williams that’s almost never about seduction.
For five and a half years he’s lived in this city, since he drove west from New Orleans with $1,200 in his pocket, spending $400 on the way for gas. In that time he’s become an in-demand songwriter and now a rising star in his own right. With that success has come a roller coaster of love and letdown, and that is why, he said, it’s now time to go.
A rap group made up of ten or so skateboard rats from L.A., ages 16 through 19(ish). "Odd Future" is short for "Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All," which usually gets abbreviated as "OFWGKTA."
Frank Ocean has character. He's rare. In a world that divvies up art by genre, that constantly seeks to quantify cool, he is impossible to miss, like a panda bear in a pine forest. And over the past year or so, he's become harder and harder to ignore. Frank had long labored behind the curtain—writing for Brandy, Justin Bieber, and John Legend—but after hooking up with L.A.'s Odd Future collective, he self-released 2011's nostalgia, ULTRA. mixtape, and his own star quickly rose. Original songs like "Novacane" and "Swim Good" showcased his knack for riveting storytelling and arrangement, climbed the R&B charts, and led to collaborations with Beyoncé, and Kanye West and Jay-Z.
Ocean has never talked at length about his personal life, leaving his music and its often-complex narratives to drive the conversation. But in a culture where the gossip increasingly and frustratingly outweighs the music, Ocean’s casual and candid approach to addressing his personal life, and revealing his personal truth of having loved a man, will be seen as groundbreaking.
"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."
Frank Ocean did not merely "sample" a portion of the Eagles' Hotel California; he took the whole master track, plus the song's existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own. This is not creative, let alone "intimidating." It's illegal.
"It’s nostalgic. It’s a longing for the past. That’s what this record felt like. I named it five minutes before we finished mastering. Right before we had to write the labels on the CDs and get out of there. Ultra, because it’s also modern because of the sonics of it. It felt right. That’s how I am. I just go with it. The only big debate was whether I was going to use the slash or the comma, but the comma felt right, too.
Lyrically, he's a storyteller. He simultaneously unravels and explores -- himself and those around him -- through a diatribe of the privileged yet insatiable, ("Super Rich Kids," featuring Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt), soliloquies of heartbreak and abandonment, and confessionals. His falsetto breathes color into the content.
But for me and many others, the popular young singer Frank Ocean’s coming out this week on his Tumblr was even more powerful, courageous, seismic — and totally unexpected. Ocean sang prominently on Beyoncé’s album 4 and Jay-Z and Kanye’s album Watch the Throne, and now has a large segment of the music world waiting breathlessly for his debut solo album, Channel Orange. But his coming out is no marketing ploy or attempt to grab attention; it’s a spiritual and personal release. “I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore,” he wrote. “I feel like a free man.”