Italian Vogue On Frank Ocean And Whether His Music Is R&B;:
Well, Frank Ocean is the best r&b; lyricist since Prince. Except don’t call what he does r&b.; And don’t call it “urban”. «I’ll usually cringe at the r&b; labe», says Ocean, the 24-year-old who writes songs for everyone from John Legend to Justin Bieber and makes music with the wildly eclectic «Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All», collective in Los Angeles. «Because it’s like calling it urban… and what the fuck is urban music?». When it was time to categorize Nostalgia, Life, the EP he released for free online this summer, he went the smart-ass route and called it “bluegrass.” Ocean’s attempt to show how ludicrous it is to have to categorize music was lost on those who downloaded and raved about his lyrically complex metaphors, vibrant images, sardonic humor and keen observations on love, sex, politics and the world.
On Novacane, Ocean gives a brutal and complicit takedown of the dangerous desensitization that happens from our culture’s aggressive pursuit of immediate, excessive indulgence, singing: «I feel like Stanley Kubrick/this is some visionary shit/I’ve been trying to feel pleasure with my eyes wide shut, but it keeps moving… Fuck me good, fuck me long, fuck me numb/Love me now, when I’m gone, love me none”. And though he’s written songs in support of a woman’s right to choose and gay marriage, Ocean’s most profound lyrics deal with the minutiae of being in love and the fear that it could destroy you. «Do you not think so far ahead? Cuz I’ve been thinkin’ bout forever» he sings hesitatingly, like a young boy who finds first love, on his newest release, Thinking About You, and from the mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, there’s American Wedding, sung to the tune of Hotel California, with its lines “My pretty woman in a ball gown, I’m Richard Gere in a tux/Getting married in a courthouse, writing our vows in a rush/We had an American wedding, now what is mine is yours… that’s American love».
On Watch The Throne And Working With Other Artist:
Listen to Watch the Throne, the collaboration by Kanye West and Jay-Z that was the most anticipated album of recent musical history. The voice that opens the CD is not either of these hip hop luminaries, but Ocean’s, on No Church in the Wild. He appears twice on the album, including the historically haunting track Made in America, singing the names of African-American martyrs heroes and the hook Sweet Baby Jesus, we made it in America.
Of the time he spent recording with Kanye and Jay, as well as writing music for Beyoncé and releasing Nostalgia to wildly positive reviews, Ocean says, «Career-wise, this year feels like a montage scene in a movie». As he continues to work on new music to be released by Island/Def Jam, the label that signed Ocean in 2006 and then let his career languish with no support, the singer has turned his attention to political involvement beyond writing lyrics with messages.
He is planning a trip to Zuccotti Park, ground zero of New York’s Occupy Wall Street, the ongoing movement to condemn wealth disparity that has sparked hundreds of similar demonstrations globally. «My generation just doesn’t have the best taste in leadership. And weak leadership means little to no cohesion. If there’s no cohesion, there’s no real chance for effective protest or politics. Obviously, looking at Occupy Wall Street, there are a few in our bunch who still give a damn enough to rally and shout», says Ocean, before offering a sarcastic solution: «This will change once I’m elected President». Until then, he’s going to continue to make it in America in the renegade fashion of some of his most infamous countryman—shunning labels and brilliantly making it up step-by-step as he goes. Here’s to being along for the ride.