Just the other day, Ayo sent me a link to listen to the artist you’re about to read on – Frank Ocean – and I’ll say mine was a case of judging an artist before listening. From his name, album art and music genre coming up on iTunes as bluegrass, I wasn’t sure what to expect but once I got to listening – ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’ quickly became my album of the week.
Frank Ocean is a songwriter who has penned tracks for the likes of Justin Bieber, Brandy and John Legend under the name Christopher “Lonny” Breaux. The 23-year old New Orleans born vocalist is also one part of the 11 man Cali based Hip-Hop collective, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (OFWGKTA). While the group has put out 4 mixtapes and a few independent projects, this is the first solo effort from singer Frank Ocean.
Not one to be put in a distinctive category, the album samples quite a number of tracks from different genres such as indie, alternative rock and Ramp;B and with that, I plug to you his debut album biNostalgia, Ultra This first track you’re about to hear ‘There Will Be Tears’ samples the song of the same name originally performed by Mr Hudson in 2010. For the first 57 seconds, Frank Ocean uses Hudson’s version with a few adlibs before stripping off the eighties sounding synths and adding heavy sounding drums and claps instead. Although this version is a little different, it still holds a lot of sentiment as the original. We hear Frank croon over lyrics such as i“you can’t miss what you ain’t had, well I can”/i emotionally speaking of his non-existent relationship with his father.
The next track, ‘bSongs For Women/b’ is a laid back Ramp;B track laced with lush drum patterns, synths and refreshing lyricism from Ocean as he sings i“and every time somebody asks me, if I sing songs to get at women I say yeah”/i. This is definitely a track musicians can relate to and frankly if you are making songs like this, I agree to using music to your advantage in getting at women but I’ll let this one speak for itself.
I wasn’t sure if I should feature this next track, ‘bNature Feels/b’ on here as I have gotten a lot of mixed reviews regarding it. But, Frank’s version should certainly not go unheard. It samples MGMT’s Electric Feel and although credit can’t go to Frank Ocean for the instrumentals, it is a smart choice to add this to his LP. On the first listen, it took my mind to sort of a hippie style gathering, but Frank’s style (and flow) of singing embellishes the sounds perfectly giving it a more Ramp;B feel. A strange sounding intro but ingenious at the same time can only either fuel an interest to hear more or skip the track but I would advice that you do the former. This was definitely the first play back worthy track of the album for me. The lyrics are a bit cheeky, but you’ll warm up to them eventually.
Other really good tracks on what is a pretty impressive album and exciting body of work are biLove Crimes/i/b, which makes for an easy listening and sounds like what could be a Ryan Leslie production. Two-thirds of the way into the song, I liked the fact that something different was done to the instrumental; the beats per minutes (BPM) were slowed down (excuse my DJ talk) to give a more dramatic feel to Ocean’s lyrics and his usage of Nicole Kidman’s infamous monologue from Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film – iEyes Wide Shut/i. biStrawberry Swing/i/b is the first track on the album and it kicks off the album rather nicely as it samples Coldplay’s song of the same title. One thing I admire about Frank Ocean is while keeping the originality of most of the samples he uses, he is still able to re-invent the songs as his own. biNovocane/i/b and biSwim Good/i/b are also potential favorites off of this LP as they are not your average sounding Ramp;B tracks and biNovacane/i/b especially sees Frank Ocean in superb songwriting and lyrical form.
Versatility is important from an artist and this album shows a great deal of that from Frank Ocean. He kind of reminds me of Kid Cudi even though they sound nothing alike and for me as a first time listener, I am very impressed with his musical effort and dexterity. There’s no doubt Frank Ocean is now on my radar and I advise that he should be on yours too. Download the LP and revamp your week with some G.O.O.D. music.
Till the Next Time… TemiY