My Maker Sounds a Lot Like Myself: The Beautiful Power of Frank Ocean’s Writing
Last night I listened to Channel Orange again, a regular ritual that happens during the hour of owls. My ears have heard these songs hundreds of times, reviewed every word, sunk into every chord, and yet they haven’t begun to age or wrinkle. It's very easy to forget that four years have disappeared since the album’s release. The years and the artist, both have reclined into memories. When I awoke this morning, I didn’t expect new music from Frank, my mind has long stopped believing in Santa Claus, but to my surprise Frank was making headlines again. Not for a song but the beautiful, heartfelt post that appeared on his Tumblr page.
I read in the paper that my brothers are being thrown from rooftops blindfolded with their hands tied behind their backs for violating sharia law. I heard the crowds stone these fallen men if they move after they hit the ground. I heard it’s in the name of God. I heard my pastor speak for God too, quoting scripture from his book. Words like abomination popped off my skin like hot grease as he went on to describe a lake of fire that God wanted me in. I heard on the news that the aftermath of a hate crime left piles of bodies on a dance floor this month. I heard the gunman feigned dead among all the people he killed. I heard the news say he was one of us. I was six years old when I heard my dad call our transgender waitress a faggot as he dragged me out a neighborhood diner saying we wouldn’t be served because she was dirty. That was the last afternoon I saw my father and the first time I heard that word, I think, although it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t. - Read the full post here
The open letter acknowledges the gay men who have plummeted to their deaths due to ISIS militants. I believe the event he’s referring to happened in Mosul - on June 6, three men were dropped head first from the top of a building. I read a report that Iraq and Syria have had public executions of homosexual men or men accused of being homosexual. He also writes of the Orlando tragedy, writing of bodies dead on the dance floor. He writes of the first time he heard the word faggot from the mouth of his father, how he used to belittle a transgender waitress and how that’s the last time he saw his old man. He writes of God, the world, and the problem faced by the LGBT community. It’s full of sorrow but written with poetic beauty.
HE MADE ME FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE WITH HOW I IDENTIFY SEXUALLY SIMPLY BY HIS DISPLAY OF FREEDOM FROM AND IRREVERENCE FOR OBVIOUSLY ARCHAIC IDEAS LIKE GENDER CONFORMITY ETC. HE MOVED ME TO BE MORE DARING AND INTUITIVE WITH MY OWN WORK BY HIS DEMONSTRATION - HIS DENIAL OF THE PREVAILING MODEL…HIS FIGHT FOR HIS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY - ‘SLAVE’ WRITTEN ACROSS THE FOREHEAD, NAME CHANGED TO A SYMBOL… AN ALL OUT REBELLION AGAINST EXPLOITATION. A VANGUARD AND GENIUS BY EVERY METRIC I KNOW OF WHO AFFECTED MANY IN A WAY THAT WILL OUTRUN OBLIVION FOR A LONG WHILE. I’M PROUD TO BE A PRINCE FAN(STAN) FOR LIFE. - Frank Ocean
The post wasn’t a new ballad but Frank using his voice to send a message. Artists have been criticized for not speaking up enough and here’s one that hasn’t put out a song in years but still uses his platform to speak out against injustice. On his Tumblr he wrote a small note of condolence for Paris when tragedy struck. There’s a vicious post about Trump and gun laws that shows he isn’t sleeping on politics during this hiatus from the spotlight. Marriage equality, Prince, Ferguson, Maya Angelou, and ALS, some kind of recognition to all these events can be found on the first four pages of his Tumblr. While it may feel as if Frank has disappeared into some cave away from our eye, in reality he’s somewhere with good Wi-Fi and Tumblr fingers that are ready to move when it’s time to speak out. He may not be singing but that hasn’t stopped him from speaking out.
desensitized eyes on this body i am…in this mirror i am. i got ostracized and didn’t notice till i closed my eyes last a.m. didn’t see. i need a point to keep these eyes in focus. i need my eyes to be quicker than your hands. they aren’t and won’t ever be- so when you do magic i won’t watch. see, my eyes have an ego. i need these eyes like..i need the holes in my head. i always find something off, like a hairline. symmetry gives me boner, it isn’t boring at all. my eyes don’t bore me at all. neither do yours. i never saw you fuck, except that one time? i still get off to the residue that the image left behind. what i see inside my mind now isn’t technically with my eyes. i heard about a third, but i’ll believe it when i see it blink on my forehead. big head. five head. eye don’t know. eyes just talking.
If you browse through Frank’s Tumblr, you’ll discover more writing. His prose is journalistic, travel logs, almost-poetic diary entries that perfectly captures where he is in life. You can see the details in his writing is very similar to the way he writes music. Frank creates stories where you can envision the landscape, the characters, the entire world that encompasses the narrative. The way he captures wealth and youth in “Super Rich Kids” or how he paints the picture of a junkie in “Crack Rock” or the taxi cab confession perspective in “Bad Religion.” Frank writes music with the pen of an author, his Tumblr entries use that same pen but the focus is entirely on him. He writes about L.A., traveling, randomness, working, even his eyes can be a subject that is written in a way that could be enclosed in a book somewhere. The letter that he used to reveal his secret is incredible by itself, for those that haven’t read it in a while. Browse through his Tumblr archives if you haven’t, its a great way to visit the mind of one of music's most mysterious men.
living. it’s a plain difference from dead. seen a dead body this afternoon. the people who felt they had that body in their lives, have to let it go. the memories of the life that used that body are just as finite as the bodies of those who remember him. the woman or man that enjoyed that mans body, will only have the thin almost holographic recollections for as long as they live. then again, who knows how long we live, and if life goes on after these heartbeats stop. who knows where life went when it left that body. who knows if it went anywhere, not you.
With all the rumors and faux-reports, I completely forgot that Frank announced a magazine once upon a time ago. The problem was the magazine announcement was connected to the future release of an album. We didn’t give much thought into the magazine, it was just another form of merch for the album. We aren’t sure of any real details about this album but we are certain that Frank has been writing and he’s a damn good writer. If he’s able to transition his prose into journalism it could make for stories and interviews worth reading. I suspect it will be a lifestyle magazine, likely encompassing his love for music, art, cars, and current events. We know that Lil B has been interviewed, a thing that happened in real life and not a tabloid rumor.
As much as I hope for a new album, more writing could fill that void for the moment. He’s a talented individual that’s not afraid to speak even during a time he’s at his most silent. There’s more to Frank Ocean than his music, like many creatives there’s layers to his artistry, on this day let's appreciate the writer who we hope will one day take flight as the songbird.
PS: A must read.
By Yoh, aka Channel Yoh, aka @Yoh31
Illustration by Andrea C.