I’m a night owl by nature. I'm likely to be writing while the sun rises and sleeping when it sets. My attendance is perfect during 4th shift Twitter hours, wide-eyed with the ambitious rappers, overzealous prostitutes, YouTube insomniacs and Waffle House's least attractive staff. It was around this hour that Drake would normally release a song - he isn’t nice just to strippers and grandmas, but seems to have a soft spot for the graveyard shift employees - when I noticed that Frank Ocean had just posted a song, "Memrise," one of only two solo release since the Channel Orange era, circa 2012. If my excitement in that moment had a physical stature, it would be Paul Donald Wight; Ocean has crossed over into the realm where his only peers are Adele, Andre and Electronica – the league of extraordinary introverts.
Time flies when you’re submerged in music, subconsciously losing account on who has or hasn’t appeared in your inbox, which album got pushed back to 3005, and the latest signees to Very-Very Def records. Every artist who takes even a brief hiatus finds that his or her spot can quickly be replaced by any of the multitude of eager prospects yelling from the mountain tops to the bottom of the barrel. Despite understanding the concept of out of sight, out of mind – I was a bit surprised when our Managing Editor Nathan mentioned that he had completely forgotten about Frank Ocean over the last year. I can understand if Crunchy Black slips your mind, if you happen to forget OJ Da Juiceman exists, but Frank wasn’t just some ordinary artist, he was a beaming beacon of golden talent that we haven’t seen since he appeared with Nostalgia, Ultra. From his imagery painted songwriting to his captivating vocals, he is the holographic Charizard in a pack of common cards.
Truthfully though, his disappearance act could rival the Golden Era’s greatest magicians. No Twitter, no Instagram, no music, no tours for three years, he didn’t just remove himself from the grid; Frank Ocean completely separated himself from music without a trace. His tumblr, the only direct line fans have with Frank, gives very little insight. His posts are sporadic, I wouldn't be surprised if most users forgot they follow him. When he does use the blog, his entries are photos of travels, random thoughts and consciousness of worldly events and ordeals, any clues surrounding music are vague, almost non-existent. There's a single photo of Ocean in a studio, posted this year, but the exact date is uncertain.
It never crossed my mind that Channel Orange would be his only album, I imagined he was in some cave crafting a masterpiece without distraction, but I’m sure this is how D'Angelo fans felt after Voodoo or Outkast fans after Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. We aren’t entitled to the music, but when you find an artist that is truly putting out great music, you become a glutton for more. We are the lions that you are told not to feed at the zoo, once we have a taste, we will only want more.
When the thought that Frank Ocean's disappearance could be more permanent than temporal crosses my mind, I start to see similarities with prodigious French poet, Arthur Rimbuad. His writing was brilliant, but his antics and recklessness made him an outcast among literary figures. He was just a teenager, but still well known for his wild livelihood and incredible poems. Despite all his talent and promise, Arthur only put out two books of poetry, A Season In Hell and Illuminations. No one truly knows why he washed his hands of poetry soon after, but he came and went before the roses he planted blossomed. He never saw the decades of poetry, musicians, composers, and countless others he influenced with his adolescent scribbles. I believe Channel Orange is a strong enough body of work to age and influence in a similar vein. The listens have been countless, but every time the music still feels refreshing, like the first cannonball of the summer. He has the Grammy accolades, and the respect of legends, maybe he is doing what Jay Z couldn’t, fading to black while on top.
The biggest news surrounding Frank and his music was his cut ties with Odd Future's Christian and Kelly Clancy's agency 4 Strikes, and signing to Three Six Zero management. Back in August, mathiasyoung asked Clancy via tumblr the status of Frank’s album, he replied with, “awkward :)”. Of course, we can speculate creative differences, or it could simply be a nestling bird ready to see how far he can soar. Many saw Frank as the sore thumb of Odd Future’s rambunctious aesthetic, he is the polar opposite of Tyler The Creator, but we can't overlook the music he made under their umbrella that jumpstarted his success.
Admittedly, "Memrise" left me with feelings that could only describe it as lacking and incomplete. I wanted his return to be an event, something that equals the sensation of when you first heard "Novacane" or "Thinking Bout You." It sounds rough, and is painfully short. I suspect it is to tease, and spark a chain reaction of conversations. If these are Frank's motives, I'm even more disappointed. Why end your silence with a rough reference?
Unlike Nathan, I believe many of us haven’t forgotten about the New Orleans born singer. If his album dropped tomorrow the internet would break as if it saw a clothed Kim Kardashian. It will be a long time before we see a new artist of his caliber and celebrity practice this level of silence and seclusion, making every release impactful. There’s a possibility we are witnessing the climax of Frank Ocean’s legacy, or the worst sophomore jinx in history. As I close this, "American Wedding" plays in the background; I admire the way he writes. He knows how to convey subjects as overwritten as love, marriage, and divorce in a way that feels unique and remarkable. Even while covering a classic Eagle’s song, he is original. This is why we wait, this is why he’s the Rimbaud of R&B, and why he’ll make history succeed or fail.
He’ll do it in a way without cliché or tropes, and we will be talking about it for years and years and years to come. With or without new music.
[By Yoh, AKA I’m G.O.O.D., aka @Yoh31]