Ocean in 2016
Christopher Lonny Edwin Breaux
October 28, 1987
|Awards||List of awards and nominations|
|Origin||New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.|
Frank Ocean (born Christopher Lonny Edwin Breaux; October 28, 1987) is an American singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and photographer. Ocean is known for his idiosyncratic musical style, introspective and elliptical songwriting, unconventional production techniques, and a wide vocal range. Music critics have credited him with revitalizing R&B, with his distinctive sound and style influencing numerous artists of various music genres.
Ocean began his musical career as a ghostwriter, prior to joining hip hop collective Odd Future in 2010, and the following year, released Nostalgia, Ultra, his debut mixtape. The mixtape was a critical success, and generated the single "Novacane", which peaked at number 82 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was later certified platinum. Ocean subsequently secured a recording contract with Def Jam Recordings in 2012.
Ocean released his debut studio album, Channel Orange, in July 2012; it debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and was soon certified platinum. The album received universal acclaim from critics, and won Ocean his first Grammy Award, for Best Urban Contemporary Album. The album contained the singles "Thinkin Bout You", "Pyramids", and "Sweet Life", with the former peaking inside the top 40 in the US and gaining him a nomination for Record of the Year at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards. His second album, Blonde, was released in 2016, and was subject to controversy after Ocean endured protracted contract disputes with Def Jam, which led to the album suffering repeated delays. Released independently, Blonde debuted at number one in several countries, and was also highly acclaimed by critics. The album contained the single "Nikes" and was eventually certified platinum. In 2017, Ocean was featured on the Calvin Harris single "Slide", opposite Migos; it became Ocean's highest charting song in the US, peaking at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Alongside being a recording artist, Ocean is also a photographer. On May 1, 2017, he attended annual Met Gala as a special photographer for Vogue. On October 23, 2017, he made two covers and a visual essay for British fashion magazine, i-D.
Ocean was born on October 28, 1987, in Long Beach, California. He is the only son to father Calvin Edward Cooksey, and mother Katonya Breaux, and was given the birth name Christopher Edwin Breaux. When he was five years old, Ocean and his family relocated to New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ocean was first introduced to music through his mother, who would often play recordings by jazz musicians on her car stereo, which included albums by Celine Dion and Anita Baker, as well as the soundtrack to The Phantom of the Opera musical. Ocean also frequented the town's local jazz bars and parlors, which encouraged him to begin recording his own music. In order to raise funds to rent recording studios, Ocean performed several jobs as a teenager, which he described as "numerous hustles", as he would wash cars, mow lawns, and walk dogs for his neighbors. Ocean later enrolled in the University of New Orleans to study music, and moved into its dormitory in 2005. Shortly after he enrolled in the university, the effects of Hurricane Katrina forced Ocean to transfer to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
After Hurricane Katrina hit Ocean's hometown of New Orleans, he had to transfer campuses, it destroyed his home, and his personal recording facility was destroyed by floodwater and looting. To continue recording music, he moved to Los Angeles and intended to stay for just six weeks but decided to stay longer and develop his music career after establishing contact with people in the music industry. He recorded some demos at a friend's studio and shopped them around Los Angeles. After getting a songwriting deal, he started working with other record producers and wrote songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend, Brandy, and Beyoncé.
Ocean later said of his work at the time, "There was a point where I was composing for other people, and it might have been comfy to continue to do that and enjoy that income stream and the anonymity. But that's not why I moved away from school and away from family." Ocean joined Los Angeles-based hip hop collective Odd Future, whom he had met in 2009. His friendship with Odd Future member Tyler, The Creator reinvigorated Ocean's songwriting. In late 2009, he met Tricky Stewart, who helped him sign a writing contract with Def Jam Recordings.
On February 16, 2011, Ocean released his first mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, to critical acclaim. The mixtape focuses on interpersonal relationships, personal reflection and social commentary.NPR's Andrew Noz said Ocean's songwriting is "smart and subtle...setting him apart from the pack."Rolling Stone magazine's Jonah Weiner wrote that Ocean was a "gifted avant-R&B smoothie".
In April 2011, Ocean stated that his relationship with Def Jam strengthened since the release of the mixtape. The mixtape made Ocean widely known and led to his collaborations with rappers Jay Z and Kanye West.
Ocean first appeared in Tyler, The Creator's music video for the single "She", from Tyler's debut studio album Goblin (2011). His first performance was in collaboration with Odd Future at the 2011 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, where he later joined them for their first tour across the east coast of the United States. On May 19, 2011 Ocean's record label Def Jam announced its plans to re-release Nostalgia, Ultra as an EP. The single 'Novacane' was released to iTunes in May 2011, and the EP originally was set to be released the next month, but was delayed.
In June 2011, Ocean revealed that he would work on the upcoming Kanye West and Jay-Z collaborative album, Watch the Throne. Ocean co-wrote and featured on two tracks: "No Church in the Wild" and "Made in America". On July 28, 2011, a song titled "Thinkin Bout You", leaked on the internet. It was later revealed the song was a reference track, written by Ocean, for Roc Nation artist Bridget Kelly's debut studio album. Kelly renamed the song 'Thinking About Forever'. In September 2011, a music video directed by High5Collective for Ocean's version was released, yet the song still appeared on Kelly's debut EP Every Girl. In August 2011, Frank Ocean made his first appearance on the cover of the publication The FADER, in its 75th issue.
Ocean released the cover art for his debut studio album's lead single, titled "Thinkin Bout You", revealing the song would be released to digital retailers on April 10, 2012. However, a month earlier, a re-mastered version of the song had already leaked. About the prospective single he said: "It succinctly defines me as an artist for where I am right now and that was the aim," he said of the follow-up to his acclaimed Nostalgia, Ultra. "It's about the stories. If I write 14 stories that I love, then the next step is to get the environment of music around it to best envelop the story and all kinds of sonic goodness."
In 2012, Ocean released his debut studio album Channel Orange to universal acclaim from critics, who later named it the best album of the year in the HMV's Poll of Polls. It also earned Ocean six Grammy Award nominations and was credited by some writers for moving the R&B genre in a different, more challenging direction. Considered as Ocean's first commercial release on a traditional record label, Channel Orange featured unconventional songs that were noted for their storytelling and social commentary, and a dense musical fusion that drew on hip hop, soul, and R&B. Funk and electric music also influenced his album. The songs about unrequited love in particular received the most attention, partly because of Ocean's announcement prior to the album's release, when he revealed that his first love was a man. The announcement made global headlines, and some critics compared its cultural impact to when David Bowie revealed that he was bisexual in 1972.
Channel Orange debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and sold 131,000 copies in its first week. The majority of its first-week sales were digital copies from iTunes, while approximately 3,000 of the sales were physical copies. On January 30, Channel Orange was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). By September 2014, it had sold 621,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Ocean promoted the album with his 2012 Summer Tour, which featured final appearances at the Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals. At the 2013 Brit Awards, Ocean won the Brit Award for International Male Solo Artist.
On May 28, 2013, Ocean announced the You're Not Dead ... 2013 Tour; a fourteen-date European and Canadian tour that began on June 16, 2013, in Munich. He had been scheduled to perform at the first night of OVO Fest on August 4, 2013; however he was forced to cancel his appearance due to a small vocal cord injury. The first night of the music festival was subsequently cancelled and James Blake was booked to appear during the second night as Ocean's replacement. Ocean appeared on John Mayer's album Paradise Valley, as a featured artist on a song called "Wildfire".
In February 2013, Ocean confirmed that he had started work on his second studio album, which he confirmed would be another concept album. He revealed that he was working with Tyler, the Creator, Pharrell Williams, and Danger Mouse on the record. He later stated that he was being influenced by The Beach Boys and The Beatles. He stated he was interested in collaborating with Tame Impala and King Krule and that he would record part of the album in Bora Bora.
On March 10, 2014, the song "Hero" was made available for free download on SoundCloud. The song is a collaboration with Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Diplo and is a part of Converse's Three Artists. One Song series.
In April 2014, Ocean stated that his second album was nearly finished. In June, Billboard reported that the singer was working with a string of artists such as Happy Perez (whom he worked with on nostalgia, ULTRA), Charlie Gambetta and Kevin Ristro, while producers Hit-Boy, Rodney Jerkins and Danger Mouse were also said to be on board. On November 29, 2014, Ocean released a snippet of a new song supposedly from his upcoming follow-up to channel ORANGE called "Memrise" on his official Tumblr page. The Guardian described the song as: "...a song which affirms that despite reportedly changing labels and management, he has maintained both his experimentation and sense of melancholy in the intervening years". On April 6, 2015, Ocean announced that his follow-up to channel ORANGE would be released in July with "two versions", as well as a publication, although no further details were released. The album was ultimately not released in July, with no explanation given for its delay. The publication was rumoured to be called Boys Don't Cry, and the album was slated to feature the aforementioned "Memrise". In February 2016, Ocean was featured on Kanye West's album The Life of Pablo on the track "Wolves" along with Vic Mensa and Sia Furler. A month later, the song was re-edited by West, and Ocean's part was separated and listed on the track list as its own song titled "Frank's Track."
In July 2016, he hinted at a possible second album with an image on his website pointing to a July release date. The image shows a library card labeled Boys Don't Cry with numerous stamps, implying various due dates. The dates begin with July 2, 2015 and conclude with July 2016. Ocean's brother, Ryan Breaux, further suggested this release with an Instagram caption of the same library card photo reading BOYS DON'T CRY #JULY2016.
By August 1, 2016, at approximately 3 AM, an endless live stream shot in negative lighting in what is allegedly a Brooklyn warehouse, sponsored by Apple Music began to surface on boysdontcry.co which appeared to show Ocean woodworking and sporadically playing instrumentals on loop. It later became clear that these instrumentals were from his upcoming visual album Endless; the full version is estimated to be 140 hours long. That same day, many news outlets reported that August 5, 2016 could be the release date for Boys Don't Cry. That date also turned out to be inaccurate, though in a Reddit AMA session, his collaborator Malay said that Ocean is a perfectionist, constantly tweaking things, and that his art cannot be rushed.
On August 18 and 19, 2016, the live stream was accompanied with music and at midnight an Apple Music link was directed to a project called Endless.Endless would be Ocean's last album with Def Jam Recordings to fulfill his contract with the record label. Before the visual album's release on Apple Music, Ocean had already begun making efforts to part ways with Def Jam, who signed the artist in 2009. He describes his negotiations with the label as a "seven-year chess game", while adding that he had replaced many of his representatives (including his lawyer and manager) during the process, as well as having to buy back all of his master recordings that previously belonged to Def Jam.
At midnight Pacific time on August 20, 2016, a music video for a song titled "Nikes" was uploaded to Ocean's Connect page on Apple Music and later to his own website. Also on August 20, Ocean announced pop-up shops in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, and London for his magazine Boys Don't Cry, and released his second studio album Blonde to widespread acclaim. Blonde debuted at number one in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, and recorded sales of 232,000 copies (275,000 with album-equivalent units) in its first week. Rather than going on a typical promotional tour playing radio festivals and appearing on television shows, Ocean spent a month after the release of Blonde, traveling to countries such as China, Japan and France. He also chose not to submit Blonde for consideration at the Grammy Awards, stating "that institution certainly has nostalgic importance; it just doesn't seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down."Time ranked it as the best album of 2016 on its year-end list.Forbes estimated that Blonde earned Ocean nearly one million in profits after one week of availability, attributing this to him releasing the album independently and as a limited exclusive release on iTunes and Apple Music. On July 9, 2018, Blonde was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
On February 21, 2017, Scottish DJ and producer Calvin Harris announced the song "Slide", a collaboration between Harris, Ocean and Migos, from Harris' fifth studio album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. Ocean is credited with featured vocals and songwriting, while production is handled by Harris. The song was released on February 24, 2017 and featured on the first episode of Ocean's Beats 1 radio show, Blonded Radio. It is also Ocean's first recorded collaboration since leaving Def Jam, with Ocean being listed in the liner notes as "appear[ing] courtesy of Frank Ocean". The song went on to be certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and became Ocean's first top ten single on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart, peaking at #9. On March 10, 2017, Ocean released a new single "Chanel" on the second episode of Blonded Radio, as well as playing an alternate version featuring American rapper ASAP Rocky. The song was his first solo effort to be released after Blonde and Endless in 2016. On subsequent episodes of Blonded Radio in April, Ocean premiered "Biking" featuring Jay-Z and Tyler the Creator, "Lens", as well as an alternate version featuring Travis Scott, and a remix of Endless track "Slide On Me" featuring Young Thug. On May 15 Ocean was featured on ASAP Mob's "RAF", premiered on Blonded alongside a solo version of "Biking". On August 28, Ocean released another single, "Provider", on Blonded Radio.
In October 2017, Ocean published a photo essay titled "New 17" to British magazine i-D. In the essay, Ocean said "If you liked two thousand and seventeen then you'll love two thousand and eighteen". In November 2017, Ocean hinted via Tumblr that his fifth project was complete.
On February 14, 2018, Ocean released "Moon River", a cover of the song performed by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany's. In May 2018, Ocean was featured on the tracks "Brotha Man" and "Purity" from ASAP Rocky's third studio album Testing. In August 2018, Ocean provided an uncredited appearance on the song "Carousel" on Travis Scott's album Astroworld. In September 2018, Ocean took legal action against Scott through a cease and desist letter, many speculating this was due to Scott's unauthorised autotune of Ocean's vocals. Ocean later confirmed through a Tumblr post that the dispute was about social issues, not music, and had since been resolved between the two artists. On November 6, 2018, three midterm specials of Blonded Radio were aired throughout the day, in collation with the Midterm elections that were held in the US, as well as the release of new merchandise given to those with proof of voting for free in Houston, Atlanta, Miami, and Dallas. The shows themselves did not include any new songs by Ocean, but included various political discussions including a discussion about Ocean being an 'openly queer' black man in contemporary rap music.
Ocean's music has been characterized by music writers as idiosyncratic in style. Ocean's music generally includes the electronic keyboard, often performed by Ocean himself, and is backed by a subdued rhythm section in the production. His compositions are often midtempo, feature unconventional melodies, and they occasionally have an experimental song structure. He has been characterised as both an "avant-garde R&B artist" and a "pop musician". In his songwriting, Jon Pareles of The New York Times observes "open echoes of self-guided, innovative R&B songwriters like Prince, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Maxwell, Erykah Badu and particularly R. Kelly and his way of writing melodies that hover between speech and song, asymmetrical and syncopated." While nostalgia, ULTRA featured both original music by Ocean and tracks relying on sampled melodies,channel ORANGE showcased Ocean as the primary musical composer, of which music journalist Robert Christgau opines, "when he's the sole composer Ocean resists making a show of himself--resists the dope hook, the smart tempo, the transcendent falsetto itself."
Ocean's lyrics deal with themes of love, longing, misgiving, and nostalgia. His debut single "Novacane" juxtaposes the numbness and artificiality of a sexual relationship with that of mainstream radio, while "Voodoo" merges themes of spirituality and sexuality, and is an eccentric take on such subject matter common in R&B. The latter song was released by Ocean on his Tumblr account and references both the traditional spiritual "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" and the female anatomy in its chorus: "she's got the whole wide world in her juicy fruit / he's got the whole wide world in his pants / he wrapped the whole wide world in a wedding band / then put the whole wide world on her hands / she's got the whole wide world in her hands / he's got the whole wide world in his hands." Certain songs on channel ORANGE allude to Ocean's experience with unrequited love. Culture critic Nelson George asserts that, along with Miguel, Ocean has "staked out ground where [he is] not competing with those hit-driven [commercial R&B] acts" and is "cultivating a sound that balances adult concerns with a sense of young men trying to understand their own desires (an apt description of Ocean, particularly)."
Ocean describes himself as "a baritone, with tenor moments." Ocean possesses a wide vocal range that spans well over three octaves. His range encompasses both the baritone and tenor tessitura, rising from the bass D (D2) and reaching its peak at the high A (A5).Jody Rosen of Rolling Stone calls him a torch singer due to "his feel for romantic tragedy, unfurling in slow-boiling ballads". Ocean's stage presence during live shows has been described by Chris Richards of the Washington Post as "low-key".
On August 20, 2016, Ocean released a 360-page magazine, Boys Don't Cry, alongside with his long-awaited second album Blonde. The fashion and automobile-themed publication contains the photoprojects from Wolfgang Tillmans, Viviane Sassen, Tyrone Lebon, Harley Weir, Michael Mayren and Ocean himself. Four months later, British magazine Print published another photowork from Frank Ocean.
In a 2011 interview, Ocean stated that he had attempted to change his name to Frank Ocean through a legal website on his 23rd birthday. The change was reportedly partly inspired by the 1960 film Ocean's 11. In March 2014 it was reported that Breaux was legally changing his name to Frank Ocean. In November 2014, it was revealed that the name change had not been legalized due to multiple speeding offenses. On April 23, 2015, Ocean changed his legal name to Frank Ocean, but he has still been credited as Christopher Breaux in the liner notes of some releases.
Ocean wrote an open letter, initially intended for the liner notes on Channel Orange, that preemptively addressed speculation about his attraction in the past to another man. Instead, on July 4, 2012, he published an open letter on his Tumblr blog recounting unrequited feelings he had for another young man when he was 19 years old, citing it as his first true love. He used the blog to thank the man for his influence, and also thanked his mother and other friends, saying "I don't know what happens now, and that's alright. I don't have any secrets I need kept anymore...I feel like a free man." Numerous celebrities publicly voiced their support for Ocean following his announcement, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Members of the hip hop industry generally responded positively to the announcement.Tyler, the Creator also tweeted his support for Ocean, along with other members of OFWGKTA.Russell Simmons, a business magnate in the hip hop industry, wrote a congratulatory article in Global Grind saying "Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? [...] Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear."
Ocean appears in a 2013 video game Grand Theft Auto V as himself playing the host of an in-game radio station called blonded Los Santos 97.8 FM. He also lends the songs "Provider", "Ivy", "Crack Rock", "Chanel", "Nights" and "Pretty Sweet", and sings station jingles.
In June 2016, following the Orlando gay nightclub shooting that killed 49 people, Ocean published an essay expressing his sadness and frustration regarding the event. He mentions his first experience with biphobia was with his father when he was six years old and how many people pass on their hateful ideals to the next generation which sends thousands of people down the path of suicidal tendencies. In 2017, Ocean's father Calvin Cooksey sued him for $14.5 million over the homophobia claim. On October 17, 2017, and after a day-long hearing that saw Ocean, father Calvin Cooksey, and mother Katonya Breaux taking the stand, the residing U.S. District judge ruled that Cooksey hadn't provided sufficient evidence of defamation and ruled in favor of the singer.
Ocean sampled the music from the Eagles' song "Hotel California" on the song "American Wedding" from Nostalgia, Ultra. When asked about it, Ocean stated that Eagles band member "Don Henley is apparently intimidated by my rendition of 'Hotel California'. He threatened to sue if I perform it again." In response to Ocean's comments, the Eagles' legal representative released a statement: "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. For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should."Chris Richards of The Washington Post remarked that "certain boomers don't like Ocean as much" as "information-age babies" due to the controversy.
On March 7, 2014, Chipotle Mexican Grill sued Ocean to receive the money back they paid him in advance for a commercial that he backed out of due to his having a problem with the material in the advertisement. The advertisement was to feature Ocean singing the song "Pure Imagination", and was to promote sustainable farming. Ocean backed out of the spot when Chipotle refused to remove their logo and name from the advertisement. The lawsuit was dropped on March 20 after Ocean paid the advance back in full. The commercial, titled The Scarecrow, was ultimately released with Fiona Apple performing the song.