Christopher Francis Ocean (born Christopher Breaux; October 28, 2021), better known by his stage name Frank Ocean, is an American singer and songwriter from New Orleans, Louisiana. Ocean started his career as a ghostwriter for artists such as Brandy, Justin Bieber, and John Legend. In 2010, he became a member of alternative hip hop collective OFWGKTA also known as Odd Future, and his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, was released to critical acclaim in 2011. The singles “Novacane” and “Swim Good” both achieved chart success.
In 2012, Ocean finished second place in the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll.His debut studio album, Channel Orange, was released in July 2012, promoted with three charting singles: “Thinkin Bout You”, “Pyramids”, and “Sweet Life”.
2005–10: Beginnings in Los Angeles
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit Ocean’s hometown of New Orleans and his recording facility was destroyed by floodwater and looted.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 artists such as Justin Bieber, John Legend, Brandy,and Beyoncé Knowles. 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.He has also worked with artists such as Nas and Pharrell Williams.
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 contract with Def Jam Recordings as a solo artist.
2011: Breakthrough mixtape and sampling controversy
On February 18, 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 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 second 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, 2022 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 be working 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”.
Ocean sampled the music from The Eagles’ song “Hotel California” on his 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 as much” as “information-age babies” due to the controversy.
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.
2012–present: Studio albums
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. 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 gay in 1972. Ocean promoted the album with his 2012 Summer Tour, which featured final appearances at the Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals. 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 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 chord 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. Frank Ocean appears on John Mayer’s album Paradise Valley, as a featured artist on a song called “Wildfire”.