If there’s one character trait you require in order to be a Frank Ocean fan it’s patience – on a biblical scale. Since the release of his international breakthrough, 2012’s Channel Orange, the artist formerly known as Christopher Edwin Breaux has taunted, teased and troubled amorous fans in equal measure over the failed promise of a followup record reputedly entitled Boys Don’t Cry.
But this is not to suggest that we know absolutely nil about Ocean’s creative intentions. Through a series of convoluted blog posts, cryptic MP3 snippets and confirmation from the singer’s legion of peers of legitimate Frank Ocean material existing, it’s almost inevitable that Boys Don’t Cry will finally see a release date within the forthcoming weeks.
Here is an exhaustively unabridged collation of all there is to know about what is arguably regarded as the most anticipated album of the 21st century, sans Detox.
The ‘Late’ Post’s Due Dates Are Self-referential
A year to the date and Frank Ocean is once again alluding to a July release. Yet the manifestation of a library card on July 2 was universally reputed to be a finalized date for Boys Don’t Cry. The website post, entitled “Late,” conveniently blots out the closing entry’s official date, leaving Ocean with enough leverage to drop his third album at any potential moment this month.
Yet what is more telling are the seemingly trivial dates preceding the July entry. We could concede to thinking that each date implies a missed BDC deadline. But certain dates signify seismic transcendental shifts in Ocean’s post-Channel Orange career.
September 11, 2015, for example, is the night in which A$AP affiliated social media maven Ian Connor tweeted that Ocean was currently working in the studio alongside Playboi Carti, who had signed to A$AP the day before. October 9, 2015 sees an elusive Aaliyah tribute by Ocean surface online. Rumors of a single entitled “White Ferrari” circulate on November 27, 2015. Rich The Kid’s FaceTime session with the solitary singer is screen grabbed, published and subsequently removed on January 8. Ocean emerges IRL for the TLOP listening party and is latterly credited for his contribution on “Wolves” on February 12.
An impulsive public statement on Prince, a website update and snippets of interviews from his peers also coincide with the card’s chronology.
And still, Boys Don’t Cry’s timeline tenuously protracts further into the foreseeable future with the irregular inclusion of November 13, 2016; a date possibly proposing the publication of Ocean’s elusive magazine project. Or could it be just another casually inconsequential moment in time when BDC may or may not finally see the light of day? Regardless, this almanac of dates remain worthy of excessive scrutiny.
The List of Potential Album Credits Seems Infinite
Considering the dizzying assemblage of artists and engineers apparently involved with the development of Boys Don’t Cry, you wouldn’t be wrong in assuming the record will be rather substantial in length.
Certain claims of involvement have been calculably anticipated from the likes of Tyler, The Creator, Kanye West and Pharrell. Yet the inexhaustible tangle of collaborators linked to the record extends further than anyone may have initially fathomed.
Producers including Rick Rubin, Danger Mouse, Hudson Mohawk, A-Trak, Hit-Boy and Rodney Jerkins have been associated with the Boys Don’t Cry rumor mill, while longtime production partners Malay, Happy Perez, Charlie Gambetta and Kevin Ristro have vocalized their involvement.
Atypical implications that avant-garde electronic arts performer Holly Herndon has provided her musical counsel is yet another strong possibility following the release of a live stream during a support slot for Radiohead “accidentally” projected a folder on her desktop entitled “BEATS 4 FOcean.” And yet the list continues.
In an interview with French magazine, Les In Rocks, Ed Banger label boss Pedro Winter, aka Busy P, outlined a working relationship between Ocean and French electro artist SebastiAn. This collaboration has since been played down by Winter, who said that the pair have purely met each other and he is unaware of any music produced during this session.
According to Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan back in 2013, Ocean had been working closely with guitarist Martin Gore and The Knife producer Christoffer Berg on incorporating modular synthesizers to certain tracks. Images posted by The Based God, Lil B himself sparked frenzied discussion over whether he will also make an appearance. Again, the list goes on.
Nods to Nile Rogers, Tame Impala, King Krule, Jay-Z, James Blake, Partyboi Carti, Rich The Kid, Wiz Khalifa and London electronic artist Khushi have also materialized over the course of the past three years. And whether or not some, if not all, of these alliances make the final cut, Frank Ocean’s affinity towards collaboration is stupefying.
But Iamsu! Is Not Involved…
In contrast to the imposing arsenal of names listed above and despite what Twitter may lead you to believe, Californian rapper and producer Iamsu! is explicitly not involved in any Frank-affiliated affairs.
In a series of facetious posts, the rapper expounded on his excitement to be involved with Boys Don’t Cry and took the opportunity to thank Ocean on permitting Iamsu! to be “a part of history.”
None of this was true. Hours of likes and retweets later, Iamsu! fiendishly confessed that he “fully lied about that Frank Ocean shit,” and he was “just joking.” Other than his undeniably successful bawl for attention, what Iamsu! has highlighted is that concrete information on anything Frank Ocean related has become so intangible, so unbelievable, that any genuine claim of involvement is now recognized as a farcical practice in “boy who cried wolf” fabling.
Def Jam May Be a Cause for the Delay
There are a number of mitigating factors that have ostensively contributed to the perpetual setbacks over the Boys Don’t Cry release. And many roads lead unintentionally back to Frank Ocean’s label, Def Jam.
In late 2014, Ocean’s father, Calvin Cooksey endeavored to sue Def Jam co-founder and hip hop impresario Russell Simmons for $142m. The suit claimed Cooksey had been libelously slandered in the press by Simmons who allegedly referred to Ocean’s father as a “deadbeat dad.” Cooksey, who had not been present throughout the majority of Ocean’s life before his son made his fortune, believed the defamatory comments would affect his future income.
The lawsuit was inevitably lost due to a lack of evidence. Last year, it was reported that Cooksey demanded a reassessment of the case. No money has been exchanged and Cooksey’s reputation as a money tormented shyster remains. But there is a strong possibility that Ocean and Simmons made the conscious decision to delay Boys Don’t Cry on multiple occasions in order to not be publicly tainted by legal actions against the label.
Other artists on Def Jam’s roster have either caused or handed out multiple suits for Simmons to fight off, all of which could have contributed to a BDC postponement. Most recently, Kanye West’s decision to roll out TLOP on multiple social media platforms instead of remaining exclusive to Tidal led to an irate user filing suit against him, claiming the move was purely a tactic to boost Tidal subscriptions.
While trivial matters of money and court battles aren’t particularly focal to Ocean’s approach to his work, it’s cases such as this that have an overriding potential to neglect the gravitas of his sophomoric efforts. Maybe the timing just hasn’t been right yet.
It’s Been an Expensive Investment
Admittedly, Ocean’s marketing for BDC has appeared to be relatively costless: several web posts and the occasional open letter doesn’t exactly reach Lemonade-level PR hype. But an unknown source closely linked to Def Jam reportedly admitted to Billboard that the label has already spent upwards of $2 million on Ocean’s next release.
This is the apparent cost before any marketing strategy has been employed, any universal press sweep or anything physical has even been retailed. Either Simmons is so certain of Boys Don’t Cry’s success that he’s blindly permitted Ocean full access to Def Jam’s bankroll, or he genuinely believes that a delayed Iggy Azalea collaboration with Zedd will be the biggest cash cow in music history…
He’s Reluctantly Ready to Embrace the Limelight
Frank Ocean is generally regarded as the hermetic introvert of the music industry. His public appearances are rare and frequently incite excitable fans to celebrate the fact that he’s still alive. Pics sporadically emerge online of the back of his head, the side of his head and sometimes even the front of his head.
But when the reclusive savior of R&B was announced as one of the new faces for Calvin Klein’s “My Calvins” video campaign, it seemed evident Ocean had something that needed to be seen and heard. Reciting lyrical prose, Ocean muses over his approach to music and love: “There’s no place to hide out here; these skies are filled with planes.”
In Frank Ocean terms, this is the most physically present he has been since his momentary flirtation with Snapchat last May under the name “arealglitterboy.” Through these meditative ramblings and existential symbolism, Ocean seems to be finally addressing his aversion to fame in plain sight.
The instrumental used in the short is currently unaccounted for. Speculations that it’s a Boys Don’t Cry sample have already begun circulating.
We May Have Already Heard Large Portions of It
Considering that a definitive tracklist remains unpublished, we can make a number of educated guesses as to what may appear on BDC’s final cut. Ocean’s output may have remained stoically muted over the past three years, but that is not to say others haven’t alluded to track names or published cryptic clips of supposed new material.
From the more unlikely inclusion of Ocean’s collaboration with Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Diplo on 2014’s “Hero” for Converse’s “Three Artists” series, those affiliated with the singer have teased other works in progress.
Memrise, a woozy snippet assumedly dropped by Ocean himself emerged in November 2014, could be extended and remastered for the record. Reddit and the Kanyetothe forum users instigated whispers that Ocean was seen at a video shoot for his first single for BDC called Nikes back in 2015, yet nothing more is known on the subject.
Alycia Bella, Frank’s ex-girlfriend and habitual source for BDC updates, posted a snippet of the singer covering John Lennon’s Jealous Guy in December last year. Less likely to appear on the initial release but may appear down the line on a deluxe edition.
“White Ferrari” is an important addition. In November 215, A-Trak tweeted that a song entitled “White Ferrari” would be released within weeks of December, claiming it would be “the best thing you’ll hear all year.” The song was immediately linked to Frank Ocean due to the singer’s cousin responding to a Kanyetothe post telling a user to remember the words “White Ferrari.”
The song was never released and A-Trak’s tweets were subsequently deleted. Ominously, to further advocate Ocean’s claim to this track, a picture surfaced online of the singer standing in front of a chalkboard. One scrupulous user noticed that beside Ocean are letters to a word ending in “rari.”
The possibility of a track entitled “Drive In” was connected to Ocean after a curious resumé of a producer known as Rohan Scully appeared online in December 2015. The track was assumed to be attached to a music video directed by Ocean. Again, no music or video has been released.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in May this year, songwriter James Blake discussed the track “Always,” which appears on his most recent album The Color In Anything, is an interpolation of an unreleased Ocean song called “Godspeed.” “It was nice of him to let me use it,” Blake said.
Other inferences, some wholly false and others too ambiguous to confirm, have materialized over the past three years, such as Hudson Mohawke’s instrumental demo collection titled “frank oOOOOoocean” dropping on Reddit in December. But nothing is official. We may (or may not) see some, if not all, of the above manifest itself in some mutated form on Boys Don’t Cry.
The Record May Conceptually Concentrate on the Natural Elements of Earth, Wind and Fire
It was reported shortly after the release of Channel Orange that Ocean had already begun working on his follow-up. He confirmed early on that would be another concept album, similar to that of his 2012 breakthrough. Since then, some formation of a concept has been loosely suggested by those closely involved with the making of Boys Don’t Cry.
French composer Christophe Chassol, who had reportedly been collaborating with Ocean at London’s Abbey Road Studios, told BBC 6Music’s Gilles Peterson the singer had been working on differing approaches to auto-tune techniques and was heavily influenced by the natural elements. This idea was then reinforced again by ex-girlfriend Alycia Bellamy who, when asked on Twitter whether Ocean’s next record was “fire,” she posts a series of “earth, wind and fire” emojis.
Other details were confirmed by producer Malay. Speaking to Pitchfork, the Channel Orange co-producer said that BDC was “not vocally looser but just his (Ocean’s) mentality; it doesn’t seem as meticulous at certain times.” He explained that Ocean often recorded with a handheld mic sitting in the control room to generate a relaxed, abstracted vibe similar to that obtained by The Beach Boys and The Beatles; two groups Ocean has cited as being huge influences on Boys Don’t Cry.
While you wait for Boys Don’t Cry to finally drop, check out Frank Ocean as the new face of Calvin Klein FW16.
Update: It’s finally out. Stream the new Frank Ocean Blonde album now here.
- Words: Tom Watson
- Lead image: Self-portrait (2015)