The Story of How Frank Ocean Got Famous Will Make You Want His New Album Even More
This was the year that Grammy-winning artist Frank Ocean was supposed to drop his much anticipated sophomore album, allegedly titled Boys Don't Cry. Fans craving for more of Ocean's musical talents after his hit Channel Orange were wildly disappointed after the first missed July deadline—and continue to be, since there's just a few days left of the year and nothing has surfaced. Here's the story of how Ocean became Ocean.
Ocean's rise from Channel Orange: Before Channel Orange, Ocean's name was relatively unknown. Ocean, whose real name was Christopher Breaux until 2010, hails from New Orleans, according to a 2013 interview with the New York Times. At 13 years old, his dream was to be a songwriter, he told Wax Poetics in 2012. He enrolled in the University of New Orleans to study English, but went west to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina hit the city, according to theTimes.
There, he made friends with the Odd Future team, and supported himself with jobs at Subway, Fatburger and AT&T. His talents also brought him to making money via ghostwriting for other artists, such as Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy, according to Yahoo News.
Although Def Jam signed him in 2009 and gave him a recording budget, the company made no action, the New York Times reported. So he took matters into his own hands, reaching out to industry players like Brandy, the Eagles and Midi Mafia to help.
"I didn't have a lot of money to be spending racks on mixing it," Ocean told Wax Poetics. "So it was definitely a labor of love and a passion. It just had to get done, as far as I was concerned. It was the only way that I could be heard in the way that I wanted to be heard."
Ocean dropped his debut self-produced mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra for free via his blog in February 2011, according to Wax Poetics. His fellow Odd Future friend Tyler, the Creator reposted it, adding steam to the hype. It broke glass ceilings and surprised Ocean himself, who thought he'd need to actively market the album, not just "put it on my Tumblr and put my hands in the air," according to Wax Poetics.
A helping hand from Queen Bey: In a matter of months, Beyoncé reached out to Ocean to collaborate for her 4 album, according to Yahoo News. Jay-Z and Kanye West followed suit for they Watch the Throne LP, Wax Poetics reported. Ocean's vocals were featured not the album's first track "No Church in the Wild." Other genres also tuned in, and Coldplay asked Ocean to open for their 2012 European tour (which he later pulled out of), SPIN reported. Like other up-and-coming artists, he hit the festival scene too, performing at Coachella 2012 and Bonnaroo 2014.
Ocean wrote Channel Orange in three weeks, then worked with Def Jam and producer James Ryan Ho for nine months to finish it, according to GQ. The album was released in July 2012, a week before the official date, GQ reported. It earned six Grammy nominations, Pitchfork reported.
Alongside Channel Orange's release came an intimate letter via Ocean's Tumblr recalling the memories of an ultimately unreciprocated love with a man, GQ reported. He wrote the letter in Dec. 2011 to be included in the sleeve notes explaining Channel Orange's nuanced pronouns, but decided it was time to publicly post the letter when a journalist asked him why he sang "he" instead of "you," he told the Guardian.
Since then, Ocean has laid low, neither confirming his sexuality nor a second album. He subtly hinted at one via Tumblr in April 2015, but everyone is still waiting for R&B's breakout star to keep up his heartfelt work.