Even within the prolifically creative rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, Frank Ocean stands apart. In a single mixtape, he’s exhibited a creativity that creates a magnetism in a way that perhaps even overshadows his colleagues (if we can call them that..). Like Tyler the Creator’s Yonkers, there is a captivating simplicity in Ocean’s Novacane. The foundation of the song consists of nothing but a simple synth walkdown laid over an repetitious industrial sample and a muted drum machine. To this, Ocean utilizes an understanding of the young warmth found in the timbre of his voice as the driving force of the song. Around it he’s written an equally simplistic almost lightly “hip-pop” melody that echoes his history in writing for Justin Bieber, like Yonkers though, these all exist as they do to present to us a lyrical writing that is entrancing.

I love it when a thing creatively embodies what it tries to describe – when it exhibits a self-consciousness about what it is that only further drives home what it tries to communicate. This whole song is about drugs. This is obvious at a glance, in listening through once, and despite this, a curiosity exists about creating it seemingly from within an altered state. Here is not seen Wayne’s brand of glorification around the use of the substence itself (He’s continually reminded to not “waste the high”). Instead continually he asks, how did I get here, why, and where? – It’s fundamentally an expression of being high, and at the same time it’s more intelligent than just that. In the accompanying video- visual imagery float in and out, often subjects within a running thread of continuity – decadence, animals, the exotic (the characters on his shirt, harem imagery- black women, geishas, the hindi goddess? on the dresser) appear to us as the viewer in a hallucinogenic vapor. Lyrical humor slips in and out of context with things that are not, things that would actually be feasibly heard from the mouth of someone under the influence of something. The words make sense and then maybe don’t for an instant, as if we are sharing in this experience with him, and this becomes the take home message of the song. It seeks to transcend itself I think in a way, and takes us there, rather than just telling us. The extent to which it achieves this, for a simple neo-soul song, I think is damn impressive.

The exhibited grasp of all of this, these musical understandings crafted around his own talent make this song something hauntingly genuine. If OFWGKTA becomes something more than a flash in the proverbial pan, if in 20 years if we look back upon them, it’s my hope that Frank Ocean is seen as the dark horse that I think he is.


~ by crossmd on July 16, 2011.

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