Tracks of 2016: #2 Frank Ocean


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Rule 1 of the Internet: never read comment sections.

You’ll recognise what I mean. A story reporting that expert analysis showing how rappers/hip hop artists use broader, deeper vocabulary than rock stars, or how hip hop is more influential than rock, and all hell breaks loose. I made the mistake not long after David Bowie’s death of clicking “read comments” underneath a story reporting Kanye West was considering releasing a tribute album. Whoopsie on my part there. Just reduce the comments to a pastiche of long-lost 1970s comedies, that’s what I found myself doing. “A black man?! Covering white person’s music?! Somebody open a window!”

I’m something of a magpie for these things. When Frank Ocean may or may not have implied/admitted same-sex relationships, it took a few mouse clicks on Twitter to unleash a splurge of comments connecting the words “Frank Ocean” and a certain derogatory term for homosexual. Long, deep sigh.

I’m no Frank Ocean expert, man alive am I not. To my ears this is the sound of the new form hip hop and pop music are developing, somewhere around the edges of experimentation and free-form narrative. Hear it in Rhianna’s “Work” or Beyoncé’s “Hold Up”.  While so much playlisted stuff continues along its conservative and predictable path, it’s the urban and hip hop worlds where the interesting experimentation and bravery flourish. Sorry comment section dwellers.