While the majority of the coverage concerning Tyler the Creator and Odd Future has focused on their affinity for depressive, "I don't give a f*ck," horrorcore HipHop, there's definitely some less aggressive music coming from the camp. And the kicker is he's not even rapping!
The OFWGKTA representative I'm referring to is Frank Ocean. His new mixtape entitled Nostalgia, ULTRA falls somewhere between N.E.R.D., Drake and Kid Cudi in terms of style and sound.
One major difference between Ocean and Drake and Cudi is the music is honest without being overtly emo. Even when a sensitive subject like an absentee father comes into play on There Will Be Tears, Ocean speaks open and honestly about his feelings of growing up without a father without it turning into a festival of eye lubricant. Instead, the song questions the decision that left a child fatherless while simultaneously letting him off the hook had his fatheer simply said "he wouldn't be there."
An astute observation of the numbness the world has embraced with increased acceptance over the last couple of decades leads to the feeling of Novacane. In both literal and figurative terms, Ocean gives a first-person account of an encounter with a dental student who pays her bills acting in porn movies. Upon discovering her choice of employment, Ocean flatly comments, "at least she's working." The second verse finds Ocean "pacing in kitchen," in the middle of a Stanley Kubrick, Eyes Wide Shut-like setting having a "cocaine for breakfast" type of day.
Absentee fathers and general numbness aren't the only subjects addressed on Nostalgia. What would a heart felt project be with out love and women? Whether it's exploring an organic approach to sex on Nature Feel over MGMT's Electric Feel or explaining matter-of-factly that he makes Songs For Women or addressing the impact of divorce and the high rate in which it's taking place on the Hotel California-inspired American Wedding, it's apparent that Ocean is much more perceptive than most would credit to someone in their early 20's.
Though it sounds a little suicidal, Swim Good actually highlights the need to start over and wash away the past. While We All Try reveals Ocean's hope for the world and Strawberry Swing expresses appreciation for life and all that it entails.
When you lay the songs out on a table as if they were pieces to a puzzle, Nostalgia comes together to form a picture of all that it is to be human. While his comrades speak freely on the ills of the world, Ocean takes a similar, yet different approach. Pain points that lead to the "crazy" thoughts expressed by the rest of the crew are analyzed, discussed and revealed as the beautiful struggle.
Considering I've listened to it repeatedly over the past two weeks, it should go without saying that this is one of my favorite projects of this young year. Take a few minutes to download it and give it a thorough listen. Then, let me know what you think.
Joints to check for:
We All Try
Songs For Women
There Will Be Tears
Frank Ocean- Nostalgia, ULTRA
A taste of OFWGKTA
Organized chaos at its finest. And yes, you were hearing those lyrics exactly the way you thought you did. But here's the thing I've come to respect about them: the energy. I remember when HipHop had this type of "eff the man" energy growing up.