Frank Ocean is undeniably one of the most reclusive and mysterious artists of the past decade, who is no stranger to the phrase “good things come to those who wait.” With that in mind, if you are a fan of Frank Ocean, this weekend may have been particularly exciting for you. As many of you may already know, reclusive R&B artist Ocean just released a new single. No––this is not some kind of sick joke. “DHL” is the newest official Frank release since “Moon River” in February 2018, a cover of the original sung by Audrey Hepburn.
“DHL” premiered on Frank’s Apple Music Beats 1 show titled “Blonded Radio,” which had been inactive since last December. The track was co-produced by Ocean alongside Boys Noize, a popular EDM artist. It starts with a woozy, warped kind of feel. Then the second verse opens up with Frank rapping in his natural calm, relaxed manner––which has been his main style of rapping since his iconic verses on Odd Future’s “Oldie” and Earl Sweatshirt’s “Sunday.” As the song progresses, Ocean balances between flaunting his trips around the world to sharing bits and pieces about his love life––which the singer also keeps relatively private.
I love the song. It’s not what one would typically expect once they hear that there is new Frank Ocean out, but I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. It’s another example of Frank’s ambiguity as an artist, which we mainly got to see on his last album, “Blonde.” One of the main things that people have noticed was the cover art for “DHL,” specifically the 13 silhouettes of what one would assume are images of Ocean. This has led many fans to assume that the “Channel Orange” singer’s newest project is going to be featuring 13 tracks.
Frank Ocean also previewed two other new songs during his “PrEP+” event titled “Cayendo” and “Dear April”––both of which were remixed by Justice and Sango. Justice is a French EDM group, and Sango is a popular DJ and record producer based in Washington (Sango also recently released a remix of Ocean’s “Nights,” which had also been played at the nightclub event). The two songs are expected to be released on vinyl according to Ocean’s website. Snippets of the songs are also available on YouTube, even if we haven’t heard the full versions yet. These songs have earned great response from fans; however, Frank’s “PrEP+” event has been receiving negative spotlight.
The “PrEP+” event was announced on Oct. 17 and was designed to be a series of parties that pay homage to New York’s ’80s and ’90s club scene. PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily pill that lowers the risk of contacting HIV through sex by 90 percent. The singer also announced the event to imagine what the club scene back then would have been like if the preventative drug had been created. It was also intended to be a safe space for people to come together and simply enjoy themselves without the external pressures that life brings. The event had a strict “no phones allowed” rule and an even stricter guest list.
However, there has been some criticism of the party due to the fact that a few perceive Ocean’s attempt at inclusivity as actually erasing LGBTQ history due to the fact that most of New York City’s nightlife culture back then was centered around those living with HIV and the allies that supported them. Many of the responses argue that by imagining a club scene with the drug gives the idea that the ’80s club scene would have been better without these individuals, thus erasing them from LGBTQ history as a whole. Ocean responded to this criticism by explaining how the purpose of the event was mainly to bring awareness to the drug, explaining how he has encountered many people who do not know what the drug actually does as well as shining light on the fact that the drug can be exclusive due to its high price.
In my opinion, I can completely understand the criticism that people have with this event. The idea was clever––yes, imagining a world without HIV is definitely something that many would want. However, a problem arises when you do not pay homage to many of the LGBTQ folk who did not have the luxury to ignore this problem. One of the things that I think Ocean could have done better was to properly acknowledge and pay homage to the legends who lost their lives to the disease, instead of constructing his event in a way that erases them from the narrative.
When it comes to Ocean and what he may be up to next, there have been a few conspiracies about Ocean’s new album and what fans expect from it. There haven’t been any hints on when Ocean is actually planning on releasing his third album, but fans have definitely been on the edge of their seats waiting to see what the mysterious artist has up his sleeve.