Frank Ocean | Nostalgia, Ultra

Self-released (2011)
By DAN WEISS  |  July 27, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

FO Main

If anyone's earned the right to bitch about the limitations of being slotted "R&B," it's Frank Ocean. The 24-year-old has a membership in the world's most paid-attention-to rap group (OFWGKTA); credits on Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and (soon) Jay-Z/Kanye songs, and, finally, a little album he defiantly uploaded to his Tumblr earlier this year — wherein he walks past a Radiohead sample to wax pro-choice, pro-porn, pro-marriage, and pro-"singing songs to get at women," over MGMT, Coldplay, and all seven minutes of "Hotel California." It just happens to be one of the year's best releases, in any genre. The analogue here would be Cody ChesnuTT, who shares Ocean's smartass lo-fi ambition and one-cult-hit status: ChesnuTT's Roots team-up "The Seed" and Ocean's wildfire-spreading "Novacane." Original beats from Tricky Stewart and Midi Mafia underscore Ocean's gray-area R&B, in which, with cinematic vividness, his drug-addict broad possesses both a "rack like wow" and a "brain like Berkeley." This is one of those fabled records that's too good to exist . . . and it doesn't, technically, in any corporeal form. A week before a planned July 26 re-jigger via Def Jam that presumably would've cut all the copyrighted gold, his publicist confirmed "he's still working on it and may just want to focus on new tracks instead." So Google — don't walk — to obtain the original 192k batch of music from March instead of waiting for Nostalgia, LITE, Ocean's good-for-nothing label's attempt to market and re-package Ultra, officially, without all those expensive samples. It's supposedly winnowed down to seven excellent tracks you can pay for, versus an album-of-the-year candidate you can cop free legally (for now). The finished versions of "Acura Integurl" and "Whip Appeal" should justify the wait, however longer that may be, but you need original cuts of "American Wedding," "Nature Feels," and "Strawberry Swing." Collect them all.
Related: Frank Ocean | Channel Orange, Trans Am | What Day Is It Tonight? Trans Am Live, 1993 - 2008, Various Artists | Where the Action Is: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965 - 1968, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, R&B, Cody Chesnutt,  More more >
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