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Frank Ocean is Breaking the Rules Once Again

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The Channel Orange singer-songwriter gave the fans a taste of what it’s like to have him back on the stage at this year’s Coachella Festival but on his terms.

“I ain’t on no schedule,” Frank Ocean proclaimed back in 2016 in his song “Futura Free.” He backed that statement up by showing up an hour late to his return to the stage for the first time since 2019 at this year’s Coachella Festival.

The world has demanded much of the Long Beach native. Some people would like a new album, and he suggested that he has been in the process of creating one while on stage last night in a way only he can.

“I wanna talk about why I’m here, ‘cuz it’s not because of a new album,” he said initially before interrupting himself, knowing he was letting some people down.

Instead, he provided fans with hope.

“Not that there’s not a new album, but there’s not [one] right now.”

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A new album is seemingly on the way, yet no one knows when. It appears even Frank Ocean himself doesn’t know when the album will release. All of these contradictions fall in line with an artist whose music is as mysterious as his persona.

Frank Ocean moves like the name of a SZA song on her newest album: “Ghost in the Machine.” The music industry is the machine and he is the ghost. The industry understands supply and demand and has been in operation far longer than Frank Ocean’s 35 years of life.

The machine — the music industry — wants him to release on a schedule. But he operates on his own time, and somehow, his spectacle is larger than it has ever been.

Frank Ocean bet on himself in 2016 when he released a visual album, Endless, and a traditional album Blonde, in back-to-back days, and we at Boardroom still cannot seem to identify an artist who has done the same on Frank Ocean’s scale. It resulted in a $20 million check that went straight to his pockets. A$AP Rocky spoke about this in an interview with Angie Martinez in 2019, likening the releases to smart chess moves by the singer.

Ocean later noted in an interview with Gayletter that while some of what the “Fashion Killa” rapper said was accurate, there were some clarifications to be had.

What is true is that on Endless, the publishing on the record belongs to Def Jam (and Fresh Produce), but let’s not forget that the Def Jam imprint is owned by Universal Music Group.

“He figured out how to get $20 million from Lucian Grange. [Then] he figured out how to make the funds apply to a whole ‘nother album (Blonde), he gave them a bullshit album (Endless),” Rocky told Martinez.

Grange is the chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group. So Rocky is essentially saying Ocean got out of his record deal by giving them a non-traditional visual album (Endless). Then released the traditional album Blonde under his own company — the publishing on Blonde reads “Boys Don’t Cry.” The phrase appears to be a magazine publication that has only released a handful of times. It has contributions from artists that include Kanye West, Tyler, the Creator, and of course, A$AP Rocky. For context, Boys Don’t Cry has not been seen in the publishing of his music credits since the release of Blonde.

So now there are two different questions: Did Frank Ocean plot to have the record label industry send a $20 million check to his magazine company? Moreover, did Ocean use the company one time to release his album Blonde? Boardroom does not know these answers, but it’s a reasonable conclusion for one to reach.

However, Ocean returned to the stage last night without the new music that most of the world expected him to have. He said the music does exist; the world just can’t have it yet.

Ocean acknowledges the fact that people across the world crave his presence, even saying, “It’s been so long. I have missed you all,” while on stage to a large crowd that anxiously awaited him even an hour late. None of what Frank Ocean does makes sense because he is mysterious, and he knows it too. If things go according to Coachella’s schedule (they didn’t yesterday), Ocean will return to the stage next weekend.

No one knows if Ocean will show up at the time he is listed to perform. And that is because Frank Ocean is a rule-breaker trying to breach the system again by abiding by his own rules.


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About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a former Staff Writer at Boardroom specializing in sports business and music. He previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester, and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" -- Hampton University — is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.