Boys Don’t Cry…in Heaven: Frank Ocean and Kid Cudi

After much silence, Frank Ocean and Kid Cudi finally let their inquisitive fans know the names of their newest albums and their approximate release dates!

It has been quite the buzz among people as it has been 3 years since Ocean’s big release Channel Orange and a year since Cudi’s last album Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon (and the new one will not be the man on the moon III). People have held high expectations for these two new albums and the fact that they both are coming out this summer is why I decided to write this article. I wanted to make a little comparison between Ocean and Cudi based on their background stories, what I have heard from students I have interviewed on campus, and from my radio show crew, The College Blueprint, at WTBU Radio.

“As a writer, as a creator, I’m giving you my experiences.” ~Frank Ocean

This is what Ocean said one night when interviewed on Jimmy Fallon.

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Ocean and skyline. Photosource from interview with The New York Times reporter, Jeff Himmelman.

Christopher Breaux (Ocean’s original name before he officially changed it in 2010) or nicknamed, Lonny, had a childhood that was mostly engaging himself in solitude. He said he used to climb rooftops, listen to music, and read.

Ocean told a New York Times reporter, Jeff Himmelman, that “art’s everything we hope life would be, a lot of times…That’s what I get from it. And that’s what I’ve tried to do. In the storytelling and the sonics and everything. That’s what I’ve tried to do, because I just think that’s the purpose of art. Push, you know?”

Ocean is clearly a 25 year-old man of depth, one who does not take the simple way of thinking. He expresses that profoundness of his personality through the lyrics of his songs and the stories he conveys. He explains the truth of his father leaving his family when he was little in his song “There Will Be Tears.” The synthesized white noise and layers of his voice and beat contradict and unite his heartbreaking tale. His mother explained that his father’s absence left a huge hole in his life. He was trying to find who he was– mind and soul. In his tune “Bad Religion,” Ocean openly refers to his love for another man—a strong and proud moment for him and his fans.

Ocean is a man of many talents, and in addition to releasing his new album called Boys Don’t Cryon July 15th this summer, he will also be releasing a “publication” which he deems is a piece with many layers and where he explains the term he uses #Issue1. He announced these releases via a photo he posted on his official site with a picture of him sitting with a magazine and its cover page labeled all over in the text Boys Don’t Cry and #ISSUE1 #Album3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY. Ocean stated, “I got two versions. I got twoooo versions.” What does this mean Ocean?

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Ocean’s album and publication announcement on new project. Photo source from Hiphopdx.com.

A collaborator of his, Nabil Elderkin, complimented his newest works, and in an recent discussion, declared that “everyone should be excited about this new album — that sh** is fire. He’s making a great record. It blows the sophomore-album myth out of the water.”

The new album is expected to feature such producers as Hit-Boy (known for working with Kanye West, Eminem, and Jay-Z) and with Rodney Jerkins (best known for collaborations with Michael Jackson and Destiny’s Child).

In November, Ocean released a new song said to be on the new album called “Memrise” (also found in the video below).

 

You can hear the melodic, raw, harmonic, moody, and atmospheric vibes Ocean consistently incorporates into his work that brands it his own. The R&B singer accentuates the detailing of his music by using the simplest of techniques and sparks the listeners’ attention with his voice and story.

His previous album, Channel Orange, won Best Urban Contemporary Album and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2013 Grammys. Himmelman proclaimed the album as one of the most meticulously constructed records of the year.

Ocean was also known to be associated with a rap assembly known as Odd Future, an American hip hop group from Los Angeles, California, including members such as Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. This group has gradually been breaking up over time, but their collaborations in this group are, no doubt, a part of the start for these artists and their careers.

In similar fashion, another beloved R&B artist announced the release of his newest album via Twitter on Saturday, April 4th. Just like Ocean, Kid Cudi surprised us all and kept quiet about the album creation and date for so long until he finally announced that it would come out sometime this year of 2015. (And here we thought the two were going to pull another mysterious, out-of-nowhere album drop like Drake.)

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@kidcudi.

And just like Ocean, Cudi rides on his emotions and is extremely vulnerable to them and expressive of them in his music showing his broken down soul to all of his listeners, but I guess that is what makes them so famous and loved—the relatable connection of sorrow, anguish, and a bit of dysfunction. For this instance, there is such a thing as the “dude in distress.”

A little more on Cudi—his real name is Scott Ramon Seguro Mescudi, born in Cleveland, Ohio where he was a lower-middle class kid. His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father was a house painter and a WWII veteran who died at the age of 67 of cancer in 1995.

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@officialindicud.

Ocean, no dad. Cudi, no dad.

Cue Cudi and his emotion. Cudi’s mother also spoke about how his father “was always a strong force in their lives, and when he got sick, they went through that sickness with him… it was a devastating time for all of them–Scott especially, because he was the baby. There’s a sadness [in him] because of the void.”

Similarly, Cudi used his misery to drive his creativity and began to have an interest in singing. With the support of his mother, he joined the school choir and read lots of Calvin and Hobbes (YES-loved those comics) to spark his drawing interest. He developed a more serious interest in rap, which she still supported him for (go mom), but even then he continued to carry the melancholy as well as have bad grades, like C’s and D’s. He went to Toledo University but dropped out after one year of studying film. Cudi remarked, “there was something in the room, and everybody was consuming the inspiration,” and so he couldn’t stand it any longer and left hoping to build up the courage to deliver his own words and thoughts through the power of song.

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@officialindicud.

Through sonic storytelling the two create their music and life maps. Through the intonations, the two artists let their audience into their worlds.

Many people that I have talked to compare the two artists with one another. I always hear around BU or on the radio show I DJ at on how the two have similar contextual backgrounds, mindsets, and definitions of life. They are chill but extremely sensitive beings with a lot to say and a lot to hold back, but their creative capacities are greater than so many that the depressing topics of choice are less irritating and whiny than they are inspiring and moving.

However, I have also heard that both can tend to play on the “safe” side in the way they play the music industry game. People say that it seems the two remain static when there could be more room for experimentation with vocal and musical fluctuation and expression.

I don’t know how I feel about that criticism. I do see how people think that rhythmically, most of their songs keep at the same pace or embody the same aura, and I totally agree that most of their music plays around with the same tools, tempos, and subject matter, but I think that is what makes them so appealing to the crowd. They specifically target that collection of people. Without the voice and tunes and consistency that they bring, I think many of us would be lost with the ever-changing and dynamic world of hip-hop that is mainstream and big like Kendrick Lamar or Jay-Z or Kanye West. Sometimes you just need that break of voice and need to go from a song on an album like To Pimp a Butterfly to a song like “Forest Gump” or “Maniac.” These can sometimes be the go-to songs for listeners out there, but again, it is all personal preference and individual choice and what is so great about music is that it is free—that you have the choice to choose. There are so many options out there to pick from. Ocean had mixtapes though to his credit: TheLonny Breaux Collection and Nostalgia, Ultra. Both were pretty novel.

We have to learn to “embrace the martian,” as Cudi would say or know that “we all try” and can not appease everyone, as Ocean would say.

Nonetheless, no matter who critiques or adores these two, we are all extremely anxious for their new albums and can not wait to see what the two have up their sleeves for us this time.

 

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