July 14, 2012

Frank Ocean, Trash Talk and Why Not Caring Is the Most Hardcore Thing to Do In 2012

Unless you've somehow managed to avoid all forms of music world web sites and social media over the past several days, the week of July 8, 2012 shall go down as the week where Frank Ocean changed the game. The velvet voice of Odd Future, one of last year's most buzzworthy new acts, unsurprisingly has been steadily building anticipation leading up to his official Def Jam debut Channel Orange, and combined with recent beautifully-worded revelation about his sexuality, interest in the the R&B crooner is piqued at a level that should put him on the top trending tweet list for months to come. But this isn't about Frank Ocean using his public spotlight to capitalize on momentum, because I'm not convinced he's even doing just that. In the world of hip-hop where Kanye West and Jay-Z watch its throne with controlled retail maneuvering and their disciples Drake and A$AP Rocky are left to hope that whatever they throw up on the Internet will virally push sales, Ocean's approach to his biggest release of his career yet is a refreshing one based more so on whatever-happens-happens.

Without much warning on late Monday night, he streamed Channel Orange for free on his Tumblr alongside releasing it on iTunes (much to the irk of large retailers like Target, who've since decided not to carry the album in stores since everyone already has it on their iPods) and aside from a few tracks made public in the weeks prior to its release, Channel Orange is one of the few hip-hop albums released in recent memory that didn't arrive with some sort of meticulous social media campaign that put the songs into listeners hands before the longplay arrived. In short, Frank Ocean made Channel Orange an experience for listeners rather than artful attempt at a payday, and the reception to his debut being nothing but glowing shows that he's already a less annoying version of a hip-hop hero.

Frank Ocean's humbleness throughout his upgraded position as a superstar can be credited to lacking self-awareness, and in the grand scheme of the industry where the lines between superstars and struggling indie artists have been blurred over the past decade, it's enough to make you think that we're finally, finally -- finally -- ready to stop caring about image, number of units moved or the company artists keep along the way. It's a strange bedfellow reminder of the tenants that the hardcore scene (which sonically shares nothing in common with the slick daze of Channel Orange) grew from: A disdain of being defined by geography, class and social surroundings that resulted in an anti-Hollywood community, resonating first in the clean-cut suburbs and ultimately ended up sprawling out into the cities who were too cool to pay attention to what was happening right underneath their cocaine-smattered noses. As much as Ocean and his Odd Future cohorts are by default mashed together with the hip-hop community based on style, the release of Channel Orange does a lot to defy the usual archetype of a big, major label rap / R&B / hip-hop release by letting the success define hype and not vice versa.

Yes, hardcore music in itself has gotten itself back on its legs through emerging revivalist bands and reunion nostalgia in recent years, but so much of this youth movement is interested in recreating an era that it's beginning to feel like its stuck in it. Polarizing and progressive-minded acts such as Ceremony, Fucked Up and Touché Amoré are holding their own despite what most of their peers falter on, but its Trash Talk whose continuous disregard for the press' definition which might just make them the most altruist hardcore band out there right now. Follow the band on Twitter, and you'll often see that the band's current playlist rotation escapes genre boundaries and their upcoming tour with rapper Spaceghostpurrp is going to test the limits of purists who expect to see them bashing walls in with other punk thrashers. The Sacramento quartet's ties with OFWGKTA is a deep one, as well, having recently signed with Odd Future Records for their upcoming LP 119, which you can easily take as a total piss off to letting your label and the concept of genre exclusivity define you.

Maybe it's a stretch to say that Frank Ocean and Trash Talk are directly feeding off the same music model here, but it says something in 2012 when the hottest hip-hop release of the year arrives from a musician puts faith in his fans first before he does the commercial side of industry while the most buzzed-about and grating hardcore crew today wants theirs to rethink what exactly it is they think they're part of. Two artists, two entirely different sides of the music spectrum and yet, neither seems to really care about what the rest of the world around them thinks they should do. As Ocean's Twitter profile attests, "I don't know anything. And neither do you."


  1. Great article, great artists.

  2. great article