Frank Ocean is the mystery man of R&B. Since his career start in 2011 with mixtape Nostalgia Ultra, Ocean’s presence in the music industry has ebbed and flowed, seemingly personifying his own name. One moment he’s here, one moment he's gone — followed by a cold absence for years.
In terms of releases, Ocean's only consistency came in the period between his first mixtape and first album, channel ORANGE. Now, about a decade later, his fans call out in hopes to hear word of an album, an EP, or even an unreleased single from years past. Ocean hasn't satiated hungry fans in months, and left them starving when he deleted all his Instagram posts and Tweets. Where has Frank Ocean gone?
While Ocean is a master of the disappearing act, we have reason to believe this act might be permanent. After channel ORANGE, Ocean weighed the idea of stopping after one hit, similar to Lauryn Hill, with fewer accolades. He continued, however, promising his sophomore album, Boys Don’t Cry and a magazine to pair. Instead, a year after the promised release, we saw Endless, and a day later, Blonde, which almost made us grab the hair dye. Beautiful, insightful, and one of the top albums of the decade, Blonde was the last project seen from Frank Ocean.
Since 2016, it's only been features and singles for the artists, with hopes of a release in 2020. Most recently, with a pre-order available in February 2020, Ocean and his team planned the release of a vinyl with a new, unnamed track. Just weeks later, all pre-orders were returned and the vinyl’s release was cancelled.
Early 2020 was also home to releases such as “Dear April” and “Cayendo,” which was the last we saw from Ocean until his 18 year old brother, Ryan Breaux, tragically died in August later that year. Since then, Ocean's Twitter and Instagram have been wiped clean of any traces of existence. All that’s left are the almost three million fans waiting for a white flag. Even the artist's website has been sparse with updates, with its last edit around election time, promoting early voting. There's been no word from Frank Ocean since.
Recently, Ocean’s name resurfaced on TikTok as creators buzzed over rumors of him retiring. First coming to light on the app on January 4th, 2021, this story put a damper on the new year. By now, hundreds of fans on Reddit and TikTok have debated whether or not Ocean is retiring — so before the rumor grows any larger, we wanted to address it.
If Frank Ocean is retiring from music, then so be it. Throughout the past 5 years, Frank has been through a lot, from deciding to part with Def Jam Records to have full control over his music and masters, to the recent loss of his brother. He's notoriously private, only recently making his Instagram available to fans. And as his world evolves, so should his fans.
Choosing to love and support an artist for their music also means supporting an artist for their decision to leave the industry. Ocean might still be grieving the loss of his brother, and we need to respect that. The world won’t stop spinning if he retires. Plus, who knows? Maybe he’ll make a great return like many other artists like the Jonas Brothers or LL Cool J.
While we love to speculate, we truly have no clue what the future holds for Frank Ocean. That’s the beauty of his work — it comes when you least expect it, but when you need it most. After breaking off from his label in 2016 with the release of Endless, Ocean was able to pave his own way and create the music he wanted to, how he wanted to with his own label.
Although the release dates might make people angry, he’s earned the right to do things his way, and retiring is just another example of that. Frank Ocean is 100% his own artist, from start to end. That is why you love him, and that will never change, even if he retires.
While this hiatus feels longer than most we've experienced, from 2016 to 2021, it might be the shortest to date. We've just exited Ocean's longest active period in the music industry — after releasing Blonde, he went on to release 10 singles throughout the 2017-2020 period. A four year break separated channel ORANGE from Endless and Blonde. So, we'll see you in four years, when we can revisit this whole retirement conondrum. Right now, we don't hold the answers. But, we can say that wherever he is, he's doing what he needs to do for himself. As fans, that's all we can hope for.
How will you feel if Frank Ocean retires? Who is going to fill his shoes if he does? Let us know in the comments.