Revisiting Nostalgia, Ultra, Ten Years Later
This will be a look back when R&B and music as a whole were changing dramatically. People will look back at 2011, as a great time you had three drastically different releases from some of the biggest names in music now Drake with 'Take Care,' The Weekend with 'House of balloons', and Frank Ocean with 'Nostalgia, Ultra,' all of three classics, in their own right.
To understand 'Nostalgia, Ultra,' you have to understand Frank Ocean and who he was. And for that, you got to learn his history. And yes, so many people have already covered his youth. But there are some things that you may have overlooked. So I'm going to go over it once more. Christopher Edwin Breaux was born in Long Beach, California, and moved to New Orleans, the home of American jazz, at five years old.
His father left a five-year-old family, going his primary caregivers to be his mum Katanya and his grandfather liner. Frank's nickname Lonny grew from him, and he would be a significant influence on his music. Lionel was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. They were both nonprofit fellowship groups for recovering addicts to help each other stay clean, and you can see in this Tumblr post that Lionel had a subconscious effect on Frank as well.
He even used to do small-time jobs to pay for studio time and started doing this from 12 years old.
It was an escape for him. He never cared about the church where many artists found their love for music, such as PartyNextDoor or Anderson .Paak, and he references how he found the church cold, like this in an early tumbler post. He studied English at the University of New Orleans, which many people have already covered, and he did this while his mom studied for her masters and attended every class. As soon as he moved in, Katrina hit his rented studio, and looters took away most of his items. Now, with $1,100 in his pocket, he decided to leave his family in New Orleans behind to go to the City of Angels, LA, and initially, only for six weeks, but it ended up being six years.
He started to make more and more contacts while there and prolonged his stay; he worked at at&t, Subway, Kinkos, among other places. In 2008, he co-wrote quickly for John Legend, three songs for Brandy Norwood and in 2008, he co-wrote bigger for Justin Bieber; by 2009, he met Tricky Stewart and gotten a contract from Def Jam but no real recording opportunity.
Some Lonny Breaux reference tracks and individual tracks can be heard on unreleased miscellaneous from this time around the same time. He also managed to get on the phone with Tyler, the creator, through mutual acquaintances. Through the phone conversations, he talks about life and being free. I think it must have been refreshing to meet someone who doesn't take life seriously, especially when you're constantly being booked for sessions by the same type of corporate people.
Lonnie was introduced to the world of Odd Future and a DIY approach, along with the unapologetic method of rap that Frank said, freed him and made him reveal that irreverence. Keep in mind he's already well off at this point; he doesn't really need too much more money by 23, Frank Ocean was born, no longer Christopher Lani bro, citing Frank Sinatra and Ocean's 11 his inspiration. His principle was to become himself and make his own music and what he stood for. As the promise of Def Jam never came to fruition fast enough for him and his timeline. In 2011, he released 'Nostalgia, Ultra' to his Tumblr. A 10 track project with four interludes speaking on themes about love discovery being young and wild.
You could argue that 'Nostalgia, Ultra' was about looking at yourself honestly; before 'Nostalgia, Ultra,' you had artists like Keri Hilson, Ne-yo, and Trey Songz, among others, as what defined R&B he even mentions them on certain tracks. In a post 'Nostalgia, Ultra' world, you have Khalid, Brent Faiyaz, SZA, H.E.R., Anderson Paak helping define R&B; notice the difference?
The various retro video game named interludes contained clicks rewinding and fast forward sounds from a cassette player and our throwback to his childhood. The personal touch that a mixtape has opposed to albums of that time, for example, he speaks about that transition from him likely falling out with writing for others and being miserable, to then going out seeing the world we all do well to accumulate as a songwriter.
It's a proper understanding of how he realized that authenticity makes people want to listen to music, and you could only be authentic if you had meaningful stories to tell in the first place. Novocane is about self-medicating to get over a relationship. Love crimes are a playback of romantic failure, Swim good is a foreshadowing debate with yourself about dying, and American wedding handles what marriages genuinely are and the complexities of divorce.
Now, he's always been unapologetic about his influences, Prince being a notable one he discovered at his mom's friend's house Jerry's. The ability to sit down and just express yourself as purely as possible without worry about what others do was always something that he connected with listening to Prince, and nostalgia ultra was proof that he was himself away from the dynamic of what R&B was at the time.
While you could argue nostalgia ultra helped pave the way for Channel Orange to really flesh out his originality. 'Nostalgia, Ultra' always held the core themes that made him a superstar and differentiate him from others and interest in non-musical art. Overall, 'Nostalgia, Ultra' was not the perfect Frank Ocean album by any stretch of the means. What 'Nostalgia, Ultra' was, was a defining moment for him and a defining moment for R&B.