Finally, in July, a full year and change after the first promised release window, Frank’s website updates with a library card that indicates the album would be coming out sometime that month. Naturally, that didn’t happen either. What we did get was a Calvin Klein ad featuring Frank and a reddit user’s tip that Frank was working on a novel in conjunction with his magazine and music.
On August 19th, Frank Ocean released a visual album called Endless exclusively on Apple Music. This was released via Def Jam Records, ending his recording contract with the label and allowing him to release Blonde the very next day independently.
Let’s quickly recap a summary of the timeline so far goes as it pertains to the record(s):
- February 2013 - Frank tells Zane Lowe that he has 10–11 tracks finished for the album.
- November 2014 - Frank posts “You Are Luhh” which would be rearranged and released on Endless.
- April 2015 - boysdontcry.co launches, the mag is revealed, and a July 2015 release window is released.
- May 2015 - Christophe Chassol reveals that he worked on Frank’s music at some point in the past few months, he would appear on Endless.
- July 2015 - No record.
- August 2015 - “Nikes” placeholder is found on the website.
- October 2015 - People have seen the Blonde artwork and “White Ferrari” is confirmed to exist.
- February 2016 - Def Jam still has nothing from Frank and Endless has been at least partially recorded.
- April 2016 - Katonya Breaux hints at Endless visual album.
- August 2016 - Endless drops on the 19th and Blonde on the 20th.
Boiled down to the basics of what is public knowledge and what is now hindsight, Boys Don’t Cry/Blonde apparently came together over the first two years. Production on Endless began around the time boysdontcry.co launched and Def Jam is hardly involved in the process if they are included at all. It seems to me that a record was intended to launch in the summer of 2015 with “Nikes” as the lead single. Whether the label or Frank Ocean himself put a hold on it, that delay started a chain reaction that would eventually culminate in Frank self-producing a record that he could give to the label to get out of his deal and release the record he intended to make on his own, making Endless in every way an experiment.
It seems to me that after an undetermined amount of time in contention with his label regarding the record, Frank headed back to the studio within the last two years to record Endless. I don’t think the wait was intentional. I expect the release cycle would have been standard if not for his bad dealings with Def Jam, but who can blame him for wanting to get out?
Tricky Stewart, the guy who signed Frank to RedZone Records, a Def Jam imprint had this to say to Fader:
The label wasn’t motivated by the signing. They didn’t give him the respect that I thought he deserved. I couldn’t really get Def Jam to respond to him the way the way that I wanted them to respond to him.
Tricky said that Def Jam “created a monster they couldn’t control” and that Frank “just treated them how he was treated” by releasing Endless to get out of his contract. To those that say that something like that couldn’t happen, read the entirety of Tricky Stewart’s interview. When Nostalgia, Ultra dropped, the label didn’t even know.