Conor Grebel's Master Sky concept

Conor Grebel/Bedtimes || Master Sky

Conor Grebel/Bedtimes || Master Sky

As I've been reading through the Star Wars: Ralph McQuarrie archives these past few weeks, I feel as if I've been sucked back in to the space concept art black hole that consumed much of my young life. Conor Grebel is a photographer, illustrator, and animator known simply as Bedtimes. One of their more recent works is Master Sky, a study in space that captures the 60s and 70s retro-futuristic feel that I really appreciate.


Master sky is the space that exceeds our earthly atmosphere, the endless black that we gaze up at for a sense of perspective, humility, and creatively challenging thought. These frames are an expression of my mind pointing upwards, imagining the countless sights our race will never see, and happily chasing the answers that I will never know.

Check out Master Sky and more of Grebel's personal projects on their website.

The Shakermaker Podcast 7: "Bring It On Down" with guest Jacob Tender

Patrick Haynes had me on The Shakermaker Podcast to discuss a song from the first Oasis album. It was a lot of fun. The guy is a HUGE Oasis dork who does his research. If you love Oasis even half as much as he does, you'll love his show.

Jacob Tender guests on the seventh episode of The Shakermaker Podcast to discuss "Bring It On Down," the seventh track off of Oasis' debut, Definitely Maybe.

I don't advertise it much, but I do have a feed for all of my podcast appearances outside of my own shows. Vain? Probably. Subscribe to Patricks's show on iTunes or Overcast.

VBR #18: 'They Were Playing Second Of Four', with guest Johnny Minardi

Johnny Minardi is something of a legend in the alternative scene. He launched the careers of some scene favorites and aided in the release of countless more. He has scores of stories regarding the glory days of Fueled By Ramen as well as anecdotes from his various other positions throughout the music world. Listen to Johnny tell his tales as I work through a scratchy throat with gallons of ice water, I promise I don't speak much.

Johnny Minardi drops knowledge on the early years on Fueled By Ramen as well as his endeavors as a professional A&R. Hear more about how he launched the careers of bands like Gatsby's American Dream, Hidden In Plain View, The Academy Is...

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

VBR #17: 'Dude, Not Ballin', with guest Mike "Gunz" Gunzelman

It took a while, but I finally got Gunz on the show. After a few weeks of rain delays and train crashes, the Idobi posterboy gives us the dish on his career in broadcast journalism.

Mike Gunzelman aka Gunz is a media personality and host of The Gunz Show on Idobi Radio. Having grown up in the industry by way of Blink 182, Geffen Records, Drive-Thru Records, and other early starters of the scene, Gunz made a name for himself early and continues to be successful with over 120,000 listeners every week. When off the air, you can find him on FOX, NBC, ABC, and more as a correspondent or studio guest on a variety of panels. We talk about how Gunz built his brand and what makes his show so entertaining.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

Donald Glover cast as Lando Calrissian in Han Solo stand-alone film

Donald Glover (Community, Atlanta, the rap game) has been officially cast as Lando Calrissian in the Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directed Han Solo stand-alone film set for 2018, a role long rumored and greatly anticipated.

The role of Han Solo himself was cast in May of this year with Alden Ehrenreich taking the part. While the film community celebrated this decision, I think it's safe to say that it's Glover that made the bigger wave among the popular crowd.

Lord and Miller via

We’re so lucky to have an artist as talented as Donald join us. These are big shoes to fill, and an even bigger cape, and this one fits him perfectly, which will save us money on alterations. Also, we’d like to publicly apologize to Donald for ruining Comic-Con for him forever.

The film still has no title, but will be the second stand-alone film in the franchise following Rogue One this December. Due to the newness of the stand-alone concept in the Star Wars universe, the success of Rogue One will surely determine the tone and budget for the next feature. It's my hope that the grittier tone of the first will allow for growth in the second. The idea of a prequel for an iconic character such as Han Solo makes me nervous, but it's a solid financial play. With the fate of Han Solo decided, it's only natural to give the audience a taste of his beginning.

For instance, the Millennium Falcon wasn't always Han's. He won it gambling with his "old pal Lando." If there is a God, there will be some footage of Donald Glover behind the controls before he has to hand it over to the smuggler. Seeing Gambino with the Calrissian signature moustache and cape will forever be a great moment.

Lately, Glover has been at work on his FX television series Atlanta and preparing to release his next Childish Gambino album Pharos. He is also slated to appear in the reboot of Spiderman in a role unknown to the general public.

BF #12: Comic Books Have Crawls

It's been a few weeks, but here we are, waxing poetic about the greatest science fiction saga of all time yet again.

In the 12th episode of Bantha Fodder, Mike and Jacob talk about traditions. Specifically "the crawl" and time jumps between the episodic films.

Find the show on Twitter and at

Substream’s 31 Days Of Halloween: ‘Halloweentown’

UTG's longstanding tradition of Halloween adoration and criticism continues at Substream this year with another round of 31 Days Of Halloween. This year, I contributed a piece on Halloweentown, a secretly and truly depressing Disney Channel Original movie. My thank you to Brian for letting me take part.

Read more: UTG's 31 Days Of Halloween: 'Alien'

Borrowed Time: a depressing short by Pixar animators

Through Pixar's Co-op program, animators Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coats spent bits of spare time over the course of 5 years to create a six minute short telling the tale of an aged and depressed old-western sheriff.

Hamou-Lhadj from the making-of featurette:

A goal for us was to make something that kind of contested the notion of animation being a genre, and one for children specifically. We really wanted to make something that was a little bit more adult in the thematic choices, and show that animation could be a medium to tell any sort of story.

Although Pixar certainly doesn't shy from difficult themes of growing up, never before has a feature by their team reached such graphic proportions. Borrowed Time isn't a Pixar story, but it shares the level of animated excellence to compare to the best of them.

Coats to Cartoon Brew:

There were a lot of technical hurdles. There’s a team of people who are usually on one of our movies that we really didn’t have available to help on our team. So we had to build everything.

Of course through the Co-op program, they had access to the same resources they would have for a Pixar feature film: Something many independent animators would give plenty to have. I think it's wonderful that Pixar is so open to allow for more mature stories to be told and tied so closet with their kid-friendly reputation.

Rogue One Trailer #2

The second and final trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has arrived.

A few observations:

  • Mads Mikkelsen's role is much bigger than we previously anticipated.
  • As is Forest Whitaker's hair.
  • Jyn is likely imprisoned on Eadu, a new planet (likely cold in nature).
  • Scarif appears to be the sandy Asian-Pacific looking planet that appears on the posters.
  • Vader will have some interactions with key characters.
  • The tone doesn't seem to be as dour as the previous trailer. It's possible reshoots truly changed the vibe, but it's still a grittier Star Wars than I think we've seen yet.

Note that the new onesheet for Rogue One isn't far off from Phil Noto's concept back in April. Then again, how many ways can you go about a Star Wars poster?

Rogue One opens in theaters December 16.

VBR #16: 'I Would Just Like Band Pages', with guest Tyler Sharp

I almost took a job at AltPress out of high school, there have been times I regretted going a different route, but knowing what I know now, I'm glad I didn't make the move to Cleveland.

I love Alternative Press. I don't always agree with their cover stars, but I also don't know as much as I think I do about a lot of people in this industry. More than the content of the magazine itself, I love the people I've had the opportunity to befriend and work with there. Mike Shea was a strong influence on me coming into this world and Jason Pettigrew is someone I admire and argue the value of 00s soft rock with frequently. Tyler Sharp was one of the lastest to join their team that I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with on PR projects. Only this week did I find out just how much we have in common.

Tyler Sharp left his dream job at Alternative Press and I've been dying to know why. We talk about what it is that makes midwest kids blog so much, how he was able to write 8,000 news stories, canceled NBC program Heroes, and what Tyler plans to do now.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

Welcome to Geekdom #01: We Watch A Lot of TV

I was asked to be the pilot guest on Deanna Chapman's new show Welcome To Geekdom. We talked about TV and how we watch it in a cable cutter's world. Personally, I use Plex for most of my shows so I went into how that's helped me organize and stay up-to-date on my favorites. Of course we got into the weeds about shows we like what's on Netflix too.

In the first episode of Welcome to Geekdom, Jacob Tender joins to discuss how we consume TV. We cover Netflix, cable, and more.

I don't advertise it much, but I do have a feed for all of my podcast appearances outside of my own shows. Vain? Probably. Subscribe to Deanna's new show on iTunes or Overcast.

Gimlet Media's Mystery Show deemed "unsustainable"

Gimlet Media's Starlee Kine (as well as her entire staff) got the boot before production had wrapped on Mystery Show's second season. While working on an episode, actually.

Starlee Kine, via the Mystery Show Facebook:

I’d been having trouble figuring out the new season – second seasons can be tricky – and so I'd gone away, to work on an episode. I didn't make as much progress as I had hoped, but the season was starting to take shape. The day I returned, Alex Blumberg told me the show was unsustainable. I was out. I lost my staff, my salary, my benefits, my budget and my email address. Mystery Show is the only show this has happened to at Gimlet. Just a few months prior, iTunes voted it Best Podcast of the Year.

Gimlet released a statement following Kine's confirming that Mystery Show was deemed "unsustainable".

Mystery Show is an ambitious production and Starlee has an uncompromising vision for the show, which is what makes it so great. However, these factors combined make Mystery Show unsustainable to produce and publish on a consistent basis, and therefore Gimlet will no longer produce new episodes of Mystery Show. We are in discussions with Starlee to reach an agreement where she may produce Mystery Show independently of Gimlet.

It seems Mystery Show season 2 is still being worked on. While the first season had some unengaging misses, the concept itself was solid and as interesting as the subjects were varied.

What's most sad here is that Gimlet admits to having something golden and letting it go. Their own Serial, of sorts. Of course an investigative show comes with costs, but what does that mean for their newest show? Heavyweight has a similar set-up and surely comes with operating costs that compare with Mystery Show. As a fan of that program, I hope that Gimlet can continue to support Goldstein where they couldn't Kine.

Podcast Recommendation: Heavyweight

Of all the new shows this year, Gimlet Media’s Heavyweight is easily the one most worth trying. 1

Show description via Gimlet Media:

A podcast about journeying back to the moment when everything went wrong. Hosted by Jonathan Goldstein.

Those familiar with Gimlet’s level of production quality and perhaps even the general tone of their programs will find themselves immediately comfortable with the edit and Jonathan’s easy going vocal delivery. Thus far, the show has brought together estranged brothers, both in their later years, attempted to force 90s music icon Moby into returning a set of borrowed CDs that essentially launched his career, and tracked down a young girl who’s intersexed father vented his frustration on an 80s independent film while she sat transfixed and emotionless.

While the subjects and their moments seem heavy, the show has a lighthearted feel. The episodes are consice and satisfying, great for a morning commute. Here’s to hoping it lasts. Subscribe to Heavyweight on iTunes or Overcast.

  1. Apart from mine, of course.

Creative Consultation #01: Adapt

My guest last week had to cancel on me due to an on-the-job conflict. This left me with no guest for the first time since starting this show 16 weeks ago. Determined to keep the feed alive every single week, I recorded a short episode by myself. The production is different but was honestly really fun to make. If you're a maker and often feel dragged down by life to the point that making something is hard, I encourage you to push through because making that thing is going to make you feel so much better.

Creating can be tricky when life's obligations so often get in the way. To make it work, you have to adapt.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

VBR #15: 'It's Hard For Helpers', with guest Sheridan Allen

Just when I think the podcast is becoming easier to produce on a weekly basis, it isn't. In actuality, this episode was very easy to produce. It has the shortest run time, has one of the best speakers I've interviewed to date, and took almost no time to edit. Still, between bachelor parties and hauling a washer and dryer out of a dead woman's home and into mine, I had little for time or energy to get this one done on time.

Like I said in my conversation with Ian Baldwin a few weeks ago, keep uploading. Being a day late won't discourage me from keeping on with this thing, tough as it may be some weeks.

This was a great episode. It was easy to edit, because there was nothing to edit out. It was all great conversation with a passionate and positive force in our scene. Punk Talks is a great organization that has done good that I can actually see. Despite their name, they are more than just talk. They really do make a difference.

Episode Summary:

Sheridan Allen runs Punk Talks, an organization that advocates for better mental health in the music industry. We discuss Sheridan's decision to become a social worker for a living and using her passion to better the music scene she so desperately wanted to be a part of.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

Introducing: Celebrity Friends

This week I'm proud to say that I've made my debut on the iOS App Store through a collaborative effort with my good pal and Punchline bassist/sometimes vocalist Chris Fafalios!

You see, on occasion, celebrities will call Chris and Chris will record those calls and animate them too. We decided to make some iMessage stickers out of Chris' celebrity friends to make your messages with family and friends feel a little more famous.

You can get Celebrity Friends on the iOS App Store here. There will be plenty more stickers to come. If you have any suggestions, let us know with a tweet!

If you need any assistance using iMessage stickers, you can check out this handy dandy guide to get you started!

VBR #14: 'Have A Nice Package Together', with guest Nate Sirotta

Nate Sirotta of Impulse Artists sat down with me this week to share some great tips surrounding PR. Whether you're in a band, write for a blog, or have an interest in doing publicity yourself, this is a great episode. Nate's done work for Total Assault and a whole bunch of your favorite artists. I love this guy because he picks up bands that don't have the budget for him simply because he loves them. My friends in Late In The Playoffs really needed a big push when their full-length dropped and Nate took them on knowing that they wouldn't be able to pay him for a lengthy campaign. He's a great business man and a fantastic friend.

Nate Sirotta is the founder and playmaker at Impulse Artists, a boutique publicity and digital marketing agency that's worked with some insane talent to great success over it's few years in business. Nate and I talk about PR and how to get into it from any angle. He's been doing this thing for a while and has some really great tips. So don't miss a thing and take notes!

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

VBR #13: 'Treat Every Band Like The Next Big Thing', with guest Ian Baldwin

Ian and I have been in contact since 2012 whne his band States Away wanted to premiere their album on my music blog. Since then, I've been lucky to have Ian as a sounding board for my design ideas. He's often sent samples my way as well. Ian is one of those guys you hope to meet in this industry. Over the past 4 years, I have never heard a poor word said about him professionally or otherwise. Considering that we live in bordering Ohio music scenes, I think that means something. Word travels when people are shitty and such word has never reached my ears about this guy. He's the real deal and talented too.

They say to never judge a book by its cover, but isn’t the cover a part of the book itself? The face of the body of work? This week we talk to Ian Baldwin of Hear&See about design and how it applies to the music industry specifically.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

Frank Ocean: A Look Back At Four Years

In February of 2013, Frank Ocean sat down with Zane Lowe for a chat. Like most Zane Lowe interviews, some exclusive knowledge was dropped regarding his anticipated follow-up to 2012’s Channel ORANGE.

It’s another cohesive thing, bordering on a concept record again

At this time, Frank said he was 10 or 11 songs into it and mentioned that he liked the idea of picking up from where the last record left off with “Golden Girl,” a hidden track featuring Tyler The Creator. Now that Blonde has dropped—with Endless as an added bonus—I’ve been pouring over the speculation and footage from the past few years to see what we got right, what we got wrong, why the albums dropped the way they did, and what might still be coming.

To start, in that interview with Zane Lowe, he mentioned working with Pharrell Williams who ended up getting the production, credit on “Pink + White.” He also hinted that he’d be getting studio time with famed producer Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, Danger Doom) and English musician King Krule. If those sessions did take place, we haven’t heard anything from them yet. Neither received mentions on the Blonde credit list within Boys Don’t Cry Issue 1.

Before July twice became an all important month to the Frank Ocean fanbase, July of 2013 had us hoping that Frank’s remix of Migos’ “Versace” would come in the form of an audio recording as well as the lyrics he posted on Tumblr. Alas, that has yet to show and—unless it was recorded at the time—likely never will. I think the ship has sailed on that one.


On his 2013 European Tour dubbed “California LIVE”, Frank opened the show with a simple tune the Internet has called “Feel California.” [1] Complex assumed that the song would make it on the sophomore record, but it did not. No studio version has yet been found.

On the other hand, this one from the tour became “IVY” which appears on Blonde. “Seigfried” was played too, at that point referred to by Frank Ocean stans as “Brave” or “Pray.”

“Wiseman” was a track written for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained was ultimately cut from the film and soundtrack, but Frank Performed that live as well.

Said Tarantino:

Frank Ocean wrote a fantastic ballad that was truly lovely and poetic in every way, there just wasn’t a scene for it. I could have thrown it in quickly just to have it, but that’s not why he wrote it and not his intention. So I didn’t want to cheapen his effort. But, the song is fantastic, and when Frank decides to unleash it on the public, they’ll realize it then.

If that situation wasn’t sad enough, Frank’s performance of “Pure Imagination” for a Chipotle sponsored project promoting responsible farming was held once Frank pulled out of the deal. Frank wasn’t happy with the branding on the video itself (he was promised no Chipotle logo would appear) so he refused to send them the song. Chipotle responded with a lawsuit for the advance he was paid for the campaign. He paid them back and Fiona Apple replaced him as the performer for the video.

Converse’s Three Artists One Song series made up for it, giving us “Hero,” a collab with Frank, Diplo, and surviving members of The Clash (Paul Simonon and Mick Jones)

After killing verses and hooks on records by Jay Z, Earl Sweatshirt, and John Mayer, Frank hunkered down over the summer to finish the record. During that time Frank also worked with Nas on a Hit-Boy produced single rumored as “No Such Thing as White Jesus” which was tragically lost due to a technical mishap. Turns out, Hit-Boy might have recovered it though. Fingers crossed?

The sweetly staccato demo of “Memrise” dropped on Frank’s Tumblr in November of 2014. A cover of “(At Your Best ) You Are Love” was released the same way in January as a tribute to the late Aaliyah. Then things go pretty quiet on the Ocean front until spring time.

via Frank Ocean

via Frank Ocean

On April 5 2015, things looked good for Frank Ocean fans. Frank’s new website was updated with a mailing list sign up form. Two riddles were attached that neither I, nor anyone I’m aware of could solve with any assurance.

Riddle #1:

What gets whiter the dirtier it gets?

Riddle #2:

What’s moving faster, the tea or the cup?"

The very next day, a photograph of Frank appears with two stacks of magazines at his feet. These are the first glimpses of Boys Don’t Cry, the magazine that would get released to lucky fans in metro areas in select cities a year and a half later.

The caption:

‘I got two versions. I got twoooo versions.’ #ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY.

This has since taken on multiple meanings. There are two covers of the Boys Don’t Cry magazine [6], there are now two new Frank Ocean records, and Blonde has two slightly different track listings between the physical release from the pop-up shops and the iTunes copy. Personally, I think it’s the hashtags that are the most interesting part of the post.

Frank promised album three in July of 2015. We know now that we didn’t get a record then nor the following July, but in August we did get album three. Not two, mind you, but three. If anyone had questioned this at the time, it may have been reasonable to believe that he was counting his debut mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, as album one. The question today remains, did he know then that he would be releasing another album in between? July was only 4 months away at this point, so maybe not. Still, if he had any intention leaving Def Jam at the time, the decision to get out of the deal would have been made after the first public delay.

He addressed the elephant in the room a week or so later in a post asking another physics question. Then he legally changed his name from Christopher Edwin Breaux to Christopher Francis Ocean.

While Frank and Lil B hung out months earlier, Frank interviewed The BasedGod for his magazine. Christophe Chassol tips off the deejay on BBC 6 Radio that Frank had been working with Rick Rubin in the studio.

Christophe Chassol:

Ocean invited me to Abbey Road to record on his album. I asked him when I came how he heard about me. He told me his friend Diplo was listening a lot to Indiamore, and they started to listen to it, and they were wondering how I was doing the speech harmonization, so he called me.

Chritophe Chassol is credited with piano accompaniment on track 5 of Endless, “U-N-I-T-Y.” This means that Frank was, in fact, working on Endless before the planned drop in July.

In May 2015, a Soundcloud playlist called “states” was added to Frank’s account. No songs were ever added and the playlist has since disappeared. At the time, it seemed like a sure sign that music was coming. July came and went with no record. Everyone was pretty bummed out.

Summer is over. Love wins and Frank’s younger brother trolled the internet with a bogus link to the new record.

image via Frank Ocean

August gave us some slight changes to Frank Ocean’s website. A placeholder for a “Nikes” music video was visible for a short time. Sure enough, that was the first video we got from Blonde just days after Endless premiered. In September, a model named Vasilisa Forbes, a director named Tyrone Lebon (who also directed the Calvin Klein ad), and Tyler, The Creator himself verified that this was a thing—months after Trina slipped a clip of herself filming a part in the video on Twitter.

That my little cousin, he got a little trade
His girl keep the scales, a little mermaid
We out by the pool, some little mermaids
Me and them gel
Like twigs with them bangs
Now that’s a real mermaid

Acid on me like the rain
Weed crumbles into glitter
Rain, glitter

Ian Connor lets the world know that Playboi Carti was working on a song with Frank Ocean in NYC. Turns out Carti was supposed to appear on “White Ferrari,” but was apparently left off.

photos by Wolfgang Tillmans via Daniel Buchholz

photos by Wolfgang Tillmans via Daniel Buchholz

Frank celebrated the big 2–8 on October 28th, which happens to also be my lady’s birthday. [2] On that day, he got a buzz by a barber named Rodney. [3] He teased that the album cover was really cool looking, which makes sense. This guy likes hair-dos and Frank had an exotic one in the photos shot by Wolfgang Tillmans.

A-Trak spoke up a year too soon to say that a song from Boys Don’t Cry called “White Ferrari” was dropping soon. That track very much exists (confirmed earlier by a user on Kanye To The) and is one of my favorites on Blonde, but he and Rostam Batmanglij unfortunately had the timing wrong.

December comes and the trail goes cold again until a file of Hudson Mohawke demos ends up online. The title: “frank oOOOOoocean.” It was never confirmed that any of these were intended to be used with or by Frank Ocean. Film producer Rohan Scully updated his resume with a production credit for “Drive In.” Neither this track or any video featuring his credits have yet been released. Rich the Kid claims to have worked with Frank as well, but there’s nothing yet to show for it.

In January 2016, Frank’s ex girlfriend Alycia Bellamy uploads a Snapchat story from the studio. In the background, you can hear Frank covering John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy.” Hodgy Beats’ snapchat is apparently hacked and gives us a peak at more unheard Frank Vocals which also haven’t been properly released.

Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo debuts on Tidal in February. A new version of “Wolves” is on it which features vocals by Frank Ocean. This part was later moved and retitled “Frank’s Track.” Around the same time Def Jam artist (and amazing musician in her own right) Alessia Cara told Line Of Best Fit:

I really love Frank. He makes visual lyrics. His songs are all visual. I’m trying to get to listen to the new record but Def Jam says he doesn’t share anything with them until it’s finished so…

A foreshadowing of the departure yet to come. Turns out Frank wasn’t sharing anything with his label at all.

On my birthday [4], Frank and Alycia were hanging out making ceramics and listening to some music. Someone there leaked some recordings and dubbed it a “listening party” against the insistence by Alycia that it wasn’t. The only existing link I can find with the clips shows that this was indeed an early preview of Endless.

What’s more—Frank’s mother, Katonya Breaux, may have hinted at Endless just after Beyonce’s Lemonade debuted.

Note: #visualalbums is plural.

Malay produced all of Channel ORANGE, so chances were good that he’d have a hand in the follow up as well. In late March, he confirmed to Pitchfork that he had worked on Blonde and that the record was ready to go.

A lot of the stuff on this new album was done with a handheld mic sitting in the control room. Frank’s exploring different vibes completely on this album. I wouldn’t say it’s vocally looser but just his mentality; it doesn’t seem as meticulous at certain times.

When he’s ready, the world is gonna get it. It could be tomorrow… well not tomorrow but maybe a month [laughs]. He’s been working super hard. I feel like he’s working harder than he’s ever worked in his life. I’m excited for everyone to hear it. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised, for sure.

Indeed we were.

Pitchfork also grabbed some quotes from James Blake who revealed that Frank had helped him out with his record and vice versa.

[He] was a huge inspiration for this record: his process, the way he writes, the strength of what he does, who he is. We became very good friends.

Ocean co-wrote “My Willing Heart” on The Colour In Anything and lent a sample of Blonde’s “Godspeed for Blake’s track ”Always.“ Blake played synthesizers Endless’ ”(At Your Best) You Are Love“ and vocals on Blonde’s ”White Ferrari."

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 - 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 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.

Frank’s plan worked much to his financial benefit. According to Billboard, Blonde made about $2.12 million based on his assumed 70% revenue share of 232,000 first week sales and 69.1 million streams. After royalties, that’s a net sum $1.77 million to Frankie’s bank account. Endless’ figures, due to its format, are harder to pin down.

What's clear though is that the sales figures for Endless are significantly lower than that of Blonde, meaning Def Jam was royally screwed over in terms of profits on Frank's success. Kudos to the boy for whipping up such a gorgeous loophole and making the dollar his way.

As I mentioned on my podcast recently, Endless was not only a financial success, but a pretty record with interesting parts and collaborators. Even if he went into the studio with the sole intention of just making something to end his relationship with his label, he left with some amazing additions to the catalogue. The visual album provided a gentle barrier which dampened the expectations built up for a sophomore record over four years and, if my guess that Endless was in fact created almost entirely after Blonde was finished proves true, we technically got the third LP before the second. Overall, Endless shows that there is a new layer of depth beyond to the artist beyond what he wrote two and three years ago. Will that toy with the world’s expectations for the fourth? I hope so. I’m eager to see what he’s able to do beyond Endless.

This whole affair has been a fascinating case study, but there is still much that we’ve yet to see from Frank Ocean. A worldwide release of Boys Don’t Cry issue 1 for starters. [5] The novel he’s supposedly started would be great too. Then of course there are the countless snippets and tracks we can’t find in the far reaches of Internet forums or Google searches: his John Lennon cover, the Hodgy Beats snapchat leak, “White Jesus”, “Pure Imagination”, and several collaborations that may or may not have happened. I guess, just like we have before, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Thank you to Pigeons & Planes and Complex for their respective timelines of Frank’s last few years which helped immensely with this post. Blonde is available now via Apple Music and iTunes. Endless is only available to Apple Music subscribers.

  1. Genius has the lyrics here.  ↩

  2. I won’t tell you which I remember because of the other.  ↩

  3. This guy cuts the hair of Mac Miller, Anderson .Paak, Left Brain, Fetty Wap, and more. I imagine he has an interesting life.  ↩

  4. February 28th, if you’re interested in sending me Funko figures.  ↩

  5. Frank’s mother says to “hang tight.”  ↩

  6. Looks like there could actually be 3 variants out there according to Genius. ↩

VBR #12: 'Nothing Too Big and Nothing Too Public' with guest Dana Reandelar

To start, we get to know Dana. Dana is a freelance writer that has a secret past as a talented musician. Then, as promised, Dana and I go long on Frank Ocean's Blonde.

This episode is the first to feature both the show's new color scheme and show artwork. I opted to nix the faded blue for something of higher contrast that fits the blog a little better.

Dana Reandelar didn't think that she had enough to say to be on this show. In this episode we prove that she was wrong. Dana is a music writer that has a secret past as a multi-instrumentalist. She's also up on the latest in Frank Ocean, so we spend a good deal of time dissecting Blonde.

Variable Bitrate artwork by Jacob Tender

Variable Bitrate artwork by Jacob Tender

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