The New York Times currently has a great interview/profile of Frank Ocean. Ocean, I think, is a really interesting artist right now–not because of all the hoopla surrounding his sexuality–but because he’s actually making smart, fluid, forward-looking hip-hop. Channel ORANGE, his debut album from last year, is phenomenal. I don’t say that lightly. It’s really, really good. It’s an R&B/soul sound, but also with a lot of pop and psychedelic influences. And Ocean’s songwriting is strangely astute and insightful, especially for his genre. It’s by far and away one of the best albums from last year. I didn’t put it on my “Best Of” list because I am a loser. It’s good.
Anyway, I find Ocean to be an interesting guy, because he’s so young and has this great album straight out of the gate, but has yet to get involved in any of the music wars that tend to suck up new artists and eat them alive (his Twitter feud with Chris Brown notwithstanding). There’s so much potential and it’s so hard to wait and see where it gets him. What struck me as funny is that Ocean mentions that next, after his Grammy recognition, he’s packing up his gear to come to Shanghai to write “in remote locations for the next two years.” Sometimes I forget that Shanghai is a “remote location.” A city of 23 million–the largest city proper in the world. I can’t help but wonder how such an incredible city like Shanghai really affects the people who live here. Certainly the musicians already working and living in Shanghai feel the influence of the city, since when you live someplace like this it’s such a pervasive part of your life. It’s like there is no city–nothing–outside of Shanghai. It’s that present and all-encompassing. So it would be interesting to see if it had that effect on someone already established–someone coming in already with a sound and idea and waiting to see what develops.