Bridging the gap between the fine and the less refined

Match-Up: NostalgiaULTRA x So Far Gone

They both sing (one more so than the other). Both are signed to major labels. Both are highly regarded in their own respective realms but Drake and Frank Ocean are two very different individuals.

But this is not about each artist. This is about their mixtapes.

For starters Frank Ocean’s 2011 release, “NostalgiaULTRA“, and Drake’s 2009 release, “So Far Gone”, were each the catalyst that catapulted each musician to relative prominence. Frank had previously released a 64-song mixtape and Drake had several projects before “So Far Gone” but there was something special about these ventures that was different.

I went into detail about “So Far Gone” in a previous post.  Here.

What made each mixtape flourish is a similarity between the two. Each mixtape was within the avant-garde of that time. Before “So Far Gone” rappers weren’t singing their torribles away through sincere compositions that were almost monologue-like. The entire NostalgiaULTRA work is Frank Ocean’s most inner feelings on what it is like to be young, alone and heart broken in Southern California. See Frank Ocean’s American Wedding. Each artist seems so mortal, so human, so vulnerable which allowed listeners to really connect to something more basic. Hurt & struggle.

People being able to recognize the beauty in both of these works allows them to recognize the beauty in their own humanity.

The level of youth in both works is immense. These are works that could have only been created by kids under 23. Because they talk about the pressures of being young and in the industry and finding your place within it all and yet being able to maintain a normal life. Both have a particularly hard time doing it. Both are incredibly emotional unstable but they have both recognized it and are trying to improve themselves. See Houstatlantavegas.

SAMPLES. Sweet Baby Jesus.

It is wasn’t the innate authenticity that made these mixtapes then it was the diverse samples. From Frank Ocean, he used the Eagles, Coldplay and MGMT. From Drake, we can hear Santogold, The Isley Brothers and Lykke Li. They each brought in artist who are largely unknown to the typical hip-hop crowd.

There are differences:

Drake is hip-hop quite simply but don’t you dare call Frank Ocean R&B to his face. He’d probably bite your finger off. Frank has made it a point to say that he is not R&B. And if you listen to NostalgiaULTRA you might agree with his assertion. Listen to Strawberry Swing (which features a Coldplay sample) and one might think he’s soft rock. Listen to Novacane and one might think he’s a singing version of Jimi Hendrix. He’s pretty much everywhere. He bends genres not to say that Drake doesn’t. The guy did bring “good singing” to rap.

Finally and quite simply NostalgiaULTRA was just Frank. No features. Nothing. Just Frank singing and drinking his sorrows away. And exposing his humanity for the world to sympathize with and understand and connect to. So Far Gone was polluted with features which is cool but it can hold you back from reaching your deepest emotional depths.

Lastly NostalgiaULTRA gave me a sense of hope that So Far Gone did not. Drake exposed the problems of youth and living too fast but didn’t state a solution to it. Frankie did that. Listen to We All Try. (it’s okay to cry by the way)

I still believe in man. A wise one asked me why. Because I don’t believe we’re wicked.  I know that we sin but I do believe we try.- Frank Ocean

So when it comes down to it. Frank Ocean wins this bout. I’m so proud of you, Frank.

Check this BBC interview here. (the picture below is also him)


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