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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

August 29, 2012 at 9:08 AM

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Summer of Frank Ocean: 'Crack Rock'

Frank Ocean's "Channel Orange" is the summer album of 2012 — a low-key stroke of genius from the Los Angeles-via-New Orleans R&B singer-songwriter, making headlines for bringing man/man romance into pop R&B. But it's deeper than that. I'm blogging about each song individually, in order. Sorry but Internet Explorer does not support the full album stream below.

In "Crack Rock," Frank Ocean sings a midtempo hip-hop soul burner about crack addiction, with the kind of insider knowledge of someone who's lost a family member to the drug. Or been wrapped up in it himself. Or just has an uncanny ability to channel another person's pain. The opening lyric is funny in the bleakest way, about not knowing how low you can go until you're in the middle of Arkansas, with just a little rock left — making a pun on the city Little Rock and slang for crack. Not what you'd call ha-ha funny. From there it's a tour of abandoned homes, a description of getting cut off from friends/family and entering the untouchable class of society, and eventually killing a police officer. That last part might be fantasy or real life. It's hard to tell through all the crack. Ocean's tone throughout is even, and although sometimes his words are harsh ("How's the gutter doing?"), ultimately the song is sympathetic, its main feeling sadness, its lesson being that when you think you're down, you can fall further.

Summer of Frank Ocean: "Thinkin Bout You"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Fertilizer"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Sierra Leone"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Sweet Life"
Summer of Frank Ocean: "Super Rich Kids (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)"

Summer of Frank Ocean: "Pilot Jones"


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