Christopher Francis Ocean, also known as Frank Ocean, was born in Long Beach, California, on October 28, 1987. He grew up in New Orleans, but moved to Los Angeles in his late teens to pursue a career in music. While in high school, Ocean began recording music and worked various odd jobs to pay for the studio time.
After graduating from high school in 2005, he enrolled at the University of New Orleans. He grew up around its local jazz scene and listened to his mother’s CDs on her car stereo, including albums by Celine Dion, Anita Baker, and The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack.
In that same year, Hurricane Katrina hit Ocean’s hometown of New Orleans and his recording facility, which was looted and destroyed by floodwater.
To continue recording music, he moved to Los Angeles and intended to stay for six weeks. However, after acclimating himself with music industry circles, Ocean planned to stay longer and develop his music career.
He recorded demos at a friend’s studio and shopped them around Los Angeles. After getting a song writing deal, he started working with other record producers and writing songs for artists such as Justin Bieber, John Legend, and Brandy Norwood among others.
In 2010, he became a member of alternative hip hop collective OFWGKTA also known as Odd Future, and his debut mix tape, Nostalgia, Ultra, was released to critical acclaim in 2011.
The mix tape focuses on interpersonal relationships, personal reflection and social commentary. In April 2011, Ocean stated that his relationship with Def Jam strengthened since the release of the mix tape. On May 19, 2011 Ocean’s record label Def Jam announced its plans to re-release Nostalgia, Ultra as an EP.
The single ‘Novacane’ was released to iTunes in May 2011, and the EP originally was set to be released the next month, but was delayed.In June 2011, Ocean revealed that he would be working on the upcoming Kanye West and Jay-Z collaborative album, Watch the Throne.
In 2012, Ocean released his debut studio album Channel Orange to universal acclaim from critics, who later named it the best album of the year in the HMV’s Poll of Polls.
It also earned Ocean six Grammy Award nominations and was credited by some writers for moving the R&B genre in a different, more challenging direction.
Considered as Ocean’s first commercial release on a traditional record label, Channel Orange featured unconventional songs that were noted for their storytelling and social commentary, and a dense musical fusion that drew on hip hop, soul, and R&B.
In February 2013, Ocean confirmed that he had started work on his second studio album, which he confirmed would be another concept album. He revealed that he was working with Tyler, the Creator, Pharrell Williams, and Danger Mouse on the record.
He later stated that he was being influenced by The Beach Boys and The Beatles. He stated he was interested in collaborating with Tame Impala and King Krule and that he would record part of the album in Bora Bora.
Ocean was the first major hip-hop or R&B artist to announce that he had a same-sex relationship, when the industry is known for its heteronormativity.