Watch Frank Ocean's Visually Stunning 'Nikes' Video
In the early hours of Saturday (Aug. 20), Frank Ocean released “Nikes,” a melancholy new song separate from his just-released “visual album,” Endless -- and the song and its elaborate, graphic video are laden with deep references to hip-hop culture, the world at large and Ocean's own career.
Both the song's lyrics and the video are dense with meaning: There are references to Trayvon Martin ("That n---a look just like me"), A$AP Rocky and his late colleague A$AP Yams, the late Houston MC Pimp C his label Rap-A-Lot, the Miami-based label Slip-N-Slide (home to singer Trina, who is also mentioned in the song, Trick Daddy and, for two albums in the '00s, Rick Ross), as well as mentions of Othello and even Amber Rose. Indeed, the song is more than a little reminiscent of Kanye West's "Runaway," the video for which was partially inspired by West's relationship with her.
Early in the "Nikes," Ocean says, "I got two versions," words he posted on his Tumblr page a year ago when he first began teasing Boys Don't Cry, which may or may not be the title of the long-awaited new album totally separate from Endless, which may or may not be premiered at widely rumored pop-up events today (Aug. 20). The preceding sentence reflects the long, baffling, ongoing rollout for Ocean's follow-up to his Grammy-winning 2012 album, Channel Orange. It's possible "Nikes" is the lead track from that new album.
Critics and fans are likely to spend days deciphering the song's dense lyrics, some but not all of which are posted on Ocean's Tumblr page.
For most of the song, Ocean sings in a comically sped-up croon while talking in an equally slowed-down voice; the effect is reminiscent of Prince's Sign O' the Times/Black Album-era work in the mid-'80s. Toward the end, he sings and raps in his usual voice, which morphs into a vocoder'ed sound similar to West's on "Runaway."
Frank Ocean Plays New Music in Live Stream, Drops 'Visual Album'
The beautifully filmed video is loaded with provocative, baffling images: a nude woman on a white horse; another nude woman in a tank filled with water; Ocean onstage in a glam white outfit and a T-shirt with lyrics on its front; the singer sitting in front of race cars at night; him being set on fire in front of the sports cars while wearing the T-shirt; and him with and without eye-liner. There are also many scenes with rain, glitter, sex, androgyny, a man in a devil costume, and even a talking dog. The Nike swish logo is prominently featured in the video as well.
The elaborateness of the song further suggests that Endless -- which Ocean began streaming on his Boysdontcry.co site Thursday night and is now available to stream exclusively through Apple Music, and was criticized by some as being lightweight and disappointing -- was just a teaser for his long-delayed real next album, which could drop at any time.