Could Frank Ocean’s grand return be upon us? Since the promotional wheels ground to a halt in the wake his breakthrough 2012 album Channel Orange, the singer-songwriter born Christopher Breaux has been almost entirely out of the spotlight, posting sporadic updates on Tumblr about Prince’s death and Donald Trump and making a rare public appearance backstage at this year’s Coachella festival.
Now, Ocean could be hinting that his long-awaited follow up, or perhaps a single, might be arriving this month. In a cryptic photo posted to his website, there are numerous dates stamped onto an old library card with “Date Due” branded at the top. The dates go back to July 2, 2015 — his initial release date from last year — and lead up to July 2016, with the date scribbled out.
The July 2, 2015 release date calls back to when he initially planned to drop the project, which he said would be accompanied by an original magazine titled Boys Don’t Cry. “I got two versions. I got twoooo versions.’ #ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY,” he wrote on his official site last April, with his label, Def Jam, confirming the set would arrive that summer. In a picture that accompanied the post, Ocean sat next to a stack of issues touting an image of a racecar driver wearing a helmet, suggesting the publication was ready for retail.
Regardless of when and if the new album arrives, it appears Def Jam has already made a hefty investment: One source tells Billboard the label has spent more than a $1 million and as much as $2 million.
Outside of the recording studio, Ocean has made some sizable moves since Channel Orange. After the LP bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 with 131,000 copies sold, the 28-year-old parted ways with Christian and Kelly Clancy’s agency 4 Strikes in 2014 and in Sept. 2014 signed with Three Six Zero Group, which counts Calvin Harris and Deadmau5 as clients. He also left his publicist Heathcliff Berru of Life or Death PR, which claimed they were “relieved” not to have Ocean on their roster. He is now repped by ID PR, which specializes in film and TV and reps Ben Stiller and Serena Williams.
The rocky rollout for Ocean’s latest comes in the wake of several mishaps for his parent label, Def Jam. Kanye West stated that his latest album The Life of Pablo would only release on Tidal, but then expanded to other streaming platforms, prompting one irate user to file suit against him and claim it was a tactic to boost Tidal subscriptions. Iggy Azalea claims that she is delaying her next LP Digital Distortion so she could include a collaboration with Zedd, after her lead single “Team” floundered on the charts. And Jeremih, whose oft-delayed debut Late Nights: The Album released in December, blasted the label for allegedly failing to distribute the physical version to retail.
Ocean hasn’t been entirely silent on the musical front since Channel Orange. He most recently contributed to James Blake’s The Colour in Anything, and the moody British singer-songwriter said that Ocean is “onto something” with his project. In the past, Ocean said that the album would be inspired by the Beach Boys and Beatles, while producer Malay, who worked on Channel Orange, also told Pitchfork that “I feel like he’s working harder than he’s ever worked in his life. I’m excited for everyone to hear it. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised, for sure.” Additional producers are rumored to include Hit-Boy, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Happy Perez.