In the opening letter of his Boys Don't Cry magazine Frank Ocean writes, “How much of my life has happened inside of a car? I wonder if the odds are that I’ll die in one.” While it is bleak, it speaks volumes on Frank Ocean’s obsession with car culture and how much of an impact cars have had on him.
In music today cars are typically mentioned as status and economic symbols. On the other hand, Ocean often mentions cars and the act of driving as metaphors and storytelling devices. For example, in his song White Ferrari, Ocean outlines a scene describing the end of a car ride with a significant other in his past as a metaphor for the end of their relationship.
"Cars are deeply ingrained into Frank Ocean's being... as set pieces in which many of his most memorable life experiences take place." For many of you reading this the connection we have with a car is deeper than a materialistic love. We spend so much time with our cars that it is almost inevitable that it'll become a setting in which many core memories will be made, both by ourselves and with loved ones. As a result our cars become a source of nostalgia.
Frank Ocean seeks to highlight this through his cover for his 2011 mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA. which features a bright orange BMW E30 M3. He explains the meaning of the title of his album in an interview with Complex Magazine, "It’s a longing for the past.” When asked about the album cover he said, "When I did the artwork after we mastered it, I was feeling the same thing. That’s my dream car. It’s been my dream car for a minute. That E30 M3. That’s been my shit. I was the kid who had a bunch of car posters and girls in bikinis, all over my wall in middle school."
For a brief history on the E30 and it's impacts on pop culture be sure to check out our E30 blog post.
For many it is one of their life goals to own their dream car. It seems like Frank Ocean has achieved this goal at least 5 times. Frank supposedly had 5 E30s built for a tour by Castro Motorsports, "one of them being a fire orange one, another being an alpine white one, a third being the one with the Nike checks on the door panels, a fourth being the real life version of the RC E30 M3 in the “Boys Don’t Cry” Magazine, and one other that is unknown." It is also known that Castro Motorsports built three E46s for Frank as well.
Following the success of nostalgia, ULTRA. Frank announced his debut album Channel Orange by uploading the video below, featuring a BMW E39 Touring, to his Tumblr.
On the rare occasions that Frank Ocean releases music videos to accompany his music they seem to be a form of art in itself left to be interpreted by the viewer.
His most recent video to feature cars was Nikes. The mastermind behind the video is director Tyrone Lebon. Lebon stated that he interpreted the song "as a stream of Frank’s consciousness - rich with snippets of stories, emotions and idea".
Many fans interpreted the video as a reflection on negative, temporary forms of escape in our society such as drugs, money, youth, beauty and sex. The M3s featured in the video could be interpreted as either a form of escape from the negative factions of our society mentioned above or that people make physical, bodily connections with others and objects (which, to Frank, includes cars) only for those connections to fade away in the end anyways.
Other than the reoccurring M3s (0:15, 0:30, 2:47), the video featured 3 Le Mans legends: the McLaren F1 GTR, the McLaren F1 GTR 'Longtail' and the Audi R8 LMP. You can read more about the cars featured in 'Nikes' here: The Cars of 'Nikes'
Below is the visuals from Frank Ocean's 2013 You're Not Dead tour which features a gold E30 driving in Boneville Salt Flats in Utah to Frank Ocean's Memrise.
It's clear that his love for BMW's extends beyond cars to motorbikes too as can be seen in his music video for Pyramids (1:00).
Despite his love for Euros, deep down you can tell he is also has a soft spot for JDM. Below is one of Frank's older and lesser known songs, Acura Intergurl, which features a true 90s JDM legend: the Acura/Honda NSX.
Frank Ocean's use of fire orange extends beyond the E30 featured on the nostalgia, ULTRA and the cover of Channel Orange. cover. His song Swim Good features a fire orange 1985 Lincoln Town car (0:46).
nostalgia, ULTRA. is not Frank's only cover to feature a car. The Lonny Breaux Collection is an unofficial collection of 64 songs, many of which Frank stated as "incomplete ideas, reference songs that were sent out for placement on other artists... records that were never intended to represent (him)" which was leaked to the public in 2011. The cover features a fox-body Ford Mustang.
nostalgia, ULTRA. seeks to remind us of memories long gone. Whilst there is no harm in being nostalgic, constant longing for the past traps us in moments that no longer exist. As time moves forward, our bodies are present but our souls become stuck in the past. In the opening letter in Boys Don't Cry Frank writes, “the current phase is what I was asking the cosmos for when I was a kid". Even if everything is not perfect at present, we're at the very least living fragments of what we used to pray for.
So much regret and heartache is placed on the past. So much focus and worry is placed on the future. As a result we let the current phase pass us by.
We’re constantly worrying about the next phase of our lives without realising that we’re right in the middle of the phase that we used to pray for. A mind that believes that it will find peace only when certain conditions are met will always create new conditions to satisfy once the old conditions are met. To be at peace in the future you have to first be able to be at peace in the present. The past no longer exists. The future does not exist yet. All we really have is the current phase.