For the past week, it seems like Frank Ocean has been everywhere — but many people aren't sure why or even have a clue who he is ("Is he related to Billy Ocean?"). It began on July 4 when the relatively-unknown R&B singer let his own freedom ring by revealing his first love was a man in a post on his Tumblr blog. Although his brave act earned him praise from everyone from Beyonce to Russell Simmons, still many shrugged their shoulders. On Monday night, the 24-year-old made his TV debut when he performed his song "Bad Religion" on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" with the Grammy-winning The Roots as his backing band. Today, Ocean's first album, Channel Orange, which features appearances by John Mayer and Outkast's Andre 3000, was released on iTunes a week ahead of schedule due to overwhelming demand. At the top of the worldwide trends on Twitter at this moment? #ChannelOrange and #BadReligion.
So who is Frank Ocean and why should we care?
He's Written Songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend, and Beyonce
Before making a name for himself, Ocean was a ghost writer for the likes of Justin Bieber, John Legend, and Brandy. But he finally got to put his name on something when he worked with Beyonce on her 2011 album 4 when he co-wrote her song "I Miss You." In July 2011, she told Complex magazine, "Jay[-Z] had a CD playing in the car one Sunday when we were driving to Brooklyn. I noticed [Ocean's] tone, his arrangements, and his storytelling. I immediately reached out to him — literally the next morning. I asked him to fly to New York and work on my record."
Jay-Z and Kanye West Are Big Fans
In addition to working with Beyonce, Ocean also spent time in the studio cooking up songs with her husband and Kanye West when the two rap superstars were recording their side project, Watch the Throne. After West heard Ocean's 2011 mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra he invited him to write and sing on two songs on the album "No Church in the Wild" — which Rolling Stone named as the sixth best song of 2011 — and "Made in America."
He's Not Related to Billy Ocean
Being a singer with the last name Ocean begs the question — and he loves to joke about it. "Billy Ocean is my uncle … I'm just f--king with you," he told Complex last year about the "Caribbean Queen" crooner. Born Christopher "Lonny" Breaux, Ocean decided to change his name on his 22nd birthday in 2010. "I went on LegalZoom and changed my f--king name. It just felt cool. None of us are our names. If you don't like your name then change your name." At the time of the interview, his name change was still getting processed, but he added that soon "I'll be boarding planes as Christopher Francis Ocean."
Hurricane Katrina Nearly Ruined His Career
Ocean was a student at the University of New Orleans, his hometown, in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina was threatening to make landfall — and hard. "I had just moved into my dorm," he said in an interview last year. "I was doing laundry, and my mom called me like, 'We've got to evacuate.'" At the time, Ocean had already begun recording in a nearby studio. And when he returned after the storm's devastation, he discovered the studio had been looted and its equipment was gone. At that, he quit school and drove to Los Angeles to re-record the lost music in what was supposed to be a six-week stay (he never returned to NOLA). In 2009, Ocean met the alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future (he worked on a number of songs for their debut album, which peaked at No. 5 on Billboard), before he was signed by Def Jam as a solo artist the next year.
Coldplay Have Asked Him to Be Their Opening Act
Ocean landed on the radar of Coldplay after he covered their song "Strawberry Swing" on 2011's Nostalgia, Ultra. The band — fronted by Jay-Z's good friend Chris Martin — was so impressed he invited the R&B singer to be one of their opening acts for the European leg of their tour, which begins August 28 and runs until the end of September.
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