Welp, it finally happened: Frank Ocean released Endless, a 45-minute visual album that might be what Boys Don't Cry was supposed to be...or may be a precursor to Boys Don't Cry. We're not sure, but whatever the
staircase may be, we have a new body of material from Frank Ocean to decipher, although if you grew up like some of the olds here at Complex Media (or just like asking "who the hell produced that?!?!" when you hear a dope track), you're just as invested as we are in the credits in the booklet.
Lucky for us, there are some intriguing tales behind the music on Endless. From artists and producers that Frank Ocean collaborated with previously to some random names that seemingly popped up out of nowhere, to the artists who were reportedly sampled on the project, there are a few stories to tell. Here's a look at the artists (and others) who helped Frank Ocean craft Endless, the album you'll either be blasting in your headphones for the next 24 hours, or will be trying to avoid for the next 24 hours.
The most interesting inclusion on Endless might be that of Wolfgang Tillmans, a 40-year-old photographer from Germany. As he tells it, he'd shared a number of tracks with Frank Ocean, with Frank writing back that he loved one in particular, "Device Control," and wanted to sample it. To Tillmans' surprise, the track not only ended up being the intro to Endless, but was also used—in full—as the ending. Don't fret, though; if you want "Device Control," Tillmans plans on releasing it digitally very soon.
Uzowuru is someone we've been trying to tell you about for years. The 24-year-old SoCal producer has worked with a number of Odd Future affiliates, including Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, and Vince Staples, and recently got a credit on Jesse Boykins III's Bartholomew. His sole Endless credit is on "Rushes To."
Many will remember Troy Noka for tracks like "Lovecrimes" from nostalgia, ULTRA, but did you know that he got a Grammy for his work on Chris Brown's F.A.M.E.? The LA (by way of Austin) producer has worked with everyone from Miguel and Tyga to the Backstreet Boys, Angel Haze, and Ciara, and has a number of credits on Endless, including "Comme Des Garçons," "In There Somewhere," "Deathwish (ASR)," and "Rushes To."
You might not know the name Joe Thornalley, but you might be with his producer alias, VEGYN. He's been played by James Blake on Blake's BBC Radio 1 show, and is said to have produced the music for Frank Ocean's Calvin Klein campaign. Thornalley is also all over Endless, with programming credits on "Comme Des Garçons" and "Slide On Me," as well as credits on "In There Somewhere," "Deathwish (ASR)," and "Rushes To."
The 26-year-old electronic producer has collaborated with the likes of FKA Twigs, Kelela, and Kanye West because his sound is that on point and influential; he’s quite possibly your favorite producer’s favorite producer. On Endless, he helped out by programming “Mine,” which was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road studios in London. Arca hails from Venezuela and is set to release his third album Reverie later this year.
The Isley Brothers
Before he was Mr. Biggs—R. Kelly’s mortal enemy—Ron Isley was the lead singer of the Isley Brothers. They've been around since 1959 and have numerous classic LPs and singles under their belt. Frank covered “At Your Best (You Are Love)” (which he'd previously released back in January of 2015) on Endless; the song originally appeared on side two of the 1976 album Harvest for the World.
Jazmine Sullivan makes four appearances on Endless, providing additional vocals on “Alabama,” background vocals on “Wither,” vocals on “Hublots,” and backing vocals on “Rushes.” The Philly native first burst on the scene with her 2008 single “Bust Your Windows” showing off her impressive vocal range and creative songwriting. Last year she released her third album, the critically acclaimed yet somehow underrated album Reality Show. It would appear that Frank recognizes her talent by collaborating with her on a good chunk of the album.
The Oxford, England-based Jonny Greenwood not just the lead guitarist and keyboardist for Radiohead, but he’s also the only member versed in music theory. The 44-year-old’s orchestrations can be heard on Radiohead’s fourth album, 2000’s Kid A, but he’s also composed for the likes of the BBC Orchestra and the London Contemporary Orchestra. Greenwood’s also scored films like We Need to Talk About Kevin and Inherent Vice.
Sampha is a jack of all trades: he sings, writes, produces, gets busy on the keyboard, but Frank only needed him to lend his voice to one song (“Alabama”). The London-based musician is easily one of the most talented artists of our time. He works at his own pace which can be frustrating to some of his fans, making him and Frank the perfect collaborators. Sampha is set to finally release a sole project in the near future, with “Timmy’s Prayer” being the promo single. He’s also collab'd with SBTRKT on two albums, has worked with Jessie Ware, and lent Kanye a helping hand on “Saint Pablo.”
Fans of Frank’s last album, channel ORANGE, should be familiar with Om’Mas Keith’s work, as he helped shape the sound of tracks like “Crack Rock” and “Sweet Life,” ultimately netting himself a Grammy for the project. The 40-year-old Los Angeles (by way of Hollis, Queens, NYC) producer played piano on Endless’ cover of The Isley Brothers “At Your Best (You Are Love).”
Frank Ocean received two writing credits on Blake’s third album, The Colour in Anything, which was released in May of 2016. Blake was even quoted saying Frank was “a huge inspiration” for the project. The 27-year-old singer/songwriter/producer returned the favor, playing synths on “At Your Best (You Are Love).”
There isn’t much on the internets about Rita Zebdi (who provided additional vocals to “Comme Des Garçons”) in regards to music, but with a little digging, it would appear that Zebdi’s a Paris-born, Los Angeles-based stylist who’s currently styling Frank Ocean. She’s worked with Givenchy, Dior, and Nike, and it looks whatever she did on the track was enough to warrant a feature.
While it’s hard to tell if Frank Ocean sampled “Contact,” the closing track on Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories or The Sherbs’ “We Ride Tonight,” which was the original sample found in “Contact,” there’s a reminiscent melody floating inside “Hublots.” For those who are unaware, Daft Punk netted five Grammys for Random Access Memories, and have been seen as the true spark for the French electronic music scene since their debut album, 1997’s Homework, exploded onto the mainstream.
“Just Like Water,” one of the highlights from Lauryn Hill’s 2002 live album MTV Unplugged No. 2.0, has been interpolated on the Jazmine Sullivan-featured “Rushes.” If you’re thinking “where else have I heard Lauryn’s name recently?,” it’s because both Nas and DJ Khaled shouted Hill out for clearing the use of The Fugees “Fu-Gee-La” on “Nas Album Done,” the Khaled/Nas collaboration from Khaled’s latest release, Major Key.
An unexpected–yet dominant–name to appear on Frank Ocean's new album is Alex G, the 23-year-old Philadelphia-based indie musician who plays guitar on "Wither," "Slide On Me," "Rushes," and "Higgs." Just a couple years ago Alex G was an underground nobody, but his lo-fi 2014 album cassette release DSU put him on many best-of lists that year. In 2015, he signed to Domino Records and released his next full-length, Beach Music. He keeps getting bigger and bigger, this year making his mark on several Frank Ocean tracks.