Sources say the project was supposed to hit streaming as early as Friday (Jan. 25), but was delayed for unknown reasons. It is also unclear why the album's digital release will happen so long after its debut.
The black-and-white visual album, which dropped Aug. 19, 2016, featured the reclusive artist building a wooden staircase inside a warehouse. Installation artist Tom Sachs, who was heavily involved in the Endless visual, explained the significance of the stairway and how it related to Ocean's music.
"I think it's testament to the reality that things made by hand take time. We’re living in an age of non-handmade things," he told Pitchfork in 2016. "Frank’s music, which is very personal and literally has his voice, in the same way that all musicians have their voice, it simply takes time. And when you see the video, you see him building a stairway to heaven in real time. The 40-minute version is edited, but there’s something like a 140-hour version [...] That's the art piece."
In November 2017, Ocean announced he was releasing Endless on vinyl and CD, as well as physical copies of the visual album on DVD and VHS. Fans began receiving the remastered version in spring of last year; it was packaged with holographic artwork and two posters:
Though it was a much-appreciated release, fans were still holding their collective breath for an Endless online stream.
Endless was ultimately overshadowed by Ocean's long-awaited sophomore album Blonde, which dropped just a day after the visual album debuted. The back-to-back releases sparked a lot of speculation about Ocean's record deal, as Endless was released under Def Jam, and Blonde was released through his independent label Boys Don't Cry.
It was reported that Ocean delivered Endless to fulfill his contractual obligations to Def Jam and its parent company Universal Music Group. A source told the Associated Press the label's relationship with Ocean was like a "bad marriage," so they allowed the singer to prematurely end his deal.
"He didn’t want to be on a label. He wanted to do his own thing," the insider said. "I'm sure there was some kind of negotiation in order for him to get out of the contract if there were remaining commitments on the contract."