By Cami Thomas
I was 17 years old the first time I heard Frank Ocean sing. My best friend Denise and I had snuck to the park around 1:00 am to watch the stars and talk out our post-highschool fears. We were both headed off to college; her to Chicago and me to New Orleans. Our conversation consisted of the usual college freshmen angsty comments and "we're growing up too fast" jitters. It was 2011 and the world was ours for the taking, if we could only muster up the courage to pack our bags and leave St. Louis for a lengthy four years.
The early morning was filled with the sound of loud crickets and the occasional car whooshing past with drivers probably wondering why two teenagers were sprawled out on top of a park bench at such an ungodly hour.
Per usual, Denise always heard about new artists about five years before anyone else. So when the whirring sounds and steady beat of Frank Ocean's Novacane played through the speakers on her phone, I didn't bother asking who or what this song was (because I knew it was someone I'd probably never heard of). Something about the song though, the numbness and emotional unavailability in Frank Ocean's voice perhaps, gained access to a part of my heart that was typically reserved for family and the closest of friends. He was guarded. He was intelligent. He reminded me of the hip, suburban but still wavy, type of young black musician that I related to the most.
For those unfamiliar with the song Novacane, I'll offer a succinct breakdown. Frank details his journey of meeting a young attractive woman at a music festival. The two smoke together and he realizes that what he's taking in must be laced with something unfamiliar, because he suddenly feels numb to everything that would usually bring him pleasure. He spends the rest of the song searching for something, anything, that will give him a feeling of gratification. Nothing works. Even sex with beautiful women leaves him feeling numb, and he feels terrible for letting these women think he feels anything. Check out the video below to hear the lyrics for yourself. Close your eyes and lay down if you want to have the full effect of me and Denise listening to music at the park at 1:00am.