I must confess that I am not a big fan of the modern R&B which dominates the radio airwaves at any given hour. If you asked me this question in the 90s, things would be different. TLC? Yes. Keith Sweat? Yes. R. Kelly? Yes.
But this neo soul bullshit that has demolished the current soundscape is well…just that, bullshit. Most days when I’m driving and I forget my ipod, listening to the radio instead, there is hardly ever that a poor song lasts to completion before my eager finger tips push another channel and simultaneously end my misery forever.
Fortunately, on one such day, I heard a song that didn’t cause me misery, and I let it play to completion. That song was “Novacane” by Frank Ocean, a member of the Odd Future hip hop group. Immediately when I heard the song, I knew something different was taking place. The song, in which Frank talks about his many unsuccessful methods of achieving a high comparable to one a midnight encounter gave him in the sheets, is reminiscent of another time, but that time is, remains a mystery to this writer. The beat is something I would expect to hear on an episode of Miami Vice, but the smooth swagger that the song conveys is hard to pin down as to what musical era it is paying homage to, but the mystery makes it that much cooler.
The mixtape, aptly titled nostalgia,ULTRA is chock full of such mysteries. As a whole, the work gives off a feeling of nostalgia, partly due to Frank’s subject matter, and greatly due to a few great dream beat selections. Many fans will recognize Coldplay’s “Strawberry Swing” and MGMT’s “Electric Feel” among others. While many other artists have sampled and remixed these beats excessively, on this particular mixtape they don’t seem out of place, quite the contrary. For instance, on one of the standout tracks, “Nature Feels,” Frank uses his uniquely smooth voice to glide out that “Electric Feel” beat that we all love so much. I’m not crazy enough to say Frank’s song is better than MGMT’s, but it is easy to get lost in Frank’s version, and forget who the original beat makers were.
I sincerely apologize for this review, or maybe I don’t. The best way to experience this mixtape is to sit back, with some weed preferably, and chill out while the record plays from beginning to end. The music embodies the concept of nostalgia in such a brilliant way that is useless to talk about, you must hear it, and get it in your soul like the late, great, jazz legend Charles Mingus once said.