Frank Ocean is one of the great recording artists of our generation. Sitting on the boundary of a number of music genres, his distinctive style has been best described as alternative RnB or indie soul. But with relatively little output since his 2016 album Blonde, are there any artists like Frank Ocean to keep us going while we wait for his next masterpiece?
His 2012 debut album Channel Orange was met with critical acclaim, with the melodic rap single ‘Thinkin Bout You’ and its distinctive, ever-so-slightly-squeaky falsetto chorus driving him to international fame.
Channel Orange was an instant classic, finding favour with critics across the music industry. But his second album, the 2016 Blonde, blew it out of the water. With Blonde, Frank reached new levels of experimentation and emotional expression that resonated with millions of listeners all over the world, and saw him become one of the most acclaimed artists on the planet.
Unfortunately, since Blonde, we’ve been pretty starved of new music from Frank. Not to play down big singles like ‘Chanel’ (2017) and his 2020 double A side ‘Dear April/Cayendo,’ but with the release Blonde slipping further into the past, die hard Frank Ocean fans are desperate for more.
So, we’ve compiled a list of contemporary artists similar to Frank Ocean, who offer some of the key elements you’ll find in Frank Ocean’s music: vulnerability, sensuality, psychedelia, and avant-garde soul. If you like Frank, you can be pretty sure you’ll like some of these slightly lesser-known artists.
Let’s dive in.
LA-based Dijon Deunas, better known as simply ‘Dijon,’ released his debut album Absolutely in 2021. The record offers a totally distinctive blend of R&B, tinged with pop and Americana.
It’s almost like a blend of Frank Ocean and Bon Iver, if you can imagine that. The debut studio album followed his striking 2020 EP, How Do You Feel About Getting Married?, a dreamy, avant-garde, lofi incarnation of his developing sound.
Try out Absolutely first. Dijon’s whole back catalogue is great, but the songwriting on Absolutely is another level, with production values to match, making his sound even more accessible.
The combination of Dijon’s expressive voice, experimentalism, and his subtle use of guitar put him firmly in Frank Ocean territory. Stream Absolutely here.
Serpentwithfeet is the alias of New York musician and singer Josiah Wise.
Like Frank Ocean, serpentwithfeet offers a highly experimental take on soul and R&B music, with clear influences from gospel music in his vocal inflections.
Very much at home within the neo-soul milieu, serpentwithfeet, like Frank Ocean, is a boundary-pusher in the genre.
A combination of mellow moods and subject matter – including overtly sexual and homoerotic lyrics – really call to mind the vulnerability of moments on Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Check out his 2021 avant-garde soul album Deacon.
Blood Orange is the moniker of New York-based British record producer and singer Dev Hynes.
Departing significantly from his early rock projects Lightspeed Champion and Test Icicles, Blood Orange’s music blends indie soul with elements of 80s productions.
His 2013 album Cupid Deluxe somehow brings together emo and soul. For me, his brilliant 2018 Negro Swan is his best record, and also the most comparable to Frank Ocean, with its journeying, experimental feel, combined with soul and melodic rap.
If you enjoy Blood Orange, make sure to check out his early collaborations with Solange, including her 2012 True EP, which Hynes produced.
Choker is Chris Lloyd – a Michigan-based singer and producer who is forming something of a cult following, thanks to a string of brilliant releases, most importantly including his 2017 album Peak.
The wild and beautiful journey of Peak sees atmospheres shifting all over the place in a manner that’s rarely matched, but definitely comparable to Frank Ocean’s Blonde.
Lush modular synths sweep in to take over from guitar riffs, and hip-hop beats, beneath rap and pop-choruses. Choker switches deftly between tender, nostalgic moments and cool AF grooves.
And with all that, the record coheres perfectly, flowing seamlessly. If you’re looking for another Blonde, you can’t hope for a much better match than this.
Sunni Colón is a relatively little-known singer and record producer who blends soft soul vocals with psychedelia, disco, and subtle gestures towards Latin American music.
His debut 2016 album Thierry Disko majors on the disco side of things, so if you’re looking for Frank Ocean vibes, gloss over that one.
However, his more recent album release, the relatively short 2018 Satin Psicodelic, skews heavily to the atmospheric and sensual.
Give it a spin for those tender, psychedelic vibes that are hard to find without Frank.
It’s the mellow psychedelic moods that make the ever-influential Connan Mockasin relevant to Frank Ocean fans.
The outstanding 2018 Jassbusters is a sleepy, sensual, sonic paradise. If you can put aside your desire for the soul side of things, Connan Mockasin offers a huge amount in terms of those slowly shifting experimental soundscapes that carry you all around a strange, soft, sensual world.
His 2021 album Jassbusters Two continues the journey quite pleasantly, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first Jassbusters record.
Like Frank, Connan Mockasin sits amongst the great avant-garde artists of recent years.
Simon a. is an as-yet little known London-based experimental soul singer and producer.
His accomplished 2020 EP Way to Go represents just the start of his musical journey, with each of his singles since then documenting a journey that sees his electronic soul sounds developing expertly.
Sonically, his lush production clearly owes a debt to Frank Ocean, as well as strongly evoking James Blake.
His tracks represent a series of slow, moody, introspective, and emotionally rich movements, with no shortage of big vocal hooks. Listen to the impressively silky and sophisticated Way to Go here.
Tyler, The Creator
One of the most-celebrated rappers of recent years, there is a significant crossover between fans of Frank Ocean and fans of Tyler, The Creator.
Skewing leftfield in terms of production, with open and vulnerable lyricism, Tyler’s 2019 album Igor has received significant critical acclaim. The is certainly a hip-hop record, but features strong influences from jazz, and Tyler, The Creator wouldn’t be far out of place amongst neo-soul artists.
The epic ‘EARFQUAKE’ is a definite highlight, so start there, then check out the whole of Igor, if you haven’t already.
Earl Sweatshirt is a seminal artist whose influence has extended beyond hip-hop – almost, but perhaps not to quite the same extent as Frank Ocean himself.
If you’re looking for a way in, Frank Ocean appears on ‘Sunday’ from Earl Sweatshirt’s 2013 album Doris. As a matter of fact, Earl Sweatshirt has collaborated with almost everyone in the scene, with Vince Staples and Mac Miller, amongst others, also featuring on that record.
If you’re into it, check out his 2018 album Some Rap Songs for chilled, understated, lofi hip-hop beats With almost every track on the record less than 2 minutes, the record has an almost flippant feel to it. The reality is that it’s pure quality.