Frank Ocean Blonde collaborators: Everything you need to know
After reviewing the ASCAP credits, EW picks out the most notable contributors to Ocean's stellar album
Last month, Frank Ocean finally unveiled Blonde, his much-anticipated follow-up to 2012’s masterful Channel Orange. Brewed in the four years following his studio debut, the record expectedly boasts a staggering roster: Beyoncé underscores the back-half harmonies of “Pink + White,” Outkast’s Andre 3000 commandeers a song-length verse on “Solo (Reprise),” and production cues from a stream of industry heavyweights abound. Some guest stars need no introduction—Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, Pharrell Williams, Tyler, the Creator—while others aren’t quite as prominent.
Boys Don’t Cry, the zine Ocean released alongside Blonde, contained an assortment of “album contributors” that ranged from Brian Eno to the late David Bowie, but Ocean has yet to reveal an official list of credits. Now ASCAP, which tracks songwriting royalties, has been updated to reflect at least a dozen of Blonde’s songs. Below, EW has rounded up everything you need to know about the lesser-famed collaborators.
Featured on: “Nikes,” “Ivy,” “Pink + White,” “Be Yourself,” “Solo,” Skyline To,” “Nights,” “Pretty Sweet,” “White Ferrari,” “Seigfried,” “Godspeed,” “Futura Free”
This Los Angeles-based producer helped shape much of Ocean’s debut studio album, Channel Orange, trading the sample-saturated style he touted on breakout mixtape Nostaglia, Ultra for a palatial live score. His lavish touch returns on Blonde, gracing all 12 of the tracks whose credits are listed. The New York-bred Grammy-winner has also worked with John Legend, Jay Z, Vic Mensa, and Erykah Badu, and is a known member of SoCal hip-hop troop The Sa-Ra Creative Partners.
Carl Palmer, Harry Palmer, Jeff Palmer
Featured on: “Nikes”
Collectively the Palmer Brothers, this sibling trio penned The Mohawks’ 1968 single, “The Champ,” a swinging psychedelic tune sampled on “Nikes.” The song is frequented by hip-hop titans, appearing on over 250 songs including MC Hammer’s “Pump It Up,” Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin A–,” and French Montana’s “Loyal.” According to AllMusic.com, the Palmers also wrote for Cab Calloway, Billy Kyle, and Duke Ellington.
Featured on: “Ivy”
The Vampire Weekend alum was a bedrock for the band before officially departing earlier this year. He’s turned his focus to standalone work in the months since, releasing a string of solo tracks, collaborating with Ra Ra Riot and Santigold, and teaming up with The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser for an upcoming joint album.
Featured on: “Ivy”
Predominantly known for his turn in dream pop duo The xx, the London singer stepped out on his own for debut studio effort In Colour in 2015. He’s reportedly at work on The xx’s third record, though no official details have been announced.
Featured on: “Solo”
This Bronx-born rapper-producer has worked with a cadre of high-profile acts, including Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Kid Cudi, and Macy Gray. His debut solo project, a 2008 collection of goof-off, Graduation-esque numbers called The Death of Adam, was executive-produced by his close friend Kanye West.
Mikey Alfred, Sage Elsesser, and Na-kel Smith
Featured on: “Solo,” “Futura Free”
Mikey Alfred, a 20-something designer, is most recognized for his stints in the fashion world. He heads clothing brand Illegal Civilization alongside skateboarders Sage Elsesser and Na-kel Smith. According to the company’s website, their part on “Futura Free” is “a sound bite from a very old video.” Alfred is the sole Civ member to appear on “Solo,” though his contribution is vague.
Dave Allen, Hugo Burnham, Jon King, and Andy Gill
Featured on: “Solo,” Futura Free”
These English rockers used to front Gang of Four, a Leeds-hailing post-punk group that’s been sporadically active since the late ‘70s. Guitarist Andy Gill is the only original member in the current lineup; Allen still works in the music industry, Burnham is a professor, and King is in television and advertising. “Solo” assumedly samples one of their songs, but it’s unclear which one. Gill’s name pops up on Blonde closer “Futura Free.”
Featured on: “Solo”
Most celebrated for his 1972 singles “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light,” multi-intrumentalist Todd Rundgren has been making music since the late ‘60s. He’s also engineered a number of notable records, including Badfinger’s Straight Up (1971), Hall & Oates War Babies (1973), and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (1977). Ocean’s “Solo” samples his 1973 A Wizard, A True Star entry “Flamingo,” a galactic-bound three-minute interlude.
Featured on: “Godspeed,” “Nights,” “White Ferrari,” “Close to You”
Buddy Ross has been Ocean’s touring keyboardist since 2012. As a producer-engineer, he flaunts an affinity for the sort of drowsy, daydream-inducing instrumentals that often engulf Blonde’s minimalist sprawl. He told Pitchfork he played the piano intro on “Godspeed,” the synth on the first halves of “Nights” and “White Ferrari,” all the repeating interlude music, and portions of “Close to You.”
Featured on: “Nights”
A Nigerian transplant now residing in California, Michael Uzowuru has lent production to Vince Staples, Vic Mensa, and a handful of Odd Future cohorts, including Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, and The Jet Age of Tomorrow. His SoundCloud houses an assortment of ambient, hip-hop-punctuated tunes.
Featured on: “Nights”
Vegyn’s only online mark is a batch of hypnotic electro tracks for production collective PLZ Make It Ruins, a “London borne conduit for current computer-produced and dance-oriented music,” according to their Bandcamp.
Featured on: “Godspeed”
Grammy-nominated singer slash pastor Kim Burrell makes an apt appearance on Blonde’s penultimate entry “Godspeed.” She’s praised as one of the most powerful voices in gospel, most renowned for her 1998 album Everlasting Life. The Texas native’s commanding croon has earned her collabs with Stevie Wonder, Missy Elliot, and Whitney Houston, among others. Her connection to Ocean seems to trace back as far as 2010, when the R&B standout penned a short essay on his Tumblr about his religious upbringing and referenced a 2007 video of Burrell performing her ’97 song “Home.”
Additional points of note:
- “Close to You” samples Stevie Wonder’s cover of “Close to You,” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David
- “White Ferrari” samples elements of the Beatles’ 1966 song “Here, There and Everywhere”
- “Seigfried” samples the Beatles’ 1967 instrumental track “Flying” and elements of “A Fond Farewell,” a posthumous song by late musician Eliott Smith released in 2004
- French producer SebastiAn told Pitchfork he is the spoken-word vocalist on “Facebook Story”
- Though not confirmed, the following people also reportedly contributed to Blonde: Rick Rubin, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman, Rosie Watson, Yung Lean, Slow Hollows’ Austin Feinstein, Playboi Carti, KOHH, and Loota
- The credits for “Self Control,” Good Guy,” “Solo (Reprise),” “Close to You,” and “Facebook Story” are not yet listed on ASCAP