Classic Cuts will take a look at deep-cuts from numerous great albums. This week, I am reminded of the smaller moments that populate Frank Ocean’s breathtaking 2012 major label debut channel ORANGE.
“Crack Rock” was always going to be overlooked when channel ORANGE was first released. It sat next to the album’s centerpiece, “Pyramids” in the track order and didn’t have the benefit of featuring an Earl Sweatshirt or Andre 3000 verse. Both rappers, it should be noted, brought their A-game to this event, solidifying Earl as a voice demanding recognition, and making us all wish we could get at least one more full-length LP of Andre 3000 doing, well, anything. I just want to lose myself in that man’s musical vision for forty minutes to an hour once again. I know, I’m selfish.
Anyway, back to “Crack Rock.” The song is Frank Ocean at his most claustrophobic and uneasy. He shows a similar vulnerability on the outstanding single “Thinking of You,” while he shows little doubt – and is rewarded for it – on early tracks “Super Rich Kids” and “Sweet Life.” Yet, this time that vulnerability is met with anxiety and disgust. The beat, with its organ stabs and jittery percussion, drives this home, as does the way Ocean wonderfully sing-raps of his subject smoking the last rock in that “glass dick.” What initially looks like a portrait of another life stalled by drugs, Ocean deftly flips the script on the searing third verse. It’s this segment of the song that really drives home the track’s urgency and demands. And, in 2015, it expresses a horrific lack of progress. “Crooked cop, dead cop, no good for community / Fuckin’ pig get shot, three hundred men will search for me / My brother get popped and don’t no one hear the sound,” he sings both with disdain and sorrow. He then draws a connection between the song’s opening vignette and the latest image, when he pointedly belts, “Don’t no one disrupt nirvana / Don’t no one wanna blow the high / Crack rock, crack rock, crack rock / How you feeling girl? / How’s the gutter doing?” In 2012, “Pyramid” towered over a song like “Crack Rock” on first listen. In 2015, “Rock” is a startling moment that captures the multi-faceted genius of Frank Ocean and channel ORANGE.