z sides

Listen to a 66 Track R&B Mixtape by Frank Ocean

Before he put out Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank Ocean recorded a LOT of low-key R&B tracks.

by Ryan Bassil
09 October 2014, 2:17pm

Even the biggest artists in the world have songs you haven’t heard. In our new series Z-Sides, we shine light on those rare tracks and deep cuts that only hardcores know word for word. We kick off with The Lonny Breaux Collection: a cult compilation of unreleased Frank Ocean tracks.

Frank Ocean is a babe. His appearance on Odd Future’s “Oldie”, freshly-squeezed juice in hand; the performance on Saturday Night Live; pretty much the entirety of Nostalgia, Ultra; all the photos that litter Tumblr. You aren’t short of moments in Frank’s career that cement him as a forlorn romantic; a guy who can peer into your soul and play pillow talk with your heart.

Both Channel Orange and Nostalgia, Ultra arrived with their own deep cuts. “Thinkin’ Bout You” – which was originally released by Bridget Kelly before Frank leaked his original – became an anthem for everyone with feelings in 2011. “There Will Be Tears” is the soundtrack to getting angsty about seeing someone and regretfully deciding to click back through their holiday pictures. And “Pink Matter” is an underrated break-up song.

But long before Frank was doing photo shoots with Terry Richardson, guesting on tracks with heavyweights like Yeezy and Jigga, and serenading your girl to sleep, he worked as a ghostwriter. He’s worked on tracks with Justin Bieber, co-wrote “I Miss You” from Beyonce’s 4, and has gifted Brandy with three songs.

"I’ve written for some people, but I don’t like to talk about it”, he told Complex back in 2011. “I like my listeners and, I hate to use this term so early but, my fans, if I’ve got any, to discover shit on their own, and for the shit to be in layers. I’m not going to brag about it. I was just getting started. Everything I did as a songwriter was little humble things I was doing. I didn’t have any number ones or anything like that. I was just getting in the groove.”

Frank Ocean has got a fair discography – and, like he says, the fans should be comfortable to seek out shit on their own accord. But it’s his own work, songs that Frank completed himself during this time, that should be in every fan’s collection.

A lot of Frank’s old songs can’t be found on YouTube or Soundcloud but an unofficial mixtape, compiled by some benevolent music fan, found its way on the internet a couple years ago. Released under the title The Lonny Breaux Collection (which, true heads will know, is a tip to Frank’s real name), the collection boasts 66 tracks of pure, un-watered, ringtone-era R’n’B.

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Standout cuts include “Greedy Love” – the last great song to rhyme “buster” with “sucker” – “Bedtime Story”, and, to be honest, most of the tracks produced by Midi Mafia. His beats sound like high school crushes. The tape has a strong aesthetic throughout - Frank’s voice layered over piano-led cruise-town R&B, the type that sounds good sheltering next to a pillow or winding down a freeway at night - and offers an insight into his previous work writing songs for other artists. “Hardest Thing”, “Love on my Piano”, “Real” showcase his ability to write hooks. And “When I’m Done” is arguably better than Maroon 5’s entire career. Press play right now.

Frank Ocean is currently preparing the follow-up to Channel Orange. We delved a little deeper and investigated why it hasn't come out yet. Read it here.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil