Inside Frank Ocean’s “Boys Don’t Cry” Magazine

“Hey, Frank Ocean released a magazine”. Yes, that’s a statement. It carries more irony than anything you can imagine, like Quentin Tarantino hating foot massages. Keeping distance from interviewing and rarely touching PR with a 50-foot pole. It’s safe to say, Frank’s become a man of few words. Hell, seeing him in public feels so rare that when we do, people treat it as if they’ve seen a UFO being flown by: an alien (go-figure), Chewbacca, and Maggie Simpson. Seriously, new Frank pics are better than free hugs and drugs. Lack of PR, he’s leaned more towards “show, don’t tell” with his art. For his 2016, crowning achievement and album that caused more adults to cry than a kid falling off their bike: “Blond” (or “Blonde” whichever you prefer).

He did the opposite of going to radio stations, Zane Lowe, and other magazines. Too easy and cliché, yo, but instead for this era, he released his own magazine. Titled “Boys Don’t Cry” after his label, also shares the same title as the song by The Cure, the 1998 movie starring Hilary Swank, and of course the old expression that’s toxic as fuck but that’s another subject for another day. With a limited run (aka it’s hard as fuck to find a physical copy unless you own Google and have money to shit away), Boys Don’t Cry may feel like that star you see in the night sky you wish you could reach (or in this case, reach and collect). But what’s in the zine? Why is a magazine talking about a magazine? A lot of questions that probably won’t get answered.

Get to Know Someone

If you manage to get a copy of Boys Don’t Cry whether physically or digitally, don’t go expecting a more straightforward publication like let’s say Rolling Stone or Cosmopolitan. No Ads, No Business it’s a passion project. It’s an intimate look into the mind of Frank Ocean: what he likes, his close ones, and what life and art means to him. With over 200 pages (242 to be exact) we take a stroll down Franks’s art gallery with photography, interviews, and a SHIT TON OF CARS. The Editors Note from Frank on page 4 helps set the tone of what you’re gonna get into: “How much of my life has happened inside of a car? I wonder if the odds are that I’ll die in one. Knock on wood grain?” From discussing an image of a kid, he discovered, the first time doing shrooms (tight!) and the overall purpose of this magazine. “My memories are in these pages”

Interviews (you gotta have them right?) span from creatives and close ones to Frank (who so happen to be creatives themselves). One of them being the one and only “BASED GOD” Lil B. Shit that alone makes it the most artistic thing to ever exist in mankind, alongside Lil Bs’ music of course.  A convo worth reading: from them discussing influence and the time Lil B being punched by a woman. Among other noteworthy, we got Blonde special guests: Rosie Watson being one. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, she’s the mom of Franks’s childhood friend who did the voicemail on the track “Be Yourself” on the album. Skaters and Musicians: Nak-Kel Smith and Sage Elsesser (aka Navy Blue). Franks’s younger brother Ryan Breaux and Evan Clark, a man of cars just like Frank (whom all appear on the ending of Futura Free). It can’t go unnoticed “Illegal Civilizations” Mikey Alfred’s contributions to the interviews as well as his own section of Horoscopes (if you believe in that stuff). Interviewing the Hopes and Dreams segment in particular and as well as being a part of the Lil B section. Asking the questions, we need to think about every now and then: where do we hope to be in the future? What are we good at? Etc

Photo: Boys Don’t Cry Magazine

Godspeed Screenplay/You’ve Been Flirting Again/

Frank takes his storytelling skills out of the studio and into the magazine with a screenplay. Godspeed, sharing the same title as the track off of “Blonde”. “Basically, a reimagined part of my boyhood”: taking place in the future, it follows a few teens and it lets’ just say…. hard to follow, like really hard to follow. It’s 1 episode and 6 scenes. Our main character, Steely (loosely based on Frank Ocean), hangs out with his friends and girlfriend and among other things. The plot? I honestly couldn’t fucking tell you, your guess is probably close to the actual plot than mine. However, you can read this screenplay and learn a bit more about Franks’s upbringing as it’s implied, in essence, they share similarities. Towards the latter of the zine, we get another story. That’s right, we get not one, but TWO stories. Written by Andrew Durbin, it’s called “You’ve Been Flirting Again”. Sharing the title with a Bjork song off of her album “Post” album, we see a man meeting up with a woman at a party. Andrew explained how he got involved with a project in 2018 with Pitchfork:

“It came about because Frank called me one morning after a mutual friend passed along my number. I guess Frank had read my first book, Mature Themes, [a hybrid collection of poetry, memoir, and cultural criticism], and liked it. He was living in London at the time, so he left a message while I was asleep. When I woke up to the voicemail, I had thought it was a prank. I almost didn’t call back, but then another friend listened to it and said I had to call back. Frank answered, explained the project and the story idea he wanted me to write, so I wrote it”.

Both are futuristic, both imagery-based, and both cool stories worth giving a shot.

Oh, and Kanye has a cameo. You get to see Ye’s McDonald’s order…. there’s that.

Photo: Boys Don’t Cry Magazine

Behind the Lens

With 7 photographers (with Frank himself included), it’s as if Frank brought on his Dream Team of photography. The following goes Viviane Sassen, Franciso Sorian, Jim Mangan, Ren Hang, Wolfgang Tillmans, Michael Mayren, and Nabil (SQUADD!!). You may recognize their names or you may not, no matter where you fall, you’ll be captured by their contributions throughout the zine. From locations in Africa to Japan to Germany to California, the photography throughout feels like a documentation than just pictures. What feels beautiful in Frank’s mind. Being life.

Cars, Cars, Cars, Nonstop Cars.

Cars play a humongous role in this project as Frank is a man of cars himself. Is it an obsession? Possibly, but… fuck it! With constant images, mentions, and references, it feels like Boy’s Don’t Cry is a metaphorical car ride in Franks’s mind (someone count how many times I say “Franks mind”). The quote from the editor’s note says it all.  Close friend and America’s favorite Flower Boy, Tyler, the Creator, had a contribution, a poem that is. What’s it about? It’s about driving around L.A. Which is fitting since Tyler has a thing for automobiles himself, hell he has an album that’s basically a long car ride (Flower Boy).

Beautiful poems about Black lives to Franks favorite movies and albums. ATL to Eraserhead/ Daft Punks “Discovery” to Death Grips “Money Store” …. variety is an understatement yo. Boy’s Don’t Cry may have been just a one-off idea (since he’s only made one issue) but it’s a passion project for sure. A collectors’ item while being a piece of Franks artistic mind beyond the music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *