Several summers ago, I saw OFWGKTA perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival. OFWGKTA is the abbreviated name for the hip hop collective known as ‘Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All,’ and they were the most hyped act of the entire weekend, not only for their notorious leader, Tyler The Creator, but for the mixed tapes they released and the misogynistic and homophobic brand of thug rhymes they had a tendency to spew.

Mayhem broke out in the crowd the second the collective (which was at least 12-15 strong) took the stage, as the horn-rimmed hipsters all around me struggled to, well be hip, and tap into what Pitchfork Media told us was the next big thing.

To my ears, their performance was an utter train wreck notable for clunky rhymes, sheer unprofessionalism and a wholly pedestrian brand of antagonistic showmanship. Most of the crowd ate it up and loved every minute of the performance!  I liked nothing about them at all, although I must admit that being surrounded by a pushing, surging, crowd surfing throng does have a tendency to negatively impact my level of enjoyment.

So this summer, when I began hearing the pre-release hype surrounding the album Channel Orange  by one of the members of Odd Future, I pretty much dismissed it in turn, without even hearing a note of music. That, my friends, was a big mistake.

Public Enemy once instructed “Don’t Believe The Hype,”  but in the case of Frank Ocean, the hype of a young artist with an old-soul heart and honeyed tone, who not only can sing like nobody’s business, but also write songs destined to become classics was spot on.

Ocean hails from New Orleans by way of Los Angeles, and had written songs for Justin Bieber, John Legend and Brandy before joining the collective. He also worked with Kanye West and Jay-Z, appearing on their Watch The Throne album.  Prior to the release of Channel Orange , Ocean blogged about his homosexuality and it became a huge deal in the press, particularly in the somewhat homophobic world of rap and hip-hop.

So when the buzz for this record on the street was too loud to ignore, I decided to take the plunge. My ears weren’t prepared for the pure soulful sounds (think Talking Book era Stevie Wonder or the “Superfly” sound of Curtis Mayfield) packed into superb romantic gems like “Sweet Life,” “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” “Pink Matter” and topical songs like “Super Rich Kids,” and today’s Song Of The Day which is both ethereal and gritty at the same time. Like too many of the hip hop records that come out today, the songs are surrounded by brief skits that, if anything, take away from the blissful experience of Ocean’s performances throughout this essential record. There’s a reason why this album will be on everyone’s top albums of the year list this year (including mine), and the proof surely is in the grooves!