Why Frank Ocean and friends are set to make waves in 2013
Read Ed Power's guide to pop's most promising hipsters
Published 05/02/2013 | 06:00
Chris Almighty! The news that Rihanna's boyfriend, Chris Brown, was allegedly involved in a punch-up outside an LA recording studio has put the troubled singer back in halogen glare of public disapproval.
Brown's reputation has been in the muck since his thuggish 2009 assault on the star. Repeated attempts to reboot his career have gone off half-cocked. While he still has a record deal and a substantial fan-base – he came close to filling Dublin's O2 before Christmas – Brown has never managed to leave Rihanna-gate behind and remains, couching it kindly, hugely controversial.
Last week's fracas – which reportedly started as a row over a parking space – will do little do redeem him. However, it has also shone a spotlight on Frank Ocean, the young r'n b singer with whom Brown and his entourage supposedly became entangled. With news of the punch-up going viral, one question was on everyone's lips: who the hell is Frank Ocean?
As a service to readers here is what you need to know about Ocean – and several other rising stars.
So the next time a hipper-than-thou friend tries to one-up you by name dropping someone obscure, all you have to do this is consult this guide.
In underground circles, Ocean is a rising star – and also something of a contradiction. From one of the poorest neighbourhoods in New Orleans, he fetched up in Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina, intent on making it as a musician.
Almost immediately, he acquired a split identity. By day he worked as a jobbing songwriter, penning tunes for Justin Bieber among others. By night, he was embracing Los Angeles' alternative scene. He supplied beats to controversial rap group Odd Future.
Ocean sealed his arrival last summer when he took the extraordinary step of 'outing' himself as bisexual. In a posting on his website he declared 'my first love was a man'.
"By the time I realised I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless," he continued. "There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life."
This was not a spontaneous decision. Ocean was about to release a new album and he knew the confessional lyrics would raise questions about his sexuality. Rather than be the subject of an internet rumour campaign he decided to confront the topic head on.
Angel Haze and Azealia Banks
There are Twitter feuds and then there is the online knife-fight between up-and-comers Angel Haze and Azealia Banks. The dust-up started when Haze, a Michigan native living in Brooklyn, released a heartfelt homage to her adopted town called New York.
Appalled by the newcomer's chutzpah, Banks – who had a big YouTube hit in 2011 with the song '212' – took to the internet. "Seriously" she tweeted. "If you were not born and raised in NY.... DON'T CLAIM NY. YOU ARE NOT A NEW YORKER."
Haze next released a song call 'Shut The F*** Up'. A Twitter ceasefire has since been declared but it whets the appetite for their debut albums, both of which are supposedly released this year.
Kendrick Lamar The 25-year-old LA rapper Lamar grew up in one of America's most violent neighborhoods, Compton, On his album good kid, m.A.A.d city he chronicles growing up in an environment where gang warfare is part of everyday life and most kids never know their father (he was the only one on the block whose dad wasn't doing time at San Quentin). It's a moving travelogue – or as moving as any record with songs titles such as 'Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe' can get.
From a very different part of Los Angeles, Haim (pictured) are three hippy-haired sisters whose music asks you to imagine a world where Fleetwood Mac and Rihanna live in perfect harmony.
However improbable their mashup of '70s pop and contemporary r'n b is already a phenomenon. They created a splash supporting Florence + the Machine in Dublin recently and then were declared winners of the BBC Sound of 2013 poll.