What we’ve got here is a new Frank Ocean song called “DHL,” like the global shipping company. Or, if you ask bewildered listeners the internet over, maybe it’s an acronym for something seedier, like “dick-hoovering lips.” It arrived Saturday afternoon, after Ocean resurrected his Blonded Radio show on Beats 1 for a special episode which, like every episode, could be the last.
The beat is stilted and aquiline. The synths sparkle. The song loads up like a JPEG of some seldom-visited corner of space, downloaded through an AOL dial-up connection. And the drums! Well, there are drums. Unambiguous, trundling, drum-like drums, which aren’t the sort of thing Frank Ocean has made much use of in his music these past few years. He’s been most interested in the club lately, in the various sounds and vibrations that shape the nightlife of different cities— Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Paris. “DHL” begins after 3 a.m. in New York, crashes into a fuzzy wall of sound about halfway through, and wraps up at a strip club on the Northside of Houston, where Frank says, uh, this:
Boy toy suck me like a Hoover, like a Hoover
Boy toy ride me like a Uber, like a Uber
In a recent GQ interview, which revealed Ocean to be sort of boring, he did go on about the catharsis of coming home to packages, but that’s got nothing to do with this other fun moment, which happens a little earlier in the song:
Bitch comin’ soon, yeah, that’s ‘cause you suck, yeah
(Suck me off, suck me off, suck me off
Suck me off, suck me off, suck me off)
That’s comin’ soon, yeah (yeeeeeah Suck my DICK, huh)
The point then, must be the vibes. And unfortunately, if you spend even a little time thinking about it, the distance between Rapping Frank and the listless free association of psychedelics-era A$AP Rocky is vanishingly small, which is either a cause or effect of the time they’ve spent making music together in the recent past. (“Beans … star … BUCKS … star ... STRUCK.”) This is to say that Ocean, who uses his first original song since 2017 mostly to hint at forthcoming music (“old files just turned two, turned two, yeah”), isn’t much more than added texture to something that already sounded really cool. If “DHL” indicates anything else, it’s that the mythical Frank Ocean Rap Album would almost certainly sound exactly like Rocky’s Testing. And I would be more than fine with that, probably.
Ocean is submerged in the mix, out of focus, and thinking aloud, a speck in the distance growing bigger and bigger until the very last 20 seconds of “DHL,” when he talks his biggest shit. “Independent juug, sellin’ records out the trunk, I’m already rich as fuck.” If it sounds like he isn’t trying, it’s because he doesn’t really have to anymore.