Behind the Name: How Did Frank Ocean Get His Name?

Frank Ocean is a rare artist in today’s musical landscape in more ways than one.

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With an excess of platforms to help spread creative pursuits, most artists can’t stop putting out new material. It seems we get a new snippet of a song that is “coming soon” on TikTok every day. Ocean takes the completely opposite approach, going radio silent for years at a time.

You can’t knock him for it though. Whenever he does come back around, the world stops and takes notice.

[RELATED: Top 7 Frank Ocean Songs]

Moreover, his commitment to privacy in his personal life stands out in an age of constant exposure. The notoriously reclusive singer keeps things close to the chest, never revealing too much, so his mystery stays intact.

Even his name feels a little enigmatic. It is both familiar and unique—not to mention completely unforgettable. Frank Ocean was not born Frank Ocean. So, how did he get the name?

Behind The Name

Frank Ocean’s real name is Christopher Edwin Breaux. The Lousiana native used the name Lonny Breaux to sign his first contract in 2005 but adopted his enduring moniker in 2015.

The name was inspired by Frank Sinatra and his 1960 Rat Pack film, Ocean’s 11. While the name itself has simple enough origins, the decision to come up with a stage name was one of necessity.

“For me, the genesis of that name change came from me trying to make a project without my label knowing about it. It was born from a need,” Ocean explained to Essence.

“I hear certain people say that about their name, their look, even their sound, that it’s a form of armor or a shield from whatever pain they might not want to feel,” he continued. “I don’t think that was it, though. I was just trying to be slick, so I could do what I was doing without people knowing. And it worked.”

Slick he was. Ocean ultimately was able to fulfill his contractual obligation to Def Jam (which he signed after joining the collection Odd Future—more on that later) and release an independent project the very next day.

Ocean’s Career

Ocean first established himself as a songwriter. After landing a writing deal, he started penning hits for a number of pop heavy-hitters including Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, John Legend, and Brandy.

“There was a point where I was composing for other people, and it might have been comfy to continue to do that and enjoy that income stream and the anonymity,” Ocean said of his work at the time. “But that’s not why I moved away from school and away from family.”

A few years later, he joined the hip-hop collective Odd Future—which also included Tyler, the Creator. The pair’s friendship helped to reinvigorate Ocean’s songwriting. In late 2009, he met Tricky Stewart which landed him a deal with Def Jam Recordings.

Ocean began to feel neglected by the label and began working on a side project. He self-released a mixtape without their input in February 2011. The mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra, received widespread critical acclaim.

[RELATED: Frank Ocean in Talks to Direct His First Film]

A few collaborations and an Odd Future tour later, a song called “Thinkin’ Bout You” was leaked on the internet. The track would go on to be Ocean’s breakout hit.

“Thinkin’ Bout You” went on to find a wider release on Ocean’s debut LP, channel ORANGE, in 2012. “It succinctly defines me as an artist for where I am right now and that was the aim,” Ocean said of the album. “It’s about the stories. If I write 14 stories that I love, then the next step is to get the environment of music around it to best envelop the story and all kinds of sonic goodness.”

Ocean decided to end what he described as a “seven-year chess match” with Def Jam in 2016 with the release of the album Endless. After parting ways with the label, he shared Blonde (alternatively titled Blond). The album matched the success of channel ORANGE and spent a week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart.

Ocean hasn’t released an album since Blonde in 2016, but many fans have been speculating that he will be coming out of hibernation given his impending headlining slot at Coachella. Only time will tell.

Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

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