Watch: Frank Ocean Debuts His NSFW Video For ‘Pyramids’

It's A Good Day For Frank Ocean Fans
Redefining The Skripper Video

Frank Ocean clearly wants me (and, okay… all of his fans) to have the best day ever. It’s only been a few hours since the footage from his Saturday Night Live performance was released, and we now have the video for Pyramids. I’ve gone on and on (and on) about how much I lurve this song, so you can imagine the proverbial backflip I did when I saw this link on his Twitter. Frank is known for having some amazing visuals to his songs and, once again, he sought out director Nabil to get a very specific, haunting sort of look. Nabil previously directed Frank‘s Novacane video and we’ve also seen his work with Kanye West for Mercy. Peep the NSFW video above (John Mayer makes another appearance) and join me inside for a bit of a breakdown. I have, like, three things I need to say about this effing amazing video!

Okay, so I totally forgot that Pyramids is, technically, a skripper song. Or at least the second half is. The full song is about 10 minutes long but they skip the first half (you can hear the opening snippet to it from about 00:58-1:28 in the video) and they get right into the part that tells the story of Cleopatra, who works at The Pyramid strip club.

Some people looove the first part of the song and so they hated that it got cut. I actually prefer the second half but I love the build-up that the first half provides; it sounds like a totally different song (you can listen to the whole thing here). Still, I wasn’t bothered by the omission.

Now here’s what I lurve about the video: the strippers, duh.

Lol. Okay no, but seriously. That morphing thing that happens to the faces of the women as they dance, is so cray! And I have no idea what to do with it, lol. On the one hand, Pyramids is absolutely a stripper video. You could argue then, that it falls into the same category as that I Luv Dem Strippers video we saw from 2Chainz and Nicki Minaj a while back.

But isn’t it funny what a little art fart can do? The women in Pyramids are more scary than they are sexy; you could even say that they’re demonized in the video, rather than sexualized. And while it makes for some really powerful visuals– and it’s kinda just cool to look at– I can’t help but wanna deconstruct it all, lol.

Strangely enough, the lyrics to the song tell more of a love story. But the love story is complicated by the fact that Frank sings about being a pimp (in the second verse) and Cleopatra is the stripper/prostitute who gets the bills paid (or ‘keep a n—- bills paid,’ lol). So I guess the lyrics also complicate the video, making it less of a skripper video but definitely a hip-hop tale of love, loss and darkness. You can check out the rest of the Pyramid lyrics at DirectLyrics.

Anyway, those are just my initial thoughts… as you can see I struggle with the stripper conundrum (like, on a daily basis). But I especially love the end of the video, where Frank ends up in a sub-Saharan type setting with a pyramid in the background. This is another shouts-out to the first half of the song, where he sings about finding his black queen, Cleopatra.

Sigh. Okay. What do y’all make of Frank Ocean‘s first video from his critically-acclaimed debut album Channel Orange? Is he living up to the hype?

And why is John Mayer becoming cool again? Or is that just me? Anyone?

Source

Share:
| Posted under: ,
pink-is-the-new-blog
  1. Dasha

    I really love the whole song…I hope one day he’ll put out a video “Pyramids – Part I” or something. Video is pretty epic.

  2. Sam

    Lol, common Shannon, this is nothing like “I luv dem strippers”. There is a plot to the lyrics and an interpretation in the video that means so much more than girls shaking their asses. I don’t mind him cutting out the first part, but it seems odd that he would do that and still end up with a 7+ minute video lol. Also, this n—- really knows what hallucinogens can do to a person! Finally, I’ll end with: He needs to do a collabo with Azealia Banks, like, YESTERDAY!

    • Sam, thanks for commenting. I luv dem strippers was pretty bad, lol. I was just thinking about the fact that we often rail against objectification of women and… strippers. But it’s interesting to see that, depending on the context or the lyrics– or plot, as you say– it can work.

      I want Frank to collab with a lot of people. It would be VERY interesting to see what he & AB could come up with. I’d love to see him bring out her softer side, lol.

  3. I don’t know. It’s an interesting video, and maybe I’m adding a little too much of a pathological spin, but it’s weird for me to see him singing and sexualizing (albeit it demonically) about women since he occupies this grey area in terms of orientation, and how I perceive the construction of his sexuality. I noted that he never touches of any these women, but the camera (or the narrator’s (his) eyes definitely visually slice them up into different parts rather seeing any one whole woman at a time. Part of me is projecting a narrator/protragonist who’s struggling with his own demons, perhaps sexual in nature, and this could allude to an internal struggle with preference or a struggle to reconcile the desire to exploit these women and a desire to save them. In another sense, they’re one big metaphor for temptation, which could encompass both of those spins. It’s also intriguing to me that the video begins with so much violence but it’s targeted at stationery objects, although alcohol seems to be another metaphor for temptation, or a road dangerously tread. I also can’t decide if it’s a cautionary video warning against the trappings of booze, sex, money, and stripping, or if it’s simply depicting a way of life that the narrator is somehow removed from and thus, casting a commentary upon; because there’s a bubbling morality underneath the surface that’s almost casting a Sodom/Gomorah-like judgment on the scene. Finally, the video triggers a little unease in me because I feel like sexual, ethnic, and cultural minorities should elevate the social/artistic discussion and support each other, but my first reaction to the video was discomfort because I have an expectation that gay/bi/queer men would/should protect and respect women and the video feels exploitive, but I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to rise to the machismo of the Hip Hop industry, or if it’s a commentary on the mysogyny still found in some corners of the industry (and let’s face it, the culture at large). So I guess I’m just confused, after all that, and I’m not sure if he wants to fuck these women, judge these women, protect these women, or all of the above. And all this is just after one viewing, so it must be a good video to provoke so many streams of thought. haha

    • Seth Leeper, what a fantastic analysis! As I watched the video I had to remind myself that Frank Ocean is, in many ways, a hip-hop artist. At the very least, he participates in the community and the lyrics to this song (perhaps more than any other song on the album) reflect that. I would argue that all of the ideas you bring up, all of the possible interpretations are exactly what the director and Frank hoped to inspire. That ‘bubbling morality’ s definitely there and it’s a reflection of his music as a whole. On the one hand he depicts AND critiques a certain lifestyle, but he also participates in it even as he must distance himself from it. It’s like he’s the guy at the strip club thinking about all of the social and political and sexual ramifications of him (an intelligent, artistic, gay black man) being in the strip club.

      I love that you say “I’m not sure if he wants to fuck these women, judge these women, protect these women, or all of the above.” I think it is all of the above and I think that makes plenty of sense… or at least it’s a more complicated strip club scene than we’re used to seeing and for that I’m thankful, lol.

      I also love that you talk about your expectations of him as an artist. Trent and I had a great discussion on the Frank Ocean coming out piece (‘Coming Out As An Abstract Art’) and he sort of warned me against expecting members of the gay community to carry anything in particular on their shoulders. In the same way, it’s problematic to ask members of a particular race to carry anything on their shoulders, even though we might want them to. I was definitely unsure about how exactly to interpret the video, but I consider that to be a good thing.

      Thank you so much for sharing these ideas, Seth Leeper! Such good material– between your comment and the video– to work through.

Leave A Comment