For my third and final analytical public writing assignment for my Black Music in America class I tried to find another song with a different message than Sir Duke and Bad Religion. After speaking to Robin James on Monday, I was slightly unsettled at the idea that she expressed of authenticity of music is actually the perfecting of the technique in doing so. I always had a love for a lot of black music since I felt a lot of what was written about was from genuine experiences and reactions to them. I felt as if my connection with music was cheapened in a sense. Due to my renewal of my love for Frank Ocean and Channel Orange because of the authenticity that I believe it has I chose to analyze “Super Rich Kids”.
Shockingly enough the song looks into the lives of kids that grow up and/or live off their parents’ immense fortune. Throughout the song Frank Ocean sings as if he is the super rich kid but in turn isn’t referencing himself to be one. He wasn’t born with his fortune and worked to earn his unlike the kids he is singing about. Channel Orange is an album that has a reoccurring theme of trying to understand the struggles of people who aren’t normally understood nor heard. Hence “Bad Religion” and “Forrest Gump” where he discusses his closeted sexuality and how his fans and family might not accept him for who he is. I believe that Frank Ocean wrote this song because these kids are normally frowned upon by society as a whole like gay people usually are by still a large population. This is because they are brought up with having too much of everything meanwhile there are people dying everyday from starvation and poverty. Frank Ocean reveals how absurd these kids live their lives with their access and the ability to do ANYTHING they want because of their fortune. But what people forget or rather don’t consider is that these kids face certain obstacles that effect them mentally and emotionally and create the potential of total destruction.
How this relates to Frank Ocean’s experience of blackness is actually very simple. When someone thinks of the kids that Ocean is describing they immediately think of kids that are white. This is for the evident reason that most of the people that hold our country’s fortune are white because of our unintentional structural and institutional set-up of American society. The comparison to white millionaires to black millionaires is undeniable. The ratio of white to black billionaires is even more outrageous. Evidently Frank Ocean is talking about white rich kids. Throughout the song Ocean reveals how different an experience of growing up black is in comparison to the white rich kids that probably never even think about how they have everything through describing a regular day of the week for one of these kids. Although, almost mocking them in the first verse by revealing how rich and indulgent they are in their lifestyle he then finds their humanity and negative effects to growing up with fortune in the second verse. By showing the harmful effects they face reveals that Ocean has empathy for them and their experience as a rich powerful white American. Ocean is actually grateful for experiencing his upbringing as a lower class black man.
The song’s lyrics are really where all the meaning and theme is. The song has a consistent chord structure and musical background that resembles the classic rock anthem “Benny and the Jets”‘s. The tempo is relatively slow and the pace mocks the pace at which you would experience life if you were to be high (this is an educated guess). This makes sense since the super rich kids are doing drugs, smoking weed and drinking throughout the song. Fellow Odd Future member and rapper Earl Sweatshirt features on the song and further enforces Ocean’s theme.
Ocean starts the song off with the refrain which describes that these super rich kids are smoking weed, drinking wine they know absolutely nothing about, doing cocaine, and carelessly driving their dad’s jaguar. Since these kids are filthy rich they can make pay for all of these things very easily which means they’re more likely to be involved with drug problems and addictions. Its almost inevitable to be exposed to these types of drugs at such a young age because of how rich and powerful they are. By saying that their taking a “joy ride in Daddy’s jaguar” reveals how carless they are with money. Also in the refrain Ocean says that the parents aren’t around enough and that these kids have loose ends and “friends” that use them for their money. This reveals the struggles these kids deal with that most who aren’t rich white kids don’t. These kids are living off their parents’ fortune which probably means that their parents are always away either on vacation or business trips leaving these’ kids to have no parental supervision nor are raising them further enforcing the possibility of utter turmoil aka loose ends which lead to awful decisions.
Ocean indirectly reveals that he didn’t have the childhood upbringing these kids had in this refrain. Growing up in a close black family he always had a strict parental figure who was there to teach him right and wrong. As a white rich child these kids don’t really have a parental figure at all. Ocean didn’t have the access to nearly this much money nor the opportunities these kids were born into as he was growing up creating an overall appreciative attitude about existing and what he has earned for himself. Although black people experience several challenges and obstacles in today’s society Ocean shows his gratitude that he has for his upbringing. He had to work for everything he has and wasn’t handed anything. He also had family and friends who genuinely cared about him and didn’t use them for his money. Ocean feels so much sympathy for these people because he understands how important having someone that genuinely cares about them and loves them is. Ironically money and opportunity which seem to be the sought after goals in life also lead to the loss of love. Which is seen when Ocean sings in the bridge, “Real love. I’m searching for a real love.”
The juxtaposition from the beginning of the first verse to the beginning of the second is significant in the relation of lavish lifestyles to the emotion effects of the loss or rather never receiving love. In the first verse Ocean sings, “Start my day up on the roof. Ain’t nothing like this type of view.” Ocean frames the idea of being on top of the rich kid’s giant house in a positive light saying that the view is beautiful. This attitude about being on top of the roof takes a dramatic shift in the second verse where Ocean sings, “End my day up on the roof. I say I’ll jump, I never do.” Rather than being on the roof to watch the view, instead he is on the roof to jump off and kill himself. This reveals how the lack of love in his life makes it feel as if living is pointless all together. This is another negative effect from having the abundance of money and opportunity that these kids struggle immensely with that Ocean is grateful for not have experiencing during his childhood.
Earl Sweatshirt finishes off the bridge by saying, “Don’t believe us, treat us like we can’t erupt.” The reoccurring idea in the song is the idea that these rich kids are about to “erupt” emotionally; that everyone around them treats them poorly as if the money makes up for the fact that they don’t have love and aren’t happy. Ocean recreates this image of the frowned upon rich white kids by humanizing them and saying that they have the same emotions and need for love as everyone else. Their money doesn’t make up for anything but rather ruins their chance of receiving love.
Ocean gives these rich white kids that were set up for success a light in which isn’t usually shown or thought about. Ocean feels bad for them rather than envy or are bitter towards them because of the obstacles he had to face throughout his life as a black man that these kids avoided. This shows that he appreciates his blackness and is proud of the fact that he had to overcome limitations that were set up for him the moment he was born and was able to receive genuine love. Rather than talk about how awful rich white people are thought to be, he reveals that the fact they can succeed so easily is a not necessarily a good thing with immense consequences. Essentially, what Ocean is describing is that having too much of everything is just as harmful as having too little.