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Meaning of the song ‘Chanel’ by ‘Frank Ocean’

Released: 2017

“Chanel” by Frank Ocean is a dynamic depiction of fluid sexuality, personal identity, and the struggles of being black in America. The song crafts its narrative through a medley of cryptic metaphors, referencing luxury, societal image, and the duality of Frank’s experiences.

The lyrics, “My guy pretty like a girl / And he got fight stories to tell,” kick off the conversation about fluid sexuality, hinting at the androgynous nature of his partner. The term “Pretty like a girl” disrupts traditional definitions of beauty, asserting that attractiveness isn’t bound by gender norms. “And he got fight stories to tell” suggests layers of complexity, an ability to embody sensitivity and strength simultaneously.

Throughout the song, Frank repeats the line, “I see both sides like Chanel,” a clever play on words that not only pays tribute to the iconic French fashion house (known for its double-sided logo) but also metaphorically represents his bisexual identity. It’s an open acknowledgement of his ability to appreciate and engage in love across the gender spectrum.

Another pivotal part of the song is when Frank raps, “This a cult, not a clique on the net / With a cup in a cup, Actavis / That’s a double edge, ‘Issa knife’.” Here, he’s referencing the widespread use of Actavis, a prescription cough syrup popularly mixed with soda and used recreationally in the hip-hop community, a phenomenon also known as ‘lean’ or ‘purple drank.’ The wordplay, “That’s a double edge, ‘Issa knife'”, refers to 21 Savage’s famous tattoo and implies the dangerous consequences of the Actavis culture.

Verses like, “My pockets snug / They can’t hold my sevens / They banned my Visa / My AmEx and Mastercards” and “I got new money / And it’s all cash / I got new bags / And they all collabs,” lay bare Frank’s financial freedom, highlighting his wealth but also demonstrating industry-related complications. Here, Frank delves into the discussion of material success while remaining aware of the greater societal issues at play.

The song is filled with similar intricate layers of symbolism and metaphor that balance between glamor and harsh reality. “Chanel” proves Frank Ocean’s penchant for deeply thoughtful lyrics, painting a vivid picture of personal identity, love, and struggle in contemporary society.

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