After kicking off a new club night series with a New York event called PrEP+, Frank Ocean has released new music as well as t-shirts connected to the event.
While PrEP+ was no one’s runaway success, one thing that the event did provide was a space for Ocean to tease new music. Sprinkled into the DJ sets (by Justice, Bouffant Bouffant, Sango, and Sherelle), the artist debuted new tracks, both of which are now available for pre-order on vinyl.
The “Dear April” 7” vinyl includes a remix by the duo Justice. The “Cayendo” vinyl comes with a Sango remix. Both are available for $15 and are set to ship in eight to 12 weeks. But the release also came with a set of t-shirts.
While two of the t-shirts sport the Blonded logo, and are going for $75, another pair sport the PrEP+ logo. At the party of the same name, the logo had appeared on various screens installed in the venue. The font for this logo — bubble letters with contrast, almost electrified outlining — was also rolled over into the vinyl labels. The shirt, available in white and black, retails for $60.
Along with the release of new music and merch, Ocean responded to critics of the party and his intentions. In a Tumblr post, he specified that the event was “Not funded by Gilead Sciences,” the makers of Truvada, the drug most commonly used for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP.) Instead, it was completely funded by Blonded.
He went on to say that he named the night after the drug because he “started to imagine in an era where so many lives were lost and so much promise was lost forever along with them, what would it have been like if something, anything had existed that in all probability would’ve saved thousands and thousands of lives.” And while that imagining was an aspect, so was awareness as, through anecdotal evidence, he found that some people were either unaware or misinformed about the pill.
Some of the weightiest criticisms about Ocean’s project include the lack of information, education, and context about PrEP at his event, despite his stated aim of awareness.
A lawyer who requested to remain anonymous told Out “the theme just felt a bit shallow and performative, not actually a part of the evening inside.”
Jason Rosenberg, an activist who was at the even tweeted there was no “PrEP navigators, no community orgs” present. “Not sure what he was trying to do here."
Another criticism centered on accessibility. Gilead has long been the subject of just critique around their pricing which makes the drug inaccessible to some of the communities who need it the most. The club night was similarly closed off to many, as it was an invite-only event. Pricing a white (or black) logo tee at $60 as a part of a merch collection that’s supposed to raise awareness without any stated connection to organizations doing the work to widen access or knowledge about PrEP just further plays into those existing, and valid, criticisms.
*Out has reached out to the Blonded team about whether or not the proceeds of the merchandise will go to any organizations and will update this story as necessary.