Published Nov 16, 2016One of the musical bright spots this past year had to offer was the return of Frank Ocean, who rose out of his own shroud of mystery to deliver Blonde and visual album Endless. Now, the vocalist has opened up as to his process in the first major interview since the release of both records.
Speaking with the New York Times, Ocean speaks openly about being elusive, his move out of Los Angeles, avoiding having both records in the mix for Grammy consideration, reclaiming his career and music from Def Jam and what the future could possibly hold for his art. You can read through some excerpts from the interview below, and can find the entire thing here.
On leaving Los Angeles to avoid the spotlight in London:
It started to weigh on me that I was responsible for the moves that had made me successful, but I wasn't reaping the lion's share of the profits, and that was problematic for me. I had, in the midst of all of this, this feeling of isolation. Within my circle, there was a lot of places I thought I could turn that I felt like I couldn't turn to anymore.
On the idea that he relishes anonymity:
Sometimes I'm fascinated with how famous my work could be while I'm not so famous. Super-envious of the fact that Daft Punk can wear robot helmets and be one of the most famous bands in the world, while also understanding that will never be my situation. It's too late. It's hard to articulate how I think about myself as a public figure. I've gotten used to being Frank Ocean. A lot of people stopped me on the street when I hadn't put music out in a while, literally would yell out of an Uber, "Frank, where the album?"
On not submitting Blonde and Endless for Grammy consideration:
That institution certainly has nostalgic importance. It just doesn't seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down. I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated. I'd rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.
On buying himself out of his Def Jam deal and becoming independent:
With [Blonde] in particular, I wanted to feel like I won before the record came out, and I did, and so it took a lot pressure off of me about how the record even would perform after the fact. Once the goal is met, everything else is lagniappe. It's not essential for me to have a big debut week, it's not essential for me to have big radio records.
On needing complete control on the business side of his career:
I know exactly what the numbers are. I need to know. I need to know how many records I've sold, how many album equivalents from streaming, which territories are playing my music more than others, because it helps me in conversations about where we're gonna be playing shows, or where I might open a retail location, like a pop-up store or something.
On the decision to pitch shift his voice in multiple instances on Blonde:
Sometimes I felt like you weren't hearing enough versions of me within a song, 'cause there was a lot of hyperactive thinking. Even though the pace of the album's not frenetic, the pace of ideas being thrown out is.
On whether he'll devote more time to music going forward:
I believe that I'm one of the best in the world at what I do, and that's all I've ever wanted to be...It's more interesting for me to figure out how to be superior in areas where I'm naïve, where I'm a novice.
Elsewhere in the conversation, Ocean reveals he had a case of writer's block that lasted nearly one year, and that there were around 50 different versions of "White Ferrari" when the album was being created.
Blonde and Endless also arrived alongside a long-rumoured magazine project titled Boys Don't Cry, which featured contributions from Kanye West, Lil B and more. Revisit Ocean's video for "Nikes" in the player below.