Singer and songwriter Frank Ocean name has been in the media ever since confirming his bisexuality this past summer. His Channel Orange album also topped the charts. When you’re in the public eyes, it is so hard to live your private life. I respect any man who is comfortable enough in his own skin to share his sexual and personal life with the general public. Ocean is currently working on projects with Alicia Keys and Beyoncé. He is also gearing up to embark on an European tour. The Def Jam signer is featured in the latest issue of GQ Magazine. Inside, he speaks on his past issues with his record label, moving from New Orleans to L.A., crying after confirming his bisexuality and much more. Below are some excerpts:
On moving from New Orleans to L.A. with just $1,100 in his pocket:
I had been putting together these demos that I was going to properly record in a real studio in L.A. So I saved up money doing Sheetrocking, and I drove out with my girlfriend at the time. I was only supposed to be there for six weeks. I don’t feel like I ever made a conscious decision to stay six years. You just kind of roll. The first four and a half years was me in the studio every day, writing songs for other people.
On how he started writing songs for Brandy, Justin Bieber and John Legend:
We’re talking about hundreds of things that happened. One night, I went to a listening party just to pick up my backpack from a friend. Next thing I know, I’m in this studio, and everybody’s putting their laptops on the pool table, playing songs through these big-ass speakers. It was crazy. And they wanted me to play, so I plugged in, and they were like, “Oh shit.” There were producers there, and they said, “You should come up to the studio and write.” So I did. I’d sit in those rooms for hours.
On Def Jam reportedly signed him as a recording artist in 2009 but didn’t open up its checkbook at that point to help him record and meeting Odd Future:
I was at a real dark time in my life when I met them. I was looking for just a reprieve. At 20 or 21, I had, I think, a couple hundred thousand dollars [from producing and songwriting], a nice car, a Beverly Hills apartment—and I was miserable. Because of the relationship in part and the heartbreak in part, and also just miserable because of like just carting that around. And here was this group of like-minded individuals whose irreverence made me revere. The do-it-yourself mentality of OF really rubbed off on me.
They inspired you to record your first album, Nostalgia, Ultra, on your own dime and release it for free, right? Def Jam had signed Lonny Breaux, then this Frank Ocean guy puts out an Internet sensation that makes a lot of best-albums lists. When they tried to sign you again, was it satisfying to say,“Oh, you already have”?
Yeah, I just told them, “Give me $1 million if you want the next album.”
Source GQ | Pictures Peggy Sirota
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NEXT PAGE: MORE EXCERPTS FROM FRANK OCEAN’S INTERVIEW WITH GQ
Let’s talk about your open letter on Tumblr. Posting that must’ve felt like the hardest way.
So why did you do it? Were some people raising questions about the male pronouns in a few of the songs?
I had Skyped into a listening session that Def Jam was hosting for Channel Orange, and one of the journalists, very harmlessly—quotation gestures in the air, “very harmlessly”—wrote a piece and mentioned that. I was just like, “Fuck it. Talk about it, don’t talk about it—talk about this.” No more mystery. Through with that.
You’d written the letter back in December, for inclusion in the liner notes. Were you afraid of the aftermath when you finally posted it in July?
The night I posted it, I cried like a fucking baby. It was like all the frequency just clicked to a change in my head. All the receptors were now receiving a different signal, and I was happy. I hadn’t been happy in so long. I’ve been sad again since, but it’s a totally different take on sad. There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness.
Exactly how did your perspective change?
Frank Ocean: Whatever I said in that letter, before I posted it, seemed so huge. But when you come out the other side, now your brain—instead of receiving fear—sees “Oh, shit happened and nothing happened.” Brain says, “Self, I’m fine.” I look around, and I’m touching my fucking limbs, and I’m good. Before anybody called me and said congratulations or anything nice, it had already changed. It wasn’t from outside. It was completely in here, in my head.
Did you worry it would derail your career?
I had those fears. In black music, we’ve got so many leaps and bounds to make with acceptance and tolerance in regard to that issue. It reflects something just ingrained, you know. When I was growing up, there was nobody in my family—not even my mother—who I could look to and be like, “I know you’ve never said anything homophobic.” So, you know, you worry about people in the business who you’ve heard talk that way. Some of my heroes coming up talk recklessly like that. It’s tempting to give those views and words—that ignorance—more attention than they deserve. Very tempting.
Some people said, “He’s saying he fell in love with a guy for hype.” As if that’s the best hype you can get in hip-hop or black music. So I knew that if I was going to say what I said, it had to be in concert with one of the most brilliant pieces of art that has come out in my generation. And that’s what I did. Why can I say that? Why I don’t have to affect all this humility and shit is because I worked my ass off. I worked my face off. And the part that you love the most is the easiest part for me. So I’ll do it again.
So do you consider yourself bisexual?
You can move to the next question. I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences, and the same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and boxes and shit. I’m in this business to be creative—I’ll even diminish it and say to be a content provider. One of the pieces of content that I’m for fuck sure not giving is porn videos. I’m not a centerfold. I’m not trying to sell you sex. People should pay attention to that in the letter: I didn’t need to label it for it to have impact. Because people realize everything that I say is so relatable, because when you’re talking about romantic love, both sides in all scenarios feel the same shit. As a writer, as a creator, I’m giving you my experiences. But just take what I give you. You ain’t got to pry beyond that. I’m giving you what I feel like you can feel. The other shit, you can’t feel. You can’t feel a box. You can’t feel a label. Don’t get caught up in that shit. There’s so much something in life. Don’t get caught up in the nothing. That shit is nothing, you know? It’s nothing. Vanish the fear.
Read the interview in its entirety over at GQ.