Photo by Jeremy D. Larson
Frank Ocean participated in an extensive interview for GQ’s Men of the Year 2012 issue, where he answered questions about his early days, the creation of channel ORANGE, and that infamous open letter posted on Tumblr.
Ocean also revealed that he’s contributing a new song to Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, has already begun work on his next studio album in addition to songs he’s doing for Alicia Keys and Beyoncé, and hopes to model his next European tour on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
Also awesome: Pharrell Williams always refers to Frank by the pet name “James Taylor”.
Working with 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.
Being a perfectionist:
I never think about myself as an artist working in this time. I think about it in macro. I feel like Elton John just made “Tiny Dancer.” He just made that shit like last night. Jimi Hendrix just burned his fucking guitar onstage. Right? Freddie Mercury just had the half mike stand in his hand in the fucking stadium. Prince was just on the mountain in “Under the Cherry Moon.” And I was there. That’s how I look at it. Like this shit just went down. You see the mastery that I’m surrounded by? How on earth am I going to take the easiest way? A friend of mine jokes that I have a painstaking royalty complex. Like maybe I was a duke in a past life. But all you have is 100 percent. Period.
When it all “clicked”:
I’d sit in those rooms for hours. But I wouldn’t write any line that was as good as the lines being written in the rooms next to me. It was just like: I had to elevate. I was looking at it like an athlete then—like I just wanted to be better than everybody else. I hadn’t gone through anything emotionally yet. I had never been in love. I had never been heartbroken. When that happened, that’s really what changed everything. That turned me into a real artist. It made the difference between somebody hearing something of mine and being like, “Wow, this is a fresh approach,” and somebody hearing something and crying, you know?
His decision to post the letter about his sexuality:
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.
Whether he worried the letter would derail his 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.
Whether he considers himself bixexual:
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.