Frank Ocean Gives Rare Interview And Talks About The VMAs, Dating & The “Dated” Grammys
"I always thought about it like, if your house is on fire, you need to get out of the house.”
After years of silence, Frank Ocean released an abundance of material earlier this year. He bloody spoiled us. First, there was Endless, a visual album that showed off Frank's impressive... carpentry skills. Next, we had Blonde, an aching, stripped-back ‘proper’ digital album accompanied by Boys Don’t Cry, Ocean's own magazine which was distributed across four cities and even included a poem about McDonald's written by Kanye West.
But, in the months following, Frank Ocean has seemingly disappeared once again. He briefly spoke to C-SPAN about going to the White House state dinner in a perfect-fitting navy suit wearing checkerboard slip-ons. His reason? "You can't think, you just gotta do things." But, other than that, nothing. Nada. Zilch. Silence.
Until now. In a rare interview with The New York Times, Frank speaks openly about Endless, Blonde, escaping to London, certain things in his career that didn’t go the way he liked and a lot more.
You can read the full interview here, or check out some choice excerpts below.
On packing his clothes into a duffel bag and decamping from L.A. to London, where he barely knew anyone:
“I never thought about it like that. I always thought about it like, if your house is on fire, you need to get out of the house.
“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.”
Frank Ocean on fame:
“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 certain things in his career that didn’t go the way he liked – including the VMAs and the Grammys:
“Certain moments were drawbacks for sure. Now I look at things differently, but at the time, yeah. Audiences in excess of five million people [on national TV]. I was always reluctant to do those things except in cases where they had this nostalgic significance to me.
“Like performing at the V.M.A.s, being tapped to perform at the Grammys — me saying yes to those things had a lot to do with how those things made me feel before I was actually in the business. And just wanting to be rubbing shoulders with those people and being seen at those places. I still was reluctant and sort of skeptical of those things because I questioned whether or not I was prepared.”
On withholding his albums for Grammy consideration:
“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 why he always carries his hard drives with him on planes:
“I’d rather the plane goes down in flames and the drives go down with me than somebody put out a weird posthumous release”
On whether dating has been difficult for him now that he’s famous:
"I think normal would be the word, whatever that word means, which is usually nothing. I’m in a very different place than I was four or five years ago with all that stuff. Different in my relationship with myself, which means everything. There’s no, like, shame or self-loathing. There’s no, you know, crisis."
Has he been in love since 2012?
“Not the lasting kind.”
On whether he might devote less time to music in the future:
“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.”