Frank Ocean lays it all out on the table, while still leaving an air of mystery around himself – in the latest issue of The Guardian. In the interview, he finally touches on coming out – and the constant themes of fearlessness and risk that has been prominent into making him who he is today. He talks about the songs on Channel Orange as well. Read a portion of the article below.
There’s a sense that impulse has driven Frank Ocean’s career so far. He emerged from two worlds: he was a successful songwriter for the likes of Brandy, Justin Bieber and Beyoncé; and he ran with Odd Future, though always seemed more mature than their mouthier shock tactics. It could be argued with conviction that he’s already eclipsed them. Packing up, broke, and driving away from his hometown of New Orleans, post-Katrina, to give it a shot as a songwriter in LA was a risk. Giving away his first album Nostalgia, Ultra for free was a risk (he put it online in 2011 without the knowledge of his label, Def Jam). Coming out was a risk.
“I won’t touch on risky, because that’s subjective,” he says. “People are just afraid of things too much. Afraid of things that don’t necessarily merit fear. Me putting Nostalgia out … what’s physically going to happen? Me saying what I said on my Tumblr last week? Sure, evil exists, extremism exists. Somebody could commit a hate crime and hurt me. But they could do the same just because I’m black. They could do the same just because I’m American. Do you just not go outside your house? Do you not drive your car because of the statistics? How else are you limiting your life for fear?”
Though he thinks of himself as existing outside of conventional music genres – and the broad ambition of new album Channel Orange touches on everything from Marvin Gaye to Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix – Ocean’s roots are in R&B and hip-hop, neither of which are known for their nurturing attitude towards the rainbow flag. Which makes what he just did seem remarkably courageous. “I don’t know,” he demurs, looking down. “A lot of people have said that since that news came out. I suppose a percentage of that act was because of altruism; because I was thinking of how I wished at 13 or 14 there was somebody I looked up to who would have said something like that, who would have been transparent in that way. But there’s another side of it that’s just about my own sanity and my ability to feel like I’m living a life where I’m not just successful on paper, but sure that I’m happy when I wake up in the morning, and not with this freakin’ boulder on my chest.”
Ocean didn’t come out spontaneously, though. He wrote his letter in December 2011, to include in the sleevenotes for Channel Orange, pre-empting any potential speculation that might arise from some of its songs obviously addressing men. “I knew that I was writing in a way that people would ask questions,” he explains. “I knew that my star was rising, and I knew that if I waited I would always have somebody that I respected be able to encourage me to wait longer, to not say it till who knows when.” He’s not one for playing the game, clearly. “It was important for me to know that when I go out on the road and I do these things, that I’m looking at people who are applauding because of an appreciation for me,” he says. “I don’t have many secrets, so if you know that, and you’re still applauding … it may be some sort of sick validation but it was important to me. When I heard people talking about certain, you know, ‘pronouns’ in the writing of the record, I just wanted to – like I said on the post – offer some clarity; clarify, before the fire got too wild and the conversation became too unfocused and murky.”
For the full interview, including behind the stories of Forrest Gump, Pyramids, Crack Rock, and more – read the rest of the article HERE.