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Frank Ocean Speaks In Rare Interview About Sitting Out Grammys And Ending His Label Deal

Five things we learned from his New York Times interview.

November 15, 2016
Frank Ocean Speaks In Rare Interview About Sitting Out Grammys And Ending His Label Deal Jason Merritt / Getty

Frank Ocean spoke to The New York Times' John Caramanica recently for his first major interview in years.

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The interview, published Tuesday night by the Times, is wide-ranging, and finds Frank speaking candidly on his self-imposed exile from the public eye, the creative process behind Blonde, and his choice to withhold his music from award consideration at this year's Grammy Awards.

Over the course of two days, Frank also spoke briefly on aspects of his personal life, and detailed the long and difficult process of buying himself out of his record deal with Def Jam. Below are some highlights and key takeaways from the piece:

Frank left the public eye because he felt like he had to.

"I always thought about it like, if your house is on fire, you need to get out of the house," said Frank, speaking on his 2013 escape to London. After the success of Channel Orange, Frank had apparently grown restless in L.A. for a variety of reasons, both business and personal.

“I had, in the midst of all of this, this feeling of isolation,” Frank said. “Within my circle, there was a lot of places I thought I could turn that I felt like I couldn’t turn to anymore.”

He's in a good place with himself now though.

"I’m in a very different place than I was four or five years ago with all that stuff," said Frank, responding to a question about his romantic life. He then reframed the question through the lens of his own emotional well-being: "Different in my relationship with myself, which means everything. There’s no, like, shame or self-loathing. There’s no, you know, crisis."

Blonde allowed him to tap into a more personal, autobiographical vein.

Frank said he broke a year-long spell of writer's block by reconnecting with a friend from his childhood in New Orleans. Their conversations, he said, “made me feel as though I should talk about the way I grew up more.”

In addition to the childhood stories on "Pink & White," Frank said other songs from the project, like "Nike" and "Self Control" gave him a chance to speak from personal experience. "Self Control" specifically, is about a relationship of his that didn't quite pan out. “That was written about someone who I was actually in a relationship with, who wasn’t an unrequited situation,” Frank explained. “It was mutual, it was just we couldn’t really relate. We weren’t really on the same wavelength.”

He now owns all of his music, and he fought hard to make that happen.

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The interview goes into some detail about Frank's former record deal with Def Jam, describing the "seven-year chess game," through which Frank was able to orchestrate his exit from the label.

Ultimately, Frank was apparently able to buy himself out of his contract and buy back the master recordings for all of his music, using his own money. Through that agreement, Def Jam retained the right to distribute Endless, but Blonde—which moved over 230,00 units in its first week—is all Frank's.

He's sitting out The Grammys for very specific reasons.

“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated,” said Frank, confirming reports that his music had been purposefully withheld from award consideration.

Frank likened sitting out the award show to a form of protest: “I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.” Frank said the award show still had some "nostalgic importance," but elaborated, “it just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from," specifically noting a dearth of black Album of the Year winners.

Read the full interview from The New York Times here.

Frank Ocean Speaks In Rare Interview About Sitting Out Grammys And Ending His Label Deal