GQ interviews Frank Ocean about his big year
In a new interview with GQ, Frank Ocean discusses his biggest year yet with Amy Wallace. Topics include Channel Orange, Meeting Odd Future, and the bomb he dropped on the hip-hop world.
Here are some highlights:
Your dad had left when you were 6, so your mom raised you on her own.
I haven't seen him since. And for a while, you know, we were not middle-class. We were poor. But my mom never accepted that. She worked hard to become a residential contractor—got her master's with honors at the University of New Orleans. I used to go to every class with her. Her father was my paternal figure. He'd had a really troubled life with crack, heroin, and alcohol and had kids he wasn't an ideal parent to. I was his second chance, and he gave it his best shot.
You stayed in New Orleans until after Katrina, then drove cross-country with just $1,100 in your pocket. What made you move to Los Angeles?
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. I had jobs, too—eleven jobs. I worked at Kinko's, Fatburger, Subway—I was a sandwich artist—and I was a claims processor at Allstate Insurance.
Def Jam reportedly signed you as a recording artist in 2009 but didn't open up its checkbook at that point to help you record. The next year, you met Tyler, the Creator, and the other members of Odd Future. How important was that?
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.
Is it true that you wrote the songs for Channel Orange in three weeks?
Yeah, then I worked on them for nine months—a typical gestation period.
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.
So do you consider yourself bisexual?
You can move to the next question.