Saturday, July 21, 2012
Frank Ocean has had quite the week. "Yes," he says, smiling, with a barely perceptible shake of the head, as if in mild disbelief. Then he nods: "Yes. But also awesome." Two things have contributed to making his week awesome. There's the surprise release of his second album Channel Orange, a week before it was officially planned, which met with rabidly enthusiastic reviews comparing his idiosyncratic, narrative-heavy reimagining of soul and R&B to Prince and Stevie Wonder. Then there was the post on Tumblr in which he told, beautifully, the story of falling in love for the first time, with a man. "I don't know what happens now, and that's alrite," he wrote.
Tell us what you think: Rate and review this albumYou can understand why Ocean might be feeling a little stunned. He's suddenly the most talked-about man in music, though he hasn't yet done much of the talking himself. He shuffles into a dressing room behind Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom nursing a herbal tea, and plays with it nervously, a hoodie wrapped around his neck like a scarf, before politely shaking my hand, all the time avoiding eye contact. He's 24, relatively new to all of this, and suddenly the world wants to know his business.
Right now the old formula holds true: the less you know about him, the more you want to know. He's managed to maintain a rare air of pop star mystery. "It's not formulaic," he says. "It's not me necessarily trying to preserve mystique. It's who I am. It's how I prefer to move. I really don't think that deeply about it at all, I swear I don't. I'm just existing."
'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. Do you just not go outside your house?'
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?"
Read the complete interview by Rebecca Nicholson here.