Tue 20 Nov 2012
As one of the finalists for GQ‘s “Men of the Year,” Frank Ocean reflects with writer Amy Wallace on the fantastic year he’s had highlighted by the release of his debut album, channel ORANGE. In the “Ocean-ography,” the multi-talented singer/songwriter speaks on his come up and rise to fame, label issues, being a perfectionist, and for the first-time opening up about his coming out letter.
Ocean reveals what triggered the written piece, posted on his Tumblr on Independence Day, was a journalist mentioning the use male pronouns during a listening session. Instead of keeping his thoughts and feelings inside, he went ahead and wrote the letter.
The night I posted it, I cried like a fucking baby. It was like all the frequency just clicked to a change in my head. All the receptors were now receiving a different signal, and I was happy. I hadn’t been happy in so long. I’ve been sad again since, but it’s a totally different take on sad. There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness.
The Odd Future member also touches on his sexuality, possible fear of his decision derailing his career, and more after the jump….
GQ: Let’s talk about your open letter on Tumblr. Posting that must’ve felt like the hardest way.
Frank Ocean: Yes, absolutely.
GQ: So why did you do it? Were some people raising questions about the male pronouns in a few of the songs?
Frank Ocean: 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.
GQ: You’d written the letter back in December, for inclusion in the liner notes. Were you afraid of the aftermath when you finally posted it in July?
Frank Ocean: The night I posted it, I cried like a fucking baby. It was like all the frequency just clicked to a change in my head. All the receptors were now receiving a different signal, and I was happy. I hadn’t been happy in so long. I’ve been sad again since, but it’s a totally different take on sad. There’s just some magic in truth and honesty and openness.
GQ: Exactly how did your perspective change?
Frank Ocean: Whatever I said in that letter, before I posted it, seemed so huge. But when you come out the other side, now your brain—instead of receiving fear—sees “Oh, shit happened and nothing happened.” Brain says, “Self, I’m fine.” I look around, and I’m touching my fucking limbs, and I’m good. Before anybody called me and said congratulations or anything nice, it had already changed. It wasn’t from outside. It was completely in here, in my head.
GQ: Did you worry it would derail your career?
Frank Ocean: I had those fears. In black music, we’ve got so many leaps and bounds to make with acceptance and tolerance in regard to that issue. It reflects something just ingrained, you know. When I was growing up, there was nobody in my family—not even my mother—who I could look to and be like, “I know you’ve never said anything homophobic.” So, you know, you worry about people in the business who you’ve heard talk that way. Some of my heroes coming up talk recklessly like that. It’s tempting to give those views and words—that ignorance—more attention than they deserve. Very tempting.
Some people said, “He’s saying he fell in love with a guy for hype.” As if that’s the best hype you can get in hip-hop or black music. So I knew that if I was going to say what I said, it had to be in concert with one of the most brilliant pieces of art that has come out in my generation. And that’s what I did. Why can I say that? Why I don’t have to affect all this humility and shit is because I worked my ass off. I worked my face off. And the part that you love the most is the easiest part for me. So I’ll do it again.
GQ: I’m sure if you’d wanted an excuse not to reveal the relationship, you could have found ten people in the industry who would have said, “Wait.”
Frank Ocean: The pitch is, “You’ll encounter less resistance in life if you say, ‘No, I’m going to just keep dating girls.’ ” But then you’re minimizing the resistance that you’re feeling from yourself on the inside. There’s so much upkeep on that shit. So much upkeep on a lie. But at least everybody else is cool with how you carry on with your life. That’s what they say. But know what fear does to your strength. You don’t even feel smart or capable. You just feel broken—and not just your heart. Just a broken person.
GQ: So do you consider yourself bisexual?
Frank Ocean: You can move to the next question. I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences, and the same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and boxes and shit. I’m in this business to be creative—I’ll even diminish it and say to be a content provider. One of the pieces of content that I’m for fuck sure not giving is porn videos. I’m not a centerfold. I’m not trying to sell you sex. People should pay attention to that in the letter: I didn’t need to label it for it to have impact. Because people realize everything that I say is so relatable, because when you’re talking about romantic love, both sides in all scenarios feel the same shit. As a writer, as a creator, I’m giving you my experiences. But just take what I give you. You ain’t got to pry beyond that. I’m giving you what I feel like you can feel. The other shit, you can’t feel. You can’t feel a box. You can’t feel a label. Don’t get caught up in that shit. There’s so much something in life. Don’t get caught up in the nothing. That shit is nothing, you know? It’s nothing. Vanish the fear.
Read the full feature/interview over at GQ.