frank ocean ny times

Frank Ocean doesn’t often grant access for interviews, but with six nominations at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, which take place this Sunday (Feb. 10), we guess he’s feeling a little more generous. The channel ORANGE crooner allowed The New York Times Magazine to spend time with him in his adopted home of Los Angeles, where he opened up about his frustrations when he first signed to Def Jam—which lead to the free release of his 2011 mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra—the lengthy, meticulous and somewhat unusual recording process behind his hugely acclaimed debut LP, channel ORANGE, his experiences writing songs and melodies for major label artists early on in his career, and much more. Ocean also revealed his plans to move to Shanghai straight after the Grammys, where he will write “in remote locations for the next two years”—both on music and his first book.

Check out some of the quotes from the interview after the jump…

On Def Jam frustrations:

I don’t know where to begin. I think ultimately the problem with it was that nobody was ready to act on anything, any of the language [of the contract], except the language to keep me in it.

On writing for other artists:

I had a problem listening to anybody. I had a problem listening to A.-and-R.’s telling me how a song was supposed to sound, or what this artist’s vibe was.

On recording channel ORANGE:

Even though [the tracks] were all sketches, there was so much comfort, because I heard in my head how it was going to sound. Now all I’ve got to do is finish it.

On the importance of image:

I have no delusions about my likability, in every scenario. I know that in order to get things done the way you want them, oftentimes your position will be unpopular… That’s why image is so important. That’s why you’ve got to practice brevity when you do interviews like this. I could try to make myself likable to you so you could write a piece that keeps my image in good standing, because I’m still selling this, or I could just say, ‘My art speaks for itself.’

On the power of intangible concepts:

We’re talking about substances­, but we forget how intoxicating things that aren’t tangible, things that aren’t chemical substances, are. You forget about it. I’m saying, you know, love. Power. Money, which is power. Freedom. Honesty. Because that explicit truth I was talking about probably had the same effect [on me] as heroin does on some people.

On finding inspiration:

I don’t worry about where [the inspiration] will come from. I think even with [my depression] cured, there’s still so much to pull from. I know people like to say that. You know, ‘It’s a gift and a curse.’ It’s not a gift. I don’t believe that. I believe it’s just pain. The gift would be the gift whether I went through it or not. We’d just be having a different conversation.

Read the full story here.

Photo credit: Ryan McGinley for The New York Times

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