Credit: Tim Walker / W Magazine
“Don’t call it a comeback….”
In a new and rare interview with W Magazine, the unattainable, Frequently “missing in action” Frank Ocean discusses new music plans, political responsibilities and working on both “blonde” and “endless” at the same time.
Describing his new album as being influenced by “Detroit, Chicago, techno, house, French electronic” and other “iterations of nightlife,” Ocean iterates that there is no set date for a release. Explaining to W’s Diane Solway that he has “been independent since 2016“, and has no plans in changing that. “I’ve got amazing credit, so if I need a loan, I’ll go to a bank.”
Speaking on a number of topics including growing up in New Orlean, exploring new themes for his music, and ASAP ROCKY.
Here are some of his best quotes:
Growing up in New Orleans:
I grew up in New Orleans, so the closest to the nightlife scene for me was New Orleans bounce, and that was a lot of trends. But it’s so much a part of my childhood and my youth that I don’t really go back to it so much as a touchpoint. I’m really looking forward. It’s kind of a mix for me. I was outside, always. I was pretty precocious. In New Orleans, you live really close to your family. My uncle lived down the street, my cousins, and my older cousin, my auntie lived a few blocks away. And we didn’t, you know, have a ton of money. So let’s say one month the water’s off or one month the power’s off down the street. My cousins would be at the house with me for that time. And my friends would be there a lot. It was just the hangout in the neighborhood. I liked that.
On having political influence:
There’s truth to this idea that every generation has something really big to be afraid of—at least one thing that affects their survival or their quality of life. I don’t think that we’ve reached a point where I no longer have a choice but to be pessimistic. I still think I have a choice to be optimistic about the possibilities.
Exploring themes and ideas for his new album:
I believed for a very long time that there was strength in vulnerability, and I really don’t believe that anymore. “Strength” and “vulnerability” sound opposite as words. And so to combine them sounds wise, but I don’t know if it is wise. It’s just this realization that hit me: “Oh, right, it’s a choice whether you will be truthful or a liar.” If I start to tell a story and then I decide not to tell the story anymore, I can stop. It’s my story. The expectation for artists to be vulnerable and truthful is a lot, you know?—when it’s no longer a choice. Like, in order for me to satisfy expectations, there needs to be an outpouring of my heart or my experiences in a very truthful, vulnerable way. I’m more interested in lies than that. Like, give me a full motion-picture fantasy.
Working on both “Blonde” and “Endless”:
As much as reflection is a part of a lot of my work, in my day-to-day thinking about what to do next, I don’t really reference my past so much. When I do look back, I feel like from Channel Orange to Blonde was a big jump for me in terms of not just the way things sounded but the way things looked and were glued together. I’m not speaking only to the creative part of it, but to executing a strategy that took a lot of balls, and also—what’s the word I’m looking for?—like, not “spycraft” exactly. When it went according to plan, it felt like a huge relief. I could move however I wanted in the business and also have all my things with me. And that was the complexity in that strategy—how not to just get away from a record label but to get away from a record label at the same time as you’re getting everything you’ve made that they own.
On ASAP Rocky:
I remember doing the “Raf” verses [on A$AP Rocky’s 2017 song “Raf”], and at the time I was practicing rap, practicing structuring verses, practicing flow, trying to get better at doing it. I was writing a lot of verses. Rocky [and the A$AP Mob] were making Cozy Tapes, the second one, and Rocky told me he had this song called “Raf,” and I thought that was funny. I was living in a hotel then, and I had a studio setup somewhere else on the property. So I jump in the studio and I’m putting the verse down, just quick, you know, sorted it out, went by Rocky’s house and played him the song. I could tell he was very animated about it, and then he said, “Man, you rappin’ like it’s 2003.” And I was just like, “Oh, shit!” I understood why he was saying it because the flow was more complicated. I thought, All right, we want the bouncy today thing. Let me riff on that idea. And so I wrote that verse, and I sent it to him. And I told him, “Tell me, what year are we now?”
You can read the whole interview here.