Frank Ocean is very laconic sort of artist, mostly letting his music do the talking. Since his near-disappearance a few years back, Ocean’s radio silence (his last major interview was in 2013) has only propelled the R&B star further to the status of a very modern cult figure. He has an entire sub-Reddit dedicated to him, where 20,000 amateur sleuths are dedicated to uncovering any scrap of information they can uncover about the man or his work.
So the prospect of a new, rare interview with Ocean, published by The New York Times, is a cause for major fanfare. Like most things relating to Ocean, the chat gives few things away, but the biggest takeaways are the anecdotal nuggets that allow fans to get that bit closer to the enigmatic figure. Below are the best bits.
Frank has been living in a hotel for so long that the valet knows him personally
The interviewer speaks to Ocean in Los Angeles, at an unnamed hotel where he has been staying at so long that the valet knows which cars are his. “Porsche or Tesla?”, he asks. This situation won’t last that much longer though, Ocean is said to be heading to New York shortly to look for an apartment, having previously spent over a year living in London.
Just like us, Frank doesn’t like stubbing his toe
Prior to hotel life and the luxury of room service, Ocean was living in a flat in London which he totally gutted because, “I just wanted to be able to walk around and not run into an end table or some useless piece of furniture.” He did likewise at his studio at Abbey Road, replacing furniture with “flower arrangements”.
Frank finds it surprisingly easy to make friends
Moving to London with “only a duffel bag full of clothes and a backpack”, Ocean began to make a new life for himself, “riding electric bikes around the city” and making new friends. Making pals, he says, is “not as difficult as celebrities make it sound”.
His album delay made fans shout at him in the street
A day in the life of Frank Ocean consists of fans yelling at him in the street, it seems: “A lot of people stopped me on the street when I hadn’t put music out in a while, literally would yell out of an Uber, ‘Frank, where the album?'”
He sometimes wishes he could hide behind helmets like Daft Punk
Maybe a result at fans shouting out of moving cars, Ocean reflects on his new-found fame. “Sometimes I’m fascinated with how famous my work could be while I’m not so famous,” he says, adding that he’s “super-envious of the fact that Daft Punk can wear robot helmets and be one of the most famous bands in the world, while also understanding that will never be my situation. It’s too late.”
He’d rather die than have music released without his permission
Admitting that he’s something of a control freak, Frank details how he would hold his master recordings close when on flights. “I’d rather the plane goes down in flames and the drives go down with me than somebody put out a weird posthumous release,” he explains.
Frank doesn’t always listen to his younger brother
It’s well-known that Ocean recorded a lot of music that didn’t make it on ‘Blonde’ or ‘Endless’ but in the NY Times interview he reveals that there were 50 different versions of the song ‘White Ferrari’, and that his brother’s favourite didn’t make the final cut. “I have a 15-year-old little brother, and he heard one of the versions, and he’s like, ‘You gotta put that one out, that’s the one’,” he says. “And I was like, ‘Naw, that’s not the version,’ because it didn’t give me peace yet.”
Frank went on a gap-month instead of promoting his album
Instead of the usual radio show appearances, press junkets and X Factor Sunday night performance slot that usually come with promoting a new album, Ocean – who said he felt “postpartum” after releasing ‘Blonde’, instead decided to go travelling. He visited “China, Japan, Oceania, France, just around. Casual.”
His friends text him whenever Kanye talks about him
No longer on Twitter and increasingly something of a technophobe, Ocean usually finds things out through “a handful of trusted colleagues, friends or family members [who] make him aware of things he might need or want to know”. When Kanye West recently threatened to boycott the Grammys if Ocean didn’t get a nomination, it was Frank’s agent who had to inform him of the rant.
He might go to art school just because he can
While the interview confirms that Ocean is indeed working on new music, it also suggests that he might never release another traditional album again. Instead, he’s been thinking about enrolling to study visual arts. Flying back from the White House state dinner a few weeks ago, Frank informed his mother of his plans. “Oh, you don’t have time to do that,” she replied, to which he said: “Mom, I’m rich!” “I wasn’t trying to flex up on my mom,” Ocean explains, describing it simply as “a personal service announcement to me, to just be like ‘Wait, look at your position, you have the luxury of choice.'”