Exec who signed Frank Ocean to Def Jam criticises label’s treatment of singer

“They didn’t give him the respect that I thought he deserved”

Tricky Stewart, the songwriter and producer who signed Frank Ocean to Def Jam, has accused the label of mistreating the singer.

Ocean has had a strained relationship with Def Jam since joining the label in 2009 through Stewart’s RedZone imprint.

Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Ocean’s visual album ‘Endless’ fulfilled his obligations to Def Jam, allowing him to release his new album ‘Blonde’ independently.


In an interview with Fader, Stewart blamed the label for the breakdown in its relationship with Ocean.

“Frank came in with the best intentions of being a great artist to a label. He was looking at it with an open mind. But bringing him into Def Jam was a little bit of a disaster,” he said. “It was probably, in hindsight, a huge mistake on my part. The label wasn’t motivated by the signing. They didn’t give him the respect that I thought he deserved. I couldn’t really get Def Jam to respond to him the way the way that I wanted them to respond to him.”

Stewart adds that Ocean was aware of the label’s lack of interest, telling him, “The label is not supporting me.”

He also suggested that Ocean’s decision to release ‘Blonde’ independently was a direct result of Def Jam’s mistreatment.

“At the end of the day, I think Def Jam created a monster that they couldn’t control. He just treated them how he was treated. There’s too many artists out here with that story. Luckily for Frank, he was able to turn a negative time and a negative period into something that worked for him and his family. This is a changing of the guard. This story has got to make label people wake up and realize that they have great talent on their label,” he said.


In the past, Ocean has been vocal about his misgivings with Def Jam, posting about his frustrations on Twitter.


In 2011, he wrote: “i. did. this. not ISLAND DEF JAM. that’s why you see no label logo on the artwork that I DID. guess its my fault for trusting my dumbass lawyer and signing my career over to a failing company. fuck Def Jam & any company that goes the length of signing a kid with dreams & talent w/ no intention of following through. fuck em. now back to my day. i want some oatmeal and toast. brunch swag.”

Last week, it was reported that Universal Music Group will no longer offer exclusives to streaming services after Ocean used ‘Endless’ as loophole in his contract. Def Jam is a subsidiary of UMG.