It’s no secret that Ocean’s relationship with the label fell apart before his contract ended. In 2016, the Grammy winner likened being freed from Def Jam to “a seven-year chess game.” When asked about his, Blonde album, and the decision to release the project independently after fulfilling his obligations to the label, Ocean told Gayletter that he’s “at peace” with how things turned out, and “proud” of what he was able to get done.
“I feel like the best outcome for myself was that outcome, and I feel proud of what I was able to get done with it. I love the music and the art that came out of that period, as well as the visual work. It’s definitely a period I look back on fondly.”
He went on to give advice to newcomers navigating the music industry. “Well, f**king with major music companies, you’re going to be…deflowered,” he explained. “Anytime you get into the business side of the arts, there has to be some degree of objectification or commodification that you’re comfortable with, of yourself and of your work.”
The 31-year-old singer noted that artists have to be clear about what they want out of their careers and how they quantify success. “A lot of people I talk to about careers in the music industry, their ideas of success have to do with nostalgia. They have to do with tropes of success, things they’ve been shown over the years that represent what a successful career is. I think that helps you become prey, because somebody can manipulate you with those things,” he said.
“Then you may get to a point in your experience where you become disillusioned with those things. So anybody having a clear idea — even if it’s as crass as ‘how much money do I want to make, specifically?’— I think that’s much clearer than some of these other things that represent success, whether that’s X amount of spins or streams or plaques. Even sold-out venues. If those things don’t help you reach your defined priorities, then what are those things there for?”
“That’s how I try to make decisions in my life and career, and, if asked, I share that philosophy with anybody who asks,” Ocean continued. “For me, it’s about Why am I doing this? What exactly do I want from this? And how do I get those specific things I want out of this? And what does success look like on those terms? And what does failure look like on those terms? That’s how I think about it now.”
On a more personal note, Ocean revealed that he has been in a relationship for three years. He also spoke about following his intuition, his interest in queer art and history, and wanting to go to college. “I’d still love to go to school. I’m sure there’s something about adults romanticizing college again, but yeah. Right now I’m just taking French, and you know, honestly, that’s about as much extracurricular as I can deal with.”
Read the full interview here.