Frank Ocean opens up about his masterful exit from Def Jam

    In an interview for ‘Dazed,’ where he answered questions from fellow artists.

    Frank Ocean performing at Parklife Festival 2017 in Manchester, United Kingdom
    Image: Visionhaus#GP/Corbis via Getty Images

    Frank Ocean recently gave an interview to Dazed, answering questions from friends and fellow artists. It’s full of revelations—such as what Ocean was going through when he was plotting his departure from his former label, Def Jam.

    To backtrack: In 2016, Ocean fulfilled his contractual obligations with Def Jam by dropping the album Endless—only to release his critically acclaimed album, Blonde, as an independent artist a day later. It was the closing flourish of Ocean’s years-long plan to leave the label, which had signed him in 2009.

    “How did it feel fucking over a label like that?” the rapper JPEGMAFIA asked Ocean in the Dazed feature. “Old white n***as do that to us all the time, but how did it feel giving them a taste of their own elixir?”

    After greeting JPEGMAFIA effusively (“Eyy, Peggy!”), Ocean explained how difficult it had been to keep his exit strategy secret: “You know, it’s funny talking about it these days because I couldn’t really tell anybody anything for a couple of years. Couldn’t tell anyone at the label, obviously. But I also couldn’t talk with anyone at Apple [Apple Music had released Endless as an exclusive stream] because the industry is too small and it would’ve gotten back to the label for sure. So I kept it to myself and a few in my circle.”

    He added, “I carried my hard drives around with me when I travelled because I used to not store anything online. Those drives became a physical representation of the stakes. If the files had leaked, everything would have worked out very differently for me.”

    Elsewhere in the interview, Ocean revealed—in response to a question by funk legend Nile Rodgers—that his breakthrough project Channel Orange is coming out on vinyl “ASAP.”

    Other artists who sent Ocean questions include Evian Christ, Big Freedia, Matt Ox, Rex Orange County, Rosalía and Arca. Read the interview in full here.