Frank Ocean Resurfaces on GQ—and Makes Us Wonder If He’d Rather Be Seen Than Heard

Illustration for article titled Frank Ocean Resurfaces on GQ—and Makes Us Wonder If He’d Rather Be Seen Than Heard
Screenshot: Alasdair McLellan (GQ/Advance Publications)

If you’re a rabid Frank Ocean fan, this post may not be to your liking. Not because we have any beef with Ocean; Blonde remains lovely, and we agree that his hiatus from the musical landscape has once again gone on too long. So obviously, we were excited to see him appear on the cover of GQ’s new music issue—because what’s up with that music, Frank?

That said, we were wholly confused by his cover story, which involved little music—and certainly no mention of when we can expect anything new (unless you count cover songs). But in the interim, the artist, who co-styled himself for the shoot in Prada, Polo and more, did some admirable work in encouraging voting during the 2018 midterms (he created and gifted T-shirts to proven voters in swing districts). He also had some ... interesting perspectives we’re admittedly still trying to wrap our brains around. In short: Is music really even Ocean’s passion these days? (Editor’s note: If it’s not, so be it. Been there, felt that.) We’ll let you decide for yourself.


To be fair, this rare interview of Ocean was conducted by Vegyn and Emmett Cruddas, the hosts of his Apple Music show, Blonded Radio. Since we have some personal faves ourselves, we can understand how this piece might have become colored by the bias of two superfans. That said, it also means these statements likely weren’t taken out of context.

As always, Ocean is both esoteric and enigmatic; though he’s recently made New York City his new home base, he was in a hotel in an unnamed location during his phone interview, and at the time, was apparently finding inspiration in the deeply mundane.

“I’ve been taking pictures of everything,” he said. “I’m at this hotel. Just pictures of the sheet company’s labels, the floor mats and towels. I like that there’s no Sheetrock or plaster, it’s all wood and fabric walls only. I think that’s cool.”

Umm ... OK. Sure. We like hotels, too.

Though it’s still a mystery if or when Ocean will be releasing another original studio album anytime soon, he did discuss the cover songs he’s been doing in the interim, revealing the intention behind one of his better-known reinterpretations—and some ignorance on the part of his interviewers (if not himself).


“Certainly for [Aaliyah’s] ‘At Your Best…,’ I was at a party and it came on, and I had to sing it,” he mused. “And I didn’t connect it to ATL, with T.I. and Lauren London ... that song played when T.I. had the El Camino and first kissed New New, but I didn’t connect it when I was at that party years later that it was something from nostalgia.”

I mean, we actually do find Aaliyah’s 1994 version lovely and nostalgic, but it was also a cover ... of a 1976 Isley Brothers song.


But these days, it seems Ocean’s attention is really on aesthetics. As he tells his interviewers, his resolution for 2018 was “self-decoration,” but having not fulfilled that promise, he’s carrying it over into 2019. What he did fulfill in 2018? Getting his mostly millennial base of followers motivated to vote in the crucial midterms, which ended up being history-making.

“I was excited about the idea of incentivizing people to vote and to get excited about midterms because people aren’t usually excited about voting at midterms,” Ocean said. “Getting seven or eight thousand people who might not have otherwise voted to participate like that is a testament to what public figures can do or encourage with their voice. It feels responsible, especially at this time. Maybe also at many times prior, but it feels less like responsibility and more like a great opportunity that I had and still have.”


We’re with it, and appreciate the extra impetus to get otherwise apathetic folks to the polls. That said, as members of the press, we’re still trying to process this particular analogy, because ... no.

“I watch way too much TV news,” Ocean admitted when asked about his vices. (Yeah, us too.) “I know that I’m not getting real information, but I still watch it. I wish my vice was VH1 reality-TV shows, but it’s not—it’s MSNBC. MSNBC is Love & Hip Hop with better vocabulary and more range, but it’s the same thing. Very much entertainment.”


Umm, we’re sure MSNBC would beg to differ that they’re not broadcasting real information—and are not sure what’s entertaining about watching kids in detainment camps and Trump destroying our democracy. But when The Root’s editor-in-chief, Danielle Belton posed the question: “What does it mean if you watch L&HH and MSNBC?” all I could come up with was “That you work for The Root?” So, we’re unfortunately going to have to allow Ocean’s insufferable answer.

But let’s get down to the real nitty-gritty: What’s Frank Ocean’s fashion fixation these days?


“I didn’t get the fit that I wanted for my birthday, which consisted of the Balenciaga python-leather pants and a pink skintight tank,” he admitted. “I was gonna get the acid green shadow fade, too,” he added. “Two-tone. Acid green to [brunette]. And the cowboy boots with the chrome heel and toe.”


OK, that sounds like a whole lotta look, but if anyone could’ve pulled it off, it’s the composer of “Strawberry Swing.” That said, the style advice Ocean has for the GQ crowd errs far more on the side of utilitarian than extravagant. What one clothing item does he think men should be inVESTing in—pun intended?

“Oh! The SCOTTeVEST! Men need to get hip to the SCOTTeVEST,” he exclaims. “You can put anything in it. Your water bottle, your cell phone, your motorcycle helmet—you can put all that shit inside the SCOTTeVEST. That’s the infomercial vest, really deep pockets.”


We’re still trying to imagine how a motorcycle helmet fits in a vest pocket, but let’s go with it—if only because it sounds like it sons Deray’s vest. But apparently, Ocean also has a nostalgic streak when it comes to clothing, wishing for the revival of Girbauds. Since he was born in 1987, we’re going to write that off as some weird blipster fetish, because some of us were actually there the first time the trend caught fire.


But while we’re all waiting for Girbaud to reclaim its former glory—and for Ocean to release a new album—how will he be keeping his boyish good looks intact? Wisely, he consulted anti-aging legend and fellow singer-songwriter-producer-fashion aficionado Pharrell.

“I really do believe in a night cream. I feel like men just go to sleep. They may wash their face or they don’t even bother—they go to sleep with the day face on,” he said. “You really need to do a gentle wash and put a night moisturizer on. You can’t have the retinol in your creams in the day because it makes you more sun-sensitive, so you wanna throw that on at night. I need the night cream because when I wake up I feel very beautiful, moisturized and ready to have people making eye contact with me, ready to look above my eyebrow, below the eyebrow. [laughs] That’s the life hack right there. It’s been all these years, and Pharrell still hasn’t given us the keys yet. He just says ‘exfoliate,’ but it’s not just ‘exfoliate’: We need more keys.”


And just like that, our nighttime routine—oh hell, daytime, too—feels woefully inadequate. *searches “retinols” on Amazon*

We kid, we kid ... kinda. Like, this is all well and fine and good, but what’s up with that music, Frank? If this interview is any indication, we may be waiting a while, but then again, maybe we’re just reading Ocean all wrong—which is likely why he doesn’t do too many interviews.


“With some pop stars, the idea of them is maybe more balanced or fully formed: a half-dozen magazine covers, x amount of interviews, a daily influx of media,” he noted. “When you’re completely minimal with media, there’s a lot of pressure on whatever one thing you’re doing, the stakes are higher.”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

Share This Story

Get our `newsletter`


Hyperbolic Idiot Chamber

He makes good music but damn this is so much rich person nonsense.