The man behind Channel Orange opens up to GQ’s Amy Wallace about his childhood, working dead-end jobs, drawing art out of heartbreak, and dealing with the still-flourishing homophobia in his musical universe.
“I had jobs, too—eleven jobs. I worked at Kinko’s, Fatburger, Subway—I was a sandwich artist—and I was a claims processor at Allstate Insurance.” In the full interview with GQ, Ocean recounts the turbulence of his last few years—from composing all of the Channel Orange songs in three weeks (then working on them for nine months), to penning the controversial open letter to his fans in which he unabashedly writes about the summer that he fell in love with a man.
When questioned about his sexuality, Ocean replied “I’ll respectfully say that life is dynamic and comes along with dynamic experiences, and the same sentiment that I have towards genres of music, I have towards a lot of labels and boxes and shit. I’m in this business to be creative—I’ll even diminish it and say to be a content provider. One of the pieces of content that I’m for fuck sure not giving is porn videos. I’m not a centerfold. I’m not trying to sell you sex. People should pay attention to that in the letter: I didn’t need to label it for it to have impact. Because people realize everything that I say is so relatable, because when you’re talking about romantic love, both sides in all scenarios feel the same shit. As a writer, as a creator, I’m giving you my experiences. But just take what I give you. You ain’t got to pry beyond that. I’m giving you what I feel like you can feel. The other shit, you can’t feel. You can’t feel a box. You can’t feel a label.”
For Ocean, creativity is entwined with both vitality and hardship: “We all know we have a finite period of time. I just feel if I’m going to be alive, I want to be challenged—to be as immortal as possible. The path to that isn’t an easy way, but it’s a rewarding way.”
Read the full interview and check out the photo shoot here.
Photo credit: Peggy Sirota / GQ.