In a world of chronic over-sharing, where we feel like we could probably do a lot of pop artists' interviews for them if they had a sore throat or something, R&B singer/songwriter/producer Frank Ocean remains something of a mystery, seemingly too aware of the power of words—especially his own—to say anything he doesn't really have to. But GQ Magazine chased him down somehow for their "Men of the Year" issue, and actually did a decent job of getting him to say stuff about himself, and do stuff being himself, and consequently, we actually learned a couple of things about Christopher Francis. For instance:
1. Pharrell just kinda sits around waiting for him. "[We] ended up at Jungle City, a sound studio in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. When we walk in, Ocean leading the way, Pharrell Williams turns down the music and greets him warmly. 'Here you are,' the prolific rapper and producer tells him. 'You've walked in at the right time.'
2. He's better than all us pieces of shit. "What was going through his mind this summer, he tells me, was something like this: 'If I'm going to say this, I'm going to be better than all you pieces of shit. What you going to say now? You can't say, 'Oh, they're only listening to him because he said this.' No, they're listening to me because I'm gifted, and this project is brilliant.'"
3. L.A. insurance purchasers were briefly in good hands with him. "I saved up money doing Sheetrocking, and I drove out [to LA] with my girlfriend at the time...The first four and a half years was me in the studio every day, writing songs for other people. 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."
4. Even though he still hated his life, he had it made at 21. "At 20 or 21, I had, I think, a couple hundred thousand dollars [from producing and songwriting], a nice car, a Beverly Hills apartment—and I was miserable. Because of the relationship in part and the heartbreak in part, and also just miserable because of like just carting that around."
5. He's the man at old-school arcade games. "But the highlight is when we come upon a collection of vintage arcade games...he chooses Battle Zone, in which you try to sink things that appear on the horizon. His first game he scores 7,000 points, and the machine prompts him to type his initials in the winner's circle: CFO, in seventh place. His fourth game, he racks up 12,000 points—second place. But when I congratulate him, he points to the number one score: it's 12,000, too."
6. He's enough of a Billy Joel fan to quote lyrics from deep cuts from The Stranger: "John Mayer and I were talking in rehearsal before SNL, and he was like, 'You love to take the hardest way. You don't always have to.' But I don't know about that. It's like Billy Joel says in that song 'Vienna.' When the truth is told / That you can get what you want or you can just get old. 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. "
7. He considers Channel Orange to be one of the most brilliant pieces of art released in his generation, and he's cool letting you know he feels as such. "I knew that if I was going to say what I said, it had to be in concert with one of the most brilliant pieces of art that has come out in my generation. And that's what I did. Why can I say that? Why I don't have to affect all this humility and shit is because I worked my ass off. I worked my face off."
8. Asking him to label his sexuality is a bad idea. "You can move to the next question."
9. All in all, he may or may not be just another brick in the wall.. "Ocean tells me that he's got at least five projects in the works, among them a song he wrote for Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained; songs he's working on for Alicia Keys and Beyoncé; songs for his own third album; and a European tour, which he says he wants to model on Pink Floyd's The Wall tour. "
10. He uses the phrase "Vanish the fear" (which is awesome). "Don't get caught up in the nothing. That shit is nothing, you know? It's nothing. Vanish the fear."