The enigmatic singer chose not to submit his latest album for consideration and, in a rare interview with The New York Times, he explained why.
“That institution certainly has nostalgic importance,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem to be representing very well for people who come from where I come from, and hold down what I hold down.”
The two-time Grammy winner said he’s abstaining from music’s biggest award show to protest its failing to properly honor black artists. Ocean, 29, noted that since he’d been born, just a few black artists have won the album of the year award (there have been six in all).
“I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated,” he said. “I’d rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Ocean discusses leaving Def Jam to release Blonde, describing the process of buying himself out his contract using his own money as “a seven-year chess game” — one that dates back to signing with the label and effectively being shelved until he self-released his well-received debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, in 2011.
“It started to weigh on me that I was responsible for the moves that had made me successful, but I wasn’t reaping the lion’s share of the profits, and that was problematic for me,” he said. “With [Blonde] in particular, I wanted to feel like I won before the record came out, and I did, and so it took a lot pressure off of me about how the record even would perform after the fact. Once the goal is met, everything else is lagniappe. It’s not essential for me to have a big debut week, it’s not essential for me to have big radio records.”
As for the album’s success: opening third-biggest week of the year (behind Drake and Beyonce) understandably feels good.
“Well, we doubled [2012’s] Channel Orange first week,” he said. “I’m always gonna be like, ‘We could have done a little bit better.’ I guess there’s a satisfaction that comes with looking at numbers like that, and I’m making, like, No Limit-type of equity, Master P-type of equity on my record.”