Frank Ocean's angry Grammys rant kind of makes sense
Contemporary hip-hop and R&B artist Frank Ocean took to Tumblr this weekend to express sentiments of protest about the Grammy Awards, calling out showrunners Ken Ehrlich and David Wild personally. Ocean left the caps lock on while explaining the real reason he declined to submit his acclaimed 2016 album, Blonde (as well as the accompanying visual album, Endless) for awards consideration: The show’s “CULTURAL BIAS AND GENERAL NERVE DAMAGE.”
OK KEN (AND DAVID). AS MUCH AS I HATE TO MAKE YOU GUYS FAMOUS OR EVEN RESPOND TO YOU DIRECTLY. WE ALL DIE ONE DAY AND YOU’RE OLD SO FUCK IT. YEA YEA MY 2013 PERFORMANCE AT THE GRAMMYS WAS ABSOLUTE SHIT. TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES, BLAH BLAH. THANKS FOR THE REMINDER. VERY MUCH APPRECIATED. FUCK THAT PERFORMANCE THOUGH. YOU THINK THAT’S WHY I KEPT MY WORK OUT OF THE GRAMMY PROCESS THIS YEAR? DON’T YOU THINK I WOULD’VE WANTED TO PLAY THE SHOW TO ‘REDEEM’ MYSELF IF I FELT THAT WAY? IN REALITY, I ACTUALLY WANTED TO PARTICIPATE IN HONORING PRINCE ON THE SHOW BUT THEN I FIGURED MY BEST TRIBUTE TO THAT MAN’S LEGACY WOULD BE TO CONTINUE TO BE MYSELF OUT HERE AND TO BE SUCCESSFUL. WINNING A TV AWARD DOESN’T CHRISTEN ME SUCCESSFUL. IT TOOK ME SOME TIME TO LEARN THAT. I BOUGHT ALL MY MASTERS BACK LAST YEAR IN THE PRIME OF MY CAREER, THAT’S SUCCESSFUL. BLONDE SOLD A MILLION PLUS WITHOUT A LABEL, THAT’S SUCCESSFUL. I AM YOUNG, BLACK, GIFTED AND INDEPENDENT.. THAT’S MY TRIBUTE. I’VE ACTUALLY BEEN TUNING INTO CBS AROUND THIS TIME OF YEAR FOR A WHILE TO SEE WHO GETS THE TOP HONOR AND YOU KNOW WHAT’S REALLY NOT ‘GREAT TV’ GUYS? 1989 GETTING ALBUM OF THE YEAR OVER TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY. HANDS DOWN ONE OF THE MOST ‘FAULTY’ TV MOMENTS I’VE SEEN. BELIEVE THE PEOPLE. BELIEVE THE ONES WHO’D RATHER WATCH SELECT PERFORMANCES FROM YOUR PROGRAM ON YOUTUBE THE DAY AFTER BECAUSE YOUR SHOW PUTS THEM TO SLEEP. USE THE OLD GRAMOPHONE TO ACTUALLY LISTEN BRO, I’M ONE OF THE BEST ALIVE. AND IF YOU’RE UP FOR A DISCUSSION ABOUT THE CULTURAL BIAS AND GENERAL NERVE DAMAGE THE SHOW YOU PRODUCE SUFFERS FROM THEN I’M ALL FOR IT. HAVE A GOOD NIGHT.
The rant was a response to comments made by Ehrlich and Wild in an episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, a Rolling Stone podcast, about why Ocean declined to participate in this year’s show, recalling his awkward live performance of Forrest Gump at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Ehrlich and Wild clashed with Ocean while they were preparing for that performance, and they seemed to feel that this was the reason Ocean would not be a part of the Grammy Awards this year. “We executed his vision knowing that it was faulty,” said Ehrlich. “And we tried to tell him that, we tried to tell his management that, we tried to tell the record label that. His feelings about the Grammys right now, I would imagine, probably go back to that in one way.”
Wild added, about the Forrest Gump performance, that "Frank had a very definite idea of exactly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it. Ken said, that's not great TV, and what he's taught all of us is, 'We're not putting on a radio show, we’re not making a mixtape. We’re broadcasting to tens of millions of people, to the whole world, and you have to make it a TV moment, and a musical moment that works on television.' And [Ken] knew from the start that that was not one of those moments… The artist who will have the discussion with Ken at the very start and figure out an idea and then execute it—those always work. But there are some people who don’t want to come and play and work with [Ken]—I would say that doesn’t tend to go as well."
Clearly, however, Ocean takes a much deeper issue with the Awards, mentioning the 2016 Grammys, in which Taylor Swift’s 1989 beat out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly for Album of The Year. He also believes that little remains of the show’s significance, that his success is no longer determined by a Grammy, and that he’s “YOUNG, BLACK, GIFTED, AND INDEPENDENT,” and “THE BEST ALIVE.”
It’s a lot of bravado and a questionable choice medium (surely “the best alive” should be better than, a goddamn Tumblr note) but hey—you can’t say he’s wrong.