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frank ocean discusses the grammys's race problem in new interview

In his first interview in nearly five years, Ocean calls the decision to skip the award show his 'Colin Kaepernick moment.'

by Hannah Ongley
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Nov 16 2016, 10:29pm

Frank Ocean's second studio album in four years was one of the year's best, buzziest, and most deeply introspective. But despite spawning countless Reddit threads, memes, and think pieces, he somehow remains one of the most elusive artists around. While it didn't exactly come as a shock that Ocean wouldn't be making an appearance at the Grammy Awards in 2016, many - including Kanye West - were left disappointed when it was reported that neither Blond nor the video album Endless were eligible for a prize. It would later be suggested that Ocean never actually submitted them. 

Turns out that was entirely accurate. Speaking to the New York Times for his first interview in nearly five years, Ocean - who won two Grammys for his brilliant 2012 studio debut Channel Orange - has revealed that the Grammys did reach out to his team following the release of his albums, though he never personally spoke with anyone from The Recording Academy. 

"I think the infrastructure of the awarding system and the nomination system and screening system is dated," Ocean explained, likening his decision to a silent protest. "I'd rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammys than sit there in the audience." Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback who refused to stand during the national anthem as a protest against systematic racism and police brutality, has caused almost as many think pieces as Ocean has. 

"That institution certainly has nostalgic importance," he continued. "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." According to the Times, Ocean noted that only a handful of black artists have won album of the year since he was born in 1987.

Ocean is hardly alone in his sentiments that the Grammy Awards are an outdated and racially biased way of rewarding talent. Kendrick Lamar's passionate performance of "Blacker the Berry" at February's ceremony - one week after people unfairly criticized Beyoncé's "Formation" routine at the Super Bowl - was met with accusations of racism from white audiences unwilling to confront with the truths he exposed. West has famously been calling the award show out on its prejudice since 2009. 

Ocean, meanwhile, has been immersing himself in more progressively minded institutions, such "poking around" NYC's New School and its visual arts program. Hopefully refining a new craft doesn't mean giving up his current one, though he's given us more than we deserve already. 

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Text Hannah Ongley
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Interview
frank ocean
Grammys