Frank Ocean has signed with Warner Chappell Music publishing, a source close to the situation confirms to Variety. The deal was done during the fall, the source added, noting that it was intentionally kept quiet. The deal is among several big ones made by the company’s new co-chairs Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall, along with Lizzo, Summer Walker, Ava Max and Tones & I.
Reps for Ocean and Warner Chappell declined Variety‘s requests for comment, and indeed, any announcement at all would be out of character for Ocean, who has defied music-industry tradition at nearly every turn of his decade-long career. First emerging as a member of the hip-hop collective Odd Future (which also featured Tyler, the Creator and members of the Internet), Ocean was soon collaborating with Beyonce and striking off on a solo career, first with his “Nostalgia, Ultra” mixtape and then via a deal with Def Jam that saw the release of his breakthrough 2012 album, “Channel Orange.” However, he soon cooled on his relationship with the label and negotiated an exit from Def Jam after delivering one final album, the meandering and largely instrumental “Endless,’ released on August 19, 2016. His contract fulfilled, on the following day he made the provocative move of releasing a far more serious album, “Blonde,” on his own Boys Don’t Cry label through Apple Music, which went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed sets of 2016, not to mention one of the year’s top-selling independent releases.
In the years since, Ocean has become perhaps the greatest example of an empowered artist releasing music how and when he wants. Since “Blonde” he has dropped a series of stand-alone singles ranging from “Biking,” a tag-team with Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator, to a cover of “Moon River” to two songs released within days of each other this fall, “DHL” and “In My Room”; he’s also guested on songs by A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott and others. His brief but galvanizing 2017 tour in support of “Blonde” was filmed by director Spike Jonze, although little has been heard of that project since. He was said to be close to a deal with Columbia Records earlier this year, but sources say talks fell off.
Ocean aired a perspective on the music industry in an interview with Gayletter earlier this year. “F—ing with major music companies, you’re going to be… deflowered,” he said. “Anytime you get into the business side of the arts, there has to be some degree of objectification or commodification that you’re comfortable with, of yourself and of your work…. A lot of people I talk to about careers in the music industry, their ideas of success have to do with nostalgia. They have to do with tropes of success, things they’ve been shown over the years that represent what a successful career is. I think that helps you become prey, because somebody can manipulate you with those things.”