What we weren’t prepared for was the album’s ambition—it’s 17 tracks long and is short on features, which would lead us to believe this was a labor of love that came mostly from Blake.
But we’d be wrong—he had help, and it often came when he was thinking about giving up on the record entirely. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when that help comes from three of music’s most creative (and elusive) minds—in an interview with Pitchfork, Blake opened up about how he got by with a little help from his friends:
On Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) and Rick Rubin:
I would talk with Justin Vernon, who is a great producer—a lot of people may not know that about him. He’s a good person to talk to. Much like Rick [Rubin], actually. Justin is an incredibly warm man. We’ve become really good friends. When I first met him, it felt like we had been separated somewhere down the line and were meeting each other again. It was a very strange feeling.
In the studio, he would say things like, “Oh man, I love the chords in that track,” and that gave me so much confidence. Singing standing up at a mic with someone else recording was new, too; there never was any time to set up properly before.”
On Frank Ocean:
In the middle of recording, I felt like I wasn’t going to finish this record if I didn’t get some help and start working with other people. Making a record on your laptop is not the most stimulating process socially. You can really fall into the sinkhole if you’re not careful. So I thought, “Fuck this, I’m going to spend time with other engineers.” The idea came from working with Frank [Ocean], who was a huge inspiration for this record: his process, the way he writes, the strength of what he does, who he is. We became very good friends.
When I was working on some of his music early on, there was this chord progression I didn’t like in something that we were making, and I had an idea. A producer was in the room when I was coming up with it, and he was like, “Nah, I think the chords are fine.” I was like, “No, no.”
Then he basically said, “This is Frank’s music.” And that’s exactly what I hadn’t learned by working on my own all these years; it’s the first lesson in producing, to let go. Frank’s vision was the only thing that mattered, at the end of the day. If the tables were turned, and Frank were to have a particular opinion about my music, I would take it into consideration, but it’s about my gut feeling as well. But learning from that made me want to work with other people on my own projects.
On if Frank Ocean’s album with be worth the wait:
Yes, from what I know. It may be subject to change. He is onto something, he really is.