Frank Ocean's maneuver out of his deal with Def Jam in order to independently release Blonde was the end of a rocky relationship between the two parties. As far back as 2011, following the release of Nostalgia, Ultra, Frank called the label a "failing company" and famously tweeted: "fuck Def Jam & any company that goes the length of signing a kid with dreams & talent w/ no intention of following through."

Now, producer and writer Tricky Stewart (the man responsible for signing Frank to Def Jam) has revealed how the relationship between Frank and Def Jam went sour in a new interview with The FADER.


"Frank came in with the best intentions of being a great artist to a label," Stewart says. "He was looking at it with an open mind. But bringing him into Def Jam was a little bit of a disaster. It was probably, in hindsight, a huge mistake on my part. The label wasn’t motivated by the signing. They didn’t give him the respect that I thought he deserved. I couldn’t really get Def Jam to respond to him the way the way that I wanted them to respond to him.​"

Stewart explains that he and Frank were getting stonewalled every time they tried bringing music to the label. He says he ​"couldn’t get nobody to pay attention to him" on the Def Jam side because they dismissed his music as "old R&B." Tired of being ignored, Frank released Nostalgia, Ultra on his own. Stewart says: "In that moment, we lost Frank Ocean — as a major record company, and from this industry as we knew it."

"At the end of the day, I think Def Jam created a monster that they couldn’t control," Stewart continues. "He just treated them how he was treated. There’s too many artists out here with that story. Luckily for Frank, he was able to turn a negative time and a negative period into something that worked for him and his family."

Stewart echoes the sentiments of many that Frank's ability to prosper on his own without the resources of his own major label is a sign of things to come. He argues that certain artists may not need labels anymore. Stewart finishes with the thought: "The next time that there is a great talent in this business — I’m talking about those special talents — you can’t be so sure that he’s going to walk through your doors anymore. There’s other options out here."

Read the full interview here.