There was a time when no one really paid attention to Frank Ocean and his music. So there he sat on Def Jam's backburner, cooking the now-storied mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra with the hopes of one day getting his music heard.
Times have, indeed, changed. The Odd Future singer/songwriter's name is on everyone's lips, a musical darling who has earned himself six nominations at Sunday's 2013 Grammys — tied with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mumford & Sons and Fun. for most nods.
So what has changed for Ocean himself in the year or so since he went from relative unknown to music's next big thing? Not much, co-manager Christian Clancy insists.
"He doesn't define himself by it, but he appreciates it," Clancy told MTV News of the Grammy recognition Ocean earned for his major-label debut, Channel Orange. "It wouldn't be his measure of success, but of course he would like to have a few. Who wouldn't? But it's not what drives him."
Odds are good that Ocean walks away with at least one Golden Gramophone come Sunday. On top of an Album of the Year and Best Urban Contemporary Album nod for Channel Orange, "Thinkin Bout You" is up for Record of the Year and he'll face off against Fun., the Alabama Shakes, Hunter Hayes and the Lumineers for Best New Artist. Then there are nominations for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Short Form Music Video, both for the Throne's "No Church in the Wild."
Clancy, who manages Ocean and the rest of Odd Future alongside his wife Kelly, made it very clear that he in no way speaks for Frank, but he does have a firsthand handle on what makes the singer tick. What makes the nominations special for Clancy is that Ocean didn't sacrifice his vision to appease the Grammy committee — or anyone, for that matter.
"These are kids who see it, they really see it, and they believe it and they do it," he said of the entire OFWGKTA collective. "When you have the type of confidence and talent that these guys have, you make the decisions that feel right, and if that stuff comes, fantastic, but if it doesn't, it doesn't define success, because they're successful in 17 other ways."
If Frank does happen to walk away with some hardware Sunday night, then the victory will be that much sweeter, considering all he has been through this past year. On July 4, a week before Channel Orange was released, the typically private singer revealed on his Tumblr page that his first love was a man. It was a bold move in the oftentimes homophobic arena of hip-hop, but a necessary one that proved to work in his favor. Yes, it was a great marketing move, but ultimately it was Ocean just sharing his truth with the world, and if that helps yield him a couple of awards, then so be it.
"If it comes through honesty, what f---in' better way to get it," Clancy said.
We can't think of one.