Rising R&B singer Frank Ocean released his debut album, channel ORANGE, in July, and now, seven months later, music fans continue to sing his praises. Ahead of the 2013 Grammy Awards Feb. 10 — where Ocean will vie for six trophies, including the coveted Best New Artist award — Us Weekly gets to know the man whose album we named the best disc of 2012.
1. While some music fans may not be familiar with Ocean (real name: Christopher Breaux), most have definitely heard his influence on top 40 radio. Enjoying solo success with his own eight singles — including "Thinkin Bout You" and "Lost" — Ocean, 24, also penned hits for Brandy ("1st and Love"), Beyonce ("I Miss You") and Justin Bieber ("Bigger"). Raves Pharell to GQ: "I always call him James Taylor. He's probably the closest thing to a writer's perfect exemplification of the unconscious. All the songs are like movies. All you need to do is close your eyes."
2. He's out — and proud! On July 4, 2012, Ocean came out via a blog posting on his official website when revealing that his first love was a man. "In the last year or 3 I've screamed at my creator, screamed at the clouds in the sky, for some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow," Ocean wrote, before going into detail about falling in love with a man who did not reciprocate his feelings. As celebs including Beyonce applauded the R&B star for his bravery, Ocean confirmed a weight was lifted off his shoulders. "I feel like a free man," Ocean said at the time. "If I listen closely… I can hear the sky falling too."
3. Originally from Louisiana, Ocean — who studied English and pre-law at the University of Lafayette — was forced to relocate to Los Angeles in order to continue his career after his recording studio was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Intending at first to stay in L.A. for six weeks, he permanently laid down roots after ditching a career in the insurance industry to make his own music. "There was a point where I was composing for other people, and it might have been comfy to continue to do that and enjoy that income stream and the anonymity," he told the BBC, "but that's not why I moved away from school and away from family."
4. Ocean is no stranger to controversy. Most recently getting into a brawl with Chris Brown, Ocean found himself taking heat from Don Henley and The Eagles after he sampled "Hotel California" on his 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. "Frank Ocean did not merely 'sample' a portion of the Eagles' "Hotel California"; he took the whole master track, plus the song's existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own," an Eagles' rep told Rolling Stone last year. "This is not creative, let alone 'intimidating.' It's illegal." After Henley reportedly reached out to Ocean threatening to sue, Ocean responded on his Tumblr page. "He [They] threatened to sue if I perform it again," he blogged. "I think that's f–in' awesome." (At 2012's Coachella, Ocean indeed performed "American Wedding," but switched out the Eagles sampling for a revised version all his own.)
5. Growing up with the sounds of Anita Baker and Celine Dion, Ocean took odd jobs mowing lawns and walking dogs in his early years, confident he'd someday hit it big. "I've been working towards these moments for a considerable amount of time," he told the BBC. As Ocean was starting to hit the big-time, he was asked by a fan to explain his current situation to his younger self. "You're on a plane right now to the east coast to work with Kanye West & Jay-Z," blogged Ocean, who appeared on the rappers' Watch the Throne album. "It's all working out, kid. you made it."
The 2013 Grammy Awards — which will feature a performance by Ocean — air Sunday, Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. (EST) on CBS.