When Frank Ocean returns to the spotlight later this year with a highly anticipated new album, it won't be with the team that originally helped him get there. Multiple sources confirm to BuzzFeed that the mercurial, Grammy Award-winning R&B singer has fired his longtime management and publicist in the run-up to his sophomore album, which is on track to be released before the year is out.
Ocean, who rose to prominence as a member of L.A.'s anarchic rap collective Odd Future in 2011, had been managed by the group's de facto godparents Christian and Kelly Clancy since 2010. But earlier this spring he surprised the couple, who also manage Tyler, the Creator, Solange Knowles, and Mac Miller, by informing them he would be taking his career in a different direction. A new manager has not yet been named, according to a source close to Ocean.
The publicist, Brooklyn- and L.A.-based agency Life or Death PR (which also represents Odd Future), has also been let go. In its place, Ocean has hired Hollywood agency ID PR, whose clients include artists Alicia Keys and Paul Simon as well as movie stars like Jennifer Lawrence and Sean Penn. (In an unofficial swap, former ID client Mac Miller was recently acquired by Life or Death.)
The specific cause for the change-up is unknown. Representatives for Ocean and the Clancys declined to comment. Ocean, who is intensely private save for the occasional Tumblr musing, has stayed largely out of the spotlight since last summer, when a torn vocal chord cut short a string of dates in support of his celebrated 2012 debut, Channel Orange. The album is certified Gold by the RIAA and earned a Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary album.
So far this year, Ocean has surfaced only briefly as an incongruous performer at Bonnaroo and as the target of a pair of lawsuits. In March, he settled a contentious case with Chipotle Mexican Grill for $212,500 after pulling out of an ad campaign; and in February, litigious catalog label TufAmerica sued him over an allegedly uncleared sample in Channel Orange song "Super Rich Kids."
While details of the forthcoming sophomore album are still scarce, those who've heard it say it represents a big leap forward for Ocean, whose warm croon and vivid, idiosyncratic songwriting made him a darling among critics after the release of debut mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra in 2011. The new music is said to involve "a number of layers."
"Everyone should be excited about this new album — that shit is fire," says video director Nabil Elderkin, a collaborator of Ocean's who directed the clip for Channel Orange lead single, "Pyramids," and has been working with the artist recently. "He's making a great record. It blows the sophomore-album myth out of the water."