Why Frank Ocean is ISFP

The following comment has been put to us regarding Frank Ocean:

Ni seems much higher in his stacking than Tert. He doesn’t seem at all like the other popular Fi/Se musicians who are more sultry and seductive and far less cerebral and metaphorical in presentation.

Here is our reply:

We are quite certain of Ocean’s type but of course as always we are susceptible to well-reasoned arguments. :-)

As a general point one should not underestimate the power and charm of the puerile function. To give a more salient example, both ENTPs and ESTPs can have a rakish charm to them which owes its existence to their puerile Extroverted Feeling. The puerile function has a certain innocence and optimism to it that, for example, the auxiliary function does not. This is something we hope to cover in more detail in our upcoming book on types.

It is true that Ocean is more introspective (though outside of his lyrics not necessarily more metaphorical) than other Fi-Se individuals. This can relate back to other things such as a stronger introversion than other ISFPs, or to differences in intelligence (IQ), something which we try to avoid assessing on this site.

Quite a few individuals have aberrant traits relative to the type you would normally expect (e.g. Lars von Trier). This is the difference between type and stereotype, if you will: When people first get into typing, many try to cram all psychological information on a person into the Jungian cognitive functions. And in doing so we are actually apt to betray the functions themselves.

That is why we introduce a dynamic qualifier in the typology of Theodore Millon (another thing we hope to cover in our upcoming book). Other people use the Enneagram (which we tend to stay away from) but essentially it serves the same purpose: To say something about a person’s personality outside of the cognitive functions themselves.

In the case of Frank Ocean, he avoids conceptualizations and associations in interviews. For example, he gets asked how far his music has taken him and he answers that it’s taken him to London. Likewise, he describes a music video where he wrecked a car and he says it was fun and again he shows a preference for staying with the actual experience and feeling that out to its fullest.

In doing research on him we watched every single interview that was available on Youtube back then and he showed no interest in universalizing his messages or experiences. If we are to take him at his word (and admittedly we do not always do so when typing people), the personal and the particular ranks higher than giving general form to his messages and, you could argue, this is in no small part what makes him such an effective artist.

42 Comments

  1. Great to hear you guys have got a book coming up. I always enjoy reading your articles on here.

  2. Here’s an interesting quote relating to this and the Bob Dylan article: As a Tertiary Function, Ni typically leads ISPs to suspect others of hypocrisy and cheating and putting on appearances aimed at exploiting people’s credulity–especially hypocrisy inherent in social institutions. Sometimes ISPs draw upon Ni to find ways to throw a monkey wrench into social systems that call them into some kind of obligation: to respond in ways that don’t make sense within the system’s explicitly stated ways of interpreting behavior as cooperative or hostile (but are indeed hostile).

    Got it from here:

    http://www.the16types.info/vbulletin/content.php/134-Lenore-Thomson-MBTI-Functions

    Where can I read more about your book?

  3. Excellent reply, and I completely agree with what you’re saying. I watched a couple of interviews myself and alas, behind the mask Frank seems to be quite present oriented, visual, and even literal. *sigh* Another phenomenal artist goes to the ISFPs!

  4. Thank you. There are so many “infallible” “experts” debating Jungian type on the net so it is nice to know that some people’s minds can be changed. :-)

    As our News page reflects, we ourselves also change our minds when we encounter a good argument as to where we were wrong. :-)

  5. I think he is an INFJ. I base this on the abstract lyrics, awkwardness, and long-term struggles with depression and narcissism. Of course, his dependence (on relationships, as well as closeness to his mother) is a shared trait between INFJ-ISFP. Also, I think there is a lot of universalizing and deep spirituality with songs like “We All Try,” which is about showing mercy and forgiveness for all of mankind.

  6. Also, here’s a differential explanation of ISFP versus INFP from typelogic.com: “ISFPs are less fantasy-oriented than INFPs. These types are often confused, however, INFPs lean strongly to daydreams, poetry, prose and more philosophical pursuits; ISFPs often live out ‘id’ experiences rather than writing or even talking about them.” Compare to description of INFJ: “Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. […] INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless. The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ. […] INFJs have a knack for fluency in language [… INFJ’s include:] Martin Luther King jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela.”

  7. Thank you for this article, I can know see where the typing is coming from.

    If it isn’t to much of a hassle can you make a similar article explaining why Kanye West is an ISFJ with Narcissistic traits.

  8. Seaye Raye: We’d like to write something about Kanye West, but can you say a little bit about why you ask/what makes you curious to hear our rationale for the ISFJ typing and which type you think he is instead? That way we can address the specific things that make you wonder about the typing. :)

  9. My confusion with his typing is that Fi is nowhere in his stack. Kanye West has always stricken me as the epitome of a Fi user.

    It would be hard to imagine someone with Fe (or a SJ) getting into trouble as much as Kanye West. Almost all of his controversies are caused by him disregarding what is appropriate. It almost appears as if he doesn’t care for social norms sometimes.

    List of controversies here: http://theweek.com/article/index/218124/top-12-kanye-west-outbursts-a-timeline

    The levels of sincerity in his music are ridiculous. Especially considering that he is a rapper; he works in an industry where, until recently, any showing of vulnerable emotion was looked down. (Almost all of gangster rap holds true to this). Listen to any of his solo albums, all of them are filled with honest, sincere emotion.

    RapGenius page here: http://rapgenius.com/artists/Kanye-west

    Looking at the list posted on this page:
    https://www.idrlabs.com/articles/2011/01/jungian-functions-at-a-glance/

    I can easily think of examples of him showing the characteristics listed for Fi, likewise I easily think of examples that work against him being Fe.

    So my assumptions for his type are: 1)INFP 2)ENFP 3)ISFP
    I give him the N over S because he seems to show more Ne than Se.

  10. Frank Ocean is INFP… He named his first mixtape Nostalgia Ultra that SCREAMS Si and so does his song Strawberry Swing. Infact, the pretty much the whole mixtape was about him recounting his experiences in a nostalgic manner (There Will Be Tears, Strawberry Swing, American Wedding etc etc)

    A lot of what he writes about is written in a metaphorical fashion but straightforward at the same time.

    Where is the SE? Even the way he carries himself, tweets, and speaks is very INFP. Minimal. Why minimal? Because most INFPs aren’t overly concerned with their outer appearance they are more focused on the deep well that lies beneath.

  11. Agree with Infp or Infj. Nothing Se about Ocean. Even Isfj would be more logical than Isfp. Channel Orange is nothing but Ocean reminiscing on his personal past and using metaphors(many of them historical) to convey his message. Frank Ocean relates his life to those who have come before him, and it’s in his past that he finds insight.

  12. Still don’t see it guys. BBC interviews he describes how everyone he has ever met has impacted his life, how we all have an impact on each other, but talks about being a storyteller himself, primarily. He draws from memories and past experiences to convey his messages. Seems as though he sees a connection between all time periods: past, present, future. Time periods are central in his psyche. Going on, he states how he hears music and can read into it a story that has meaning for him, which is certainly not Se(noticing and responding to the physical world as it is happening).

    Have you read his letter to his unrequited love? In it he describes his dilemma as being an overanalysis/even an unawareness of his own feelings(seems like Fe/Ti) and complete inaction/lacking of taking opportunity once he did realize them(inferior Se). He displays what appears to be quite a bit of Si(demonic perhaps during depressive episodes?), which is why INFP/INFJ is hard to tell; nonetheless, I see nothing of ISFP. INFJs and INFPs can also be strong visual thinkers.

  13. We have watched the same interviews. But it seems to us that you are approaching type too literally. Cognitive functions are about how a person’s cognition is _structured_, not about the individual’s psychic content, such as being influence by the past. Also, saying you are something (e.g. abstract and intellectual) does not make you that thing.

    We have, however, not read his letter. We will do so.

  14. This the letter?

    http://missjia.com/2012/07/04/frank-ocean-writes-powerful-letter-sexuality/

    (1) It mostly reeks of Fi. Own emotions are unselfconsciously sifted with little regard for the reader.

    (2) This passage: “I realized too much too quickly. Imagine being thrown from a plane. I wasn’t in a plane though. I was in a Nissan Maxima, the same car I packed up with bags and drove to Los Angeles in.” Suggests a person who has a preference for the actual occurrence, rather than for conceptualization or abstract association.

    (3) The entire letter is pretty literal and we are offered a lot of details that are not relevant to the overall point, e.g.: “He had to go back inside soon. It was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs.”

    Does not indicate INFP/INFJ.

  15. Appreciate the reply.:)

    How do you define Literal vs. Abstract? We are one or the other comparatively, not absolutely. Anyone writing about a specific situation or event is likely to be somewhat literal, especially if writing with an audience in thought, unless suffering a disorder of the mind. Consider Oprah’s letter to her 19 year old self, naked of metaphors, chronological, and literal. Ocean’s letter was abstract by leaps, unless your definition of abstract deviates significantly from Jungian standards. He simply wanted to be understood, and so he spoke in a way that others, the masses, could relate.

  16. You are correct that the assessment of a personality according to concepts will always be relative (even in a Big Five context with will necessarily be so). We are not aware of any system of personality that does not use relative parameters for gauging people’s personalities and nor do we see how such a system could ever be constructed.

    However, as to what we mean about Ocean, compare his letter to these letters from Morrissey (which we presume to be genuine), and you’ll hopefully see what we mean:

    http://geek-tragedy.net/morrisseyscans/other/wordsbymorrissey/page04.jpg

    http://geek-tragedy.net/morrisseyscans/other/wordsbymorrissey/page02.jpg

    Note the facetious character, which is not just a random facetiousness, such as anybody could make, but which manages to convey an idiosyncratic, personal feeling-tone without actually stating anything literally. Of course, this is an extreme example, compared to Ocean, but it is a pointer towards what we mean.

    We just looked at the Oprah letter and you are right that that particular letter could also have been written by an ESFJ.

    At the same time it was also obvious that Oprah’s letter was written by an Fe user and that Ocean’s letter was written by an Fi user.

    We are afraid that our answers will seem weak to you but alas – we maintain that the method of meta-representation, which we employ in lieu of merely trying to assess psychic specific contents, is the correct (psychodynamic) way of applying Jungian typology. But from its very onset, from the 1920s and earlier, there have also been people who find such a methodology too flimsy and too open to interpretation.

    However, to refute the notion that some people carry, that the above method is mere random interpretation, it is interesting to note that there will usually be agreement amongst the people (who are capable of) practicing this method. However, this only proves that there _is_ a method. Not that it is absolutely, scientifically true, as H.J. Eysenck so masterfully argued in his books.

    Our post on meta-representation:
    https://www.idrlabs.com/articles/2012/12/can-anyone-become-good-at-typing/
    Our site entry on Eysenck: /entj.php#Eysenck

  17. Extraverted feeling can have the effect of making writers appear quite concrete for the purposes of being clear to their audience, as in the case of Oprah. I’m sure you’ve read letters written by Eleanor Roosevelt, an INFJ according to most typologist including yourselves, to “Hick”. Certainly, the letters are more hopeful/less melancholy than Frank Ocean’s because the relationship between Hick and Roosevelt remained current while Frank’s was unrequited and complete. Nonetheless, a good read of these letters will display the literal writings of an INFJ under love’s spell.

    Roosevelt conveys messages to “Hick” using literal, sequential language until such time that her emotions overcome her and flow from her pen. Details of her day: times, dates, what was eaten, and done and not done, the whose, whats, wheres, and whys color her dialogues to Hick; and yet, this is the admitted language of an Ni dominant. Even further, Roosevelt’s “what affects an individual affects mankind” is similar in philosophy to Ocean’s “no one can live without affecting others”, and deGrasse Tyson’s “We are all connected”.

    On the other hand, Ne is quite apparent in Morrissey’s letters, absolutely and fabulously!

    I’ll have to respectfully disagree on this one.

  18. As a NT writer I feel obliged to tell you that you should be slapped in your face.

    A few quotes:

    The way I approach this thing, when I started to get my head screwed on straight and really trying to make something of myself as an artist, when I was 19 or 20, it became more about function for me. Like, what is this song doing to you? What is the function of this type of artform? What is it doing? (..) I do listen to it and it might change over time, but it’s about function. If I’m maybe saying something I want to say, or capture a feeling in a story, or illustrate a character that I have on my mind, anything – function first, thrill second.

    I wanna write a novel about twins, some type of nature versus nurture tale. I’ve said that to a neighbour before. It’s an open ended idea. I want to start a car club. I’m playing with two names for it. I sketched a logo for it. It’s not there yet. I was going to build an arcade, the more I lived with that idea… the less it stuck.

    its213 asked: do you regret anything you did in your past?
    plenty.

    And the peaches and the mangos you could sell for me
    What do you think my brain is made for
    Is it just a container for the mind
    This great grey matter
    Sensei replied, “What is your woman?
    Is she just a container for the child?”
    That soft pink matter
    Cotton candy Majin Buu
    Close my eyes and fall into you
    My god she’s giving me pleasure

    What if the sky and the stars are for show and the aliens are watching live from the purple matter
    Sensei went quiet then violent and we sparred until we both grew tired
    Nothing mattered
    Cotton candy Majin Buu
    Dim the lights and fall into you
    My god giving me pleasure
    Pleasure over matter

    When you say ‘it’s that’, you listen to it in certain way. And you might not necessarily miss it, but it’s just inaccurate, and you’ll miss a couple of things, contextually. (..) It’s not really deep and personal, it’s not like a diss or anything. It’s just inaccurate.

    You have fun with the imagery, and for me the whole concept that everything has to be… Like, nobody gets upset with a director when a director’s film isn’t about his life. People think that with a recording artist that shit has to be like a fucking play by play of their whole life, but it’s not. It’s imagery, and a little bit of satire.

    We all know we have a finite period of time. I just feel if I’m going to be alive, I want to be challenged—to be as immortal as possible. The path to that isn’t an easy way, but it’s a rewarding way.

    I never think about myself as an artist working in this time. I think about it in macro. I feel like Elton John just made “Tiny Dancer.” He just made that shit like last night. Jimi Hendrix just burned his fucking guitar onstage. Right? Freddie Mercury just had the half mike stand in his hand in the fucking stadium. Prince was just on the mountain in “Under the Cherry Moon.” And I was there. That’s how I look at it. Like this shit just went down. You see the mastery that I’m surrounded by? How on earth am I going to take the easiest way? A friend of mine jokes that I have a painstaking royalty complex.

    when you come out the other side, now your brain—instead of receiving fear—sees “Oh, shit happened and nothing happened.” Brain says, “Self, I’m fine.” (..) The pitch is, “You’ll encounter less resistance in life if you say, ‘No, I’m going to just keep dating girls.’ ” But then you’re minimizing the resistance that you’re feeling from yourself on the inside.

    And the final answer:
    http://frankocean.tumblr.com/post/28069367732/intuition-intellect

  19. Lyrics are a bad way to type people. What, do you expect an S singer songwriter to write songs totally devoid of metaphor?
    You come on like a blowhard. If you produce an actual argument, we’ll respond with an actual argument.

  20. Quote from Odd Future manager: “This is a guy who has the ability to change things, and for him to change things, he has to follow his intuition,” OF’s manager Christian Clancy told MTV News in the days leading up to music’s big night. “If he doesn’t follow his intuition, then it’s not real.”

    And: “The goal is to trust the guy who wrote the music to present his art, his way — Frank has incredible intuition. Just f—ing incredible,” Clancy said. “He very clearly sees things; my job is to say, no matter how far out it may be, I’m going to trust that.”

    Source:
    http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1701772/frank-ocean-grammys-odd-future.jhtml

    I’m pretty sure Frank Ocean is Ni-dominant. I’m guessing INFJ. As I wrote before, he has had long-term struggles with depression and narcissism, both of which have high comorbidity with being an INFJ. And he seems super dependent, another personality trait associated with INFJ. Mostly though he is just an intuitive visionary who sets out to change the world through his immense ability to see capacities, untapped potentials and so on.

  21. Jungian intuition is KANTIAN intuition. It has very little to do with the way we use the world ‘intuition’ today. To be ‘intuitive’ in the popular parlance is actually more of an indication that someone is sensing. For example: Who is most “intuitive” by the informal meaning of the word:

    Bill Gates or Paris Hilton?

    Depression is such a broad phenomenon, in its clinical sense it doesn’t mean much that somebody is struggling with it. What we allude to in our More about INFJs video is the Depressive personality disorder, which is rare, but which we don’t see Ocean displaying symptoms of.

    Dependence is not at all uncommon in ISFPs.

    The interesting point would be that you say that Ocean has narcissistic traits. That would be uncommon (put not impossible) for an ISFP. Can you elaborate on that?

    However, there is a general problem with what we’re doing above: We’re taking group correlations and then regressing to the individual. But statistics don’t apply to one person.

    Also, based on the material we’ve seen it does not seem that Ocean is out to change the world, in fact, quite the opposite: He says he “just wants to hang out and be beautiful,” “that he’s just making songs to document the experiences that he’s had” and so on.

  22. Great website. I was wondering if I could request an explanation on Quentin Tarantino’s type. On all of the online forums the consensus seems to be ENTP. I’m impartial myself. Only so many people arguing these kinds of things understand the extensiveness of mbti and I’m not one of them. But this seems to be a reliable source. I like the idea of somebody that the entire community thinks is intuitive actually being a sensing type. I sense a level of ignorance and elitism in the mbti community and I get self conscious being a sensing type. Your website is confirming my beliefs. It is valuable having a professional resource to contrast everything else; just to keep my feet on the ground so that I can keep being interested in personality theory without feeling bad about my type.

  23. Ok, we’ll do it, but it’ll be a while.
    First we’ll have to finish our argument on why Freud is ISTJ.
    Then we have to do one on why Steve Jobs is ISTP.
    And then we can move to Tarantino.
    As you have noticed, the tendency amongst type enthusiasts online is to peg anyone intelligent and unconventional as an N type. That is a great shame, in our opinion. And it doesn’t represent reality.

    And thanks for the compliment :-)

  24. “Also, based on the material we’ve seen it does not seem that Ocean is out to change the world, in fact, quite the opposite: He says he “just wants to hang out and be beautiful,” “that he’s just making songs to document the experiences that he’s had” and so on.”

    I just wanted to say, based on my observations of the art world, it is a standard practice for an artist to downplay their accomplishments and to express a certain humility about what they’ve set out to do. I know plenty of artists, intuitives and sensors alike, who would never openly admit to any desire of catalyzing change, though we all secretly want to be the legend. My closest confidante is an INFJ, undeniably so, and she always claims that she doesn’t want to change the world, that she doesn’t want to be a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King Jr, as much as she admires them – but the way she interacts with people and how she expresses herself in her art often betray this sentiment. Most artists don’t want to sit around and talk about what needs to be changed and why we think we are so special that we ought to be the shepherd while our sheep mindlessly chew on their grass and wait for the signal. Considering artists (generally) are a sensitive and non-confrontational bunch, we’re simply not going to be this overt or dogmatic about it. We have our art to express these views, in a much more implicit way. There’s also the ever-present fear of failure, of being forced to eat our words if we dare speak of this subconscious desire. Nobody wants to feel pressured to live up to that expectation – it’s enough that most of us have that urge pent up within, but to put it out there and feel like you have everyone holding you accountable, waiting for you to fuck up – that’s madness right there.

    I’m an INFP. The very few I trust know how badly I want to improve the world. But if anyone else were to ask me, I would say something very similar to what Frank Ocean said in this quote. Something along the lines of just wanting to express myself, my feelings and experiences. What Lady Gaga has said in her quotes. What Vincent van Gogh has said. What Jimi Hendrix has said. What Freddie Mercury has said. What just about any artist has said when asked about their art and their objectives.

    On an unrelated note, may I ask why you type Princess Diana as an ISFP when she states herself that she is an INFP?

  25. In reference to these upcoming books (which I am really excited about), how will they be available? Will they be for sale on the site or Amazon or what? I look forward to reading them hopefully soon!

  26. I wish the admins would use more intelligent quotes when typing ISFP types. There is a reason many assumed Maynard James Keenan was INTJ:

    http://www.azquotes.com/author/7826-Maynard_James_Keenan

    Also, I think ISFPs do think a lot about their art and put meaning into it. They just don’t like talking about it. The art speaks for itself. But quotes like:

    “I never try to overthink things.”

    Make them seem kind of dumb. Many SFPs are perfectionists, and do often think about many aspects. Tarantino, for example, created an entire alternate connecting world through his many films.

    I hope to see more philosophers, authors, and artists fill the SFP pages (I assume Mozart was one).

  27. Yes, it’s often hard to decide which quotes to use because the audience is not on the same page in their understanding of type. We agree with your point, though, and touch upon it here and here.

  28. Ventsy1,

    Yes, I completely agree.

    I’d give Peter Doherty, Cecilia Bartoli, and teen actress Elle Fanning as examples of three very imaginative, intelligent SFPs. :)

  29. I understand, I just think it helps promotes a stereotype that can be found among the forums. Not that you can control that, of course.

    It just seems like between being the last type listed, and the lack of ISFPs (especially the non-musical ones) listed, that they aren’t that appreicated.

  30. @Hannah

    As I said above, I’m really hoping to see some more SFP authors, philosophers, artists, etc. : )

    But especially the authors.

  31. Ventsy1,

    If you know any ISFPs you think should be added to the site, I’m sure they’ll take a look at them at some point. :)

  32. @Hannah : )

    I’ve already suggest the creator of Neon Genesis Evangelion–Hideaki Anno. I’m also fairly certain FKA Twigs, MC Ride, Aphex Twin (although I can see STP), Charles Bukowski, Tom Hardy, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Andrei Tarkovsky are ISFPs, or SFPs at the very least.

  33. Ventsy1,

    I don’t think I’ve seen an ISFP philosopher yet. But Parmenides could be ISTP, and Roger Scruton could possibly be ISFJ. :)

    I think we’ll have more luck finding SF authors and scientists than philosophers, but I haven’t tried typing authors yet. :)

  34. Zooey Deschanel should definitely be on the site. :) I don’t think I’m familiar with the others though…

  35. “In doing research on him we watched every single interview that was available on Youtube back then and he showed no interest in universalizing his messages or experiences.”

    I don’t know his type, but the above quote feels false. He has repeatedly attempted to universalize his message, perhaps in his most famous document, his “coming out letter”, which begins: “Whoever you are…wherever you are…I’m starting to think we’re a lot alike…Human beings spinning on blackness…All wanting to be touched, seen, heard…”

  36. “(3) The entire letter is pretty literal and we are offered a lot of details that are not relevant to the overall point, e.g.: “He had to go back inside soon. It was late and his girlfriend was waiting for him upstairs.”

    This is way off. It would seem there is a lot of literal details (how could there not be), but there’s so many metaphors in the letter that claiming the “entire letter” is “pretty literal” can’t help but raise to some doubts about the truthfulness of the typing, though Im inclined to agree.

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