Ocean triumphed over Brown to win the Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album, a new category this year.
Ocean's Channel Orange topped the field, including Brown's Fortune.
Ocean's big win came in the wake of his bold decision last year to reveal his homosexuality to the world, a risky move in a genre historically hostile toward gays. Ocean came out a week before Channel Orange came out.
In Ocean's parking-lot brawl with Brown, someone reportedly called him a fa**ot.
Brown was one of the few people in the Staples Center who didn't give Ocean a standing ovation.