MADE by: AJ Linton
J. Cole Dreamville Labelmate, Omen opens up about his new album Elephant Eyes, 2015 transforming his life and being a contributor to Black culture.
MADE: If you could describe your 2015 in one word to prelude what you hope to accomplish in 2016, what would it be?
OMEN: Amazing. Not to sound cliché but 2015 had to be the best year of my life, career wise, for sure. Getting the opportunity to tour all over and gaining new supporters as well as meeting the ones that had been following my career thus far was a dope experience.
MADE: What did you learn about yourself personally and professionally and how does that play into your next level?
OMEN: Professionally, I learned you really need a team to achieve success. I experienced hands-on benefits of teamwork. The importance of having a team is so crucial to the development process. As much time as you put into your music and your videos, choosing your team needs to be just as important. Personally, I learned perseverance, which I feel I’ve been learning since I started making music. If you keep going eventually it’ll happen for you when the timing is right. It helps me for 2016 because on this album Elephant Eyes, I wanted to make something impactful that people would be receptive to. I wanted people to feel like they knew me through this project. I have a different level of confidence now.
MADE: You talked about perseverance, how long have you been at this?
OMEN: I’ve been at this a long time. At least 13 years. I played around with it in high school, but I had hoop dreams so I didn’t pay attention to the musical talents that I’d possessed like playing the piano. In college when I realized the hoop dreams weren’t going to come then I decided to pursue music because I always liked writing so I decided to take it seriously. I use to wonder why it was taking so long for it to happen for me, but now I appreciate the journey because I’m able to talk from a different perspective. I can say I’m 33 years old and it’s happening for me because I believed. My path is an example for a lot of people to not give up on your dreams. It’s important for people like me to have a voice to say it’s still possible but it may just take longer than you thought. I credit Dreamville for helping me embrace this mindset more and to tell my story.
MADE: This past summer (July) you released your debut album, Elephant Eyes. Can you take us through your creation process for this project? What was the expectation that you put on yourself for the project?
OMEN: It was varied. It didn’t really happen in one place because I was on the road a lot. The album went through a variety of stages; I probably made three albums that came to be what the final project is. My usual process is playing something on the keyboard and making a beat or sampling something to influence what I write to. Of the eleven songs on the album I produced nine of them. It took a while because prior to this album I put out a project called Afraid of Heights and I just thought in my head that this project was going to be the one that put me “on” because I’d toured with J. Cole, Drake, and Rihanna in addition to having features from Cole and Kendrick Lamar. I felt like I had everything I needed to make it and when I put it out and nothing happened that left me feeling weird because I’d invested two years of my life into this project. I had to accept the fact that life didn’t change for me, but I was still able to eat off making music for a living and it put me in a grateful place to create more music thus creating Elephant Eyes. So, I took that and also listened to the constructive criticism from people who mattered. I told my friends to listen to my music and hold it to the standard of the greats. Once I listened and took the perspective of storytelling that really laid the foundation for Elephant Eyes. In regards to the expectation, I was able to release the expectation I had for myself on this project and just do the music that I wanted to hear and if others liked it…cool. However, I will add that I’m super happy about the reception from this project.
MADE: Your records create an authentic rhythm and style to Hip Hop culture infused with a jazz layer with a very late 80’s early 90’s type of feel which is a form of artistic expression that seems to be missing from mainstream music today. How would you describe your sound and its development?
OMEN: What you say is accurate because my influences are Tupac, Eminem, Biggie, Nas and Dilla, so it just comes out. Those are the artists that made me want to create music. The music I hear today is dope but it doesn’t stick with me maybe because there’s no storytelling and it’s straight to the point, very literal and it’s no knock. It’s just different. However, I always liked artists where I could listen three or four times and get something new from it. One thing I did change is that I added a lot more melody to my writing, which helped give a more modern feel.
MADE: As a contributor to Hip Hop what do you hope to accomplish through your music?
OMEN: I hope to inspire people to know that there are no rules. Just knowing that something I wrote in a room can touch someone in South Africa means the world to me. That should show anyone that there are no limits to your talent. My big picture goal is to touch the world with more than my music. I understand that writing is my God-given gift so I want to write for television and film with my team DOPART and create original creative content for the world to see. I think in general it’s not just music that’s lacking, I see it in the television industry as well. We deserve to see and be shown in a complete way and not just in a ratchet facet. It is my desire to be a contributor to Black culture as a whole, not just Hip Hop.
MADE: With today’s current state of music (Hip Hop specifically) do you think music is enjoyed more now for the beat or for the words and why?
OMEN: I’m going to say for the beat and for the melody. I don’t think the words are as important as they use to be. But I don’t think it’s just the beat, I have to give a lot of these artists credit for having a catchy melody and that’s a talent. It just depends on what you’re looking for and I try not to knock people for what they are into. I’ll just say for me, I like words (always have) so I’m looking for that in a song and if it’s not there then it’s not going to hold my attention.
MADE: You refer to yourself as TDK, The Turn Down King. Is TDK a self-proclaimed name or fan-given name because of your “chill” music?
OMEN: It honestly came about as an inside joke while we were on tour. We had a party on the bus after the show and everybody was chillin’. I’m not realizing that I’m standing in the middle, kind of to myself, having a drink and my boy said, “You’re the only one standing like a wall in the middle of the party, you’re like the turn down king.” I just started dying laughing because it was true. So, it was a joke for like the next 3 days and I finally owned it.
One day I put it in a song as a joke and it just stuck with me and people took it to mean more than what I really meant at the time. But make no mistake, I do like to go out and have a good time.
MADE: Lastly, you refer to your fans as supporters? Is that a conscious decision so that they feel inclusive in your career and journey?
OMEN: Definitely a conscious effort. I feel like the word “fans” was becoming negative and being associated with the word “groupie”. People were being clowned for being a fan, which is crazy because we are all admirers of someone’s work. So I wanted to throw that off and just call them a supporter because that’s what they are. They are at your shows, buying your albums and/or spreading the word about who you are and what you do. I believe supporters are why you exist.