31.3.10

Behind-The-Scenes | Beyond Video

Shot by Jason Dorsey.

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Painting| Pedro Paricio

Clean.

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Interview : "Great" Expectations

Here is another interview I did recently. But, its not just another interview. It's the best interview I've had so far. The interviewer (Shauna Barbosa) and the questions allowed me to really be open and more conversational, and I think a lot more of my personality came through. It's a long read if you're used to microwave internet reading lol, but its a great read. (of course I would say that, right?)
I would appreciate your thoughts...

"Great" Expectations

Here we are at Sway again. The air is thick in this Manhattan Spring Street lounge, concentrated – the musician, Omen, with mic in hand standing on top of a burgundy couch. I feel everyone around me, in front of him. Maybe it’s the wine.

Now there are words. His confidence bleeds through the speakers, coming down the walls, blending in with the couch. He’s performing songs from Delayed, his mixtape sampler. I’m hearing the audience sing the chorus to a mid-tempo track, “Beyond.” This is the prelude to his forthcoming mixtape, Afraid of Heights. My mouth is open and I cannot believe Omen is up there as if he’s done this hundreds of times. He hasn’t – the Hyde Park, Chicago-bred lyricist isn’t new to expressing himself through words and music, but is fairly new to New York, fairly new to headlining a show.

He’s inspired by everything around him. He’s quiet and calm and aware of his talent, aware of his worth. He’s controlled – if something does not represent who he wants to be as person, he will not do it. During our talk, he assures me several times in several areas that he is “Great.” I ask if he’s sure. He says “Very.” We laugh and we talk about giving people music that awakens more than one of five vital senses.

And it was not the wine. I opened my small black Moleskin planner to find the notes I wrote while Omen was performing:

He has so much confidence. He really owns this stage right now. Okay, this couch. This couch is his.

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His story, your story.

I think when you first start out as an artist you’re just trying to be like the people you like. I like Nas and Common a lot, that’s all I listened to. I liked Canibus too – early. All my stuff would sound like them; you couldn’t really tell where I was from. People would always say I sound like Common – I’m like, “No I don’t!” I guess I did.

Early on you’re just writing to write. My music is authentic; I’m talking from my perspective. A Chicago perspective, even though in Chicago I’m kind of an outsider. Now that I am becoming an artist, I talk about my experiences and I talk about other people’s experiences. Or at least the way it looks through my eyes. I write it where it’s specific enough where you get that this is my experience, but not so specific where you can’t relate to it. There has to be a balance. I’m similar to some artists in the fact that I’m an observer so that makes me kind of a storyteller. I produce and play the piano and Fender Rhodes. I started playing at fourteen but I stopped when I went to college. I want to start taking lessons again just to get that discipline back. I use to play like two hours every day. If I can get that discipline, I’ll be back to being Great. (laughs)

On writing with no clothes on.

Lately I’ve been more personal – which used to be hard for me because I’m a really private person. When you’re writing it, you kind of trick yourself into thinking no one’s going to hear it – or if they do, you already wrote it so it’s too late. I’m growing to a point where I can give details about successes or past relationships. I write about my life. I still do storytelling, but it’s much more myself in the music now. Even in the actual production of the music, I still sample sometimes but I’m gearing much more towards original production. I want to express who I am. It’s possible to do that through a sample, but when you’re actually playing something it’s completely you. The emotion of the music, the changes, the tempo, all of that is reflective of who you are in that moment you’re creating it. It’s a much more bare-naked expression of who you are. I want to be as naked as possible. I want people to see who I am. If you can really be who you are at your core – you’re going to stand out. Everyone is different at his or her core. It’s scary to be that way because you have no kind of barrier. If you’re fronting and people don’t like you, you can always say, “Well I was frontin’ anyway.” If you’re really being you and people don’t like you, it’s like, “They really don’t like me.” That’s kind of hard to swallow but I think at the end of the day people will respect that more. I know they say lyricists don’t sell, but if you look at Lauryn Hill or Andre 3000, these are huge artists who wrote from their core, from an honest place it felt like. A lot of music today, you hear it and it’s hot, but that kind of music, you feel it. That’s what I want to do as an artist.

It is said quite often you do not look how you sound on records.


I’m not that expressive as a person. But if you give me some time to write what I think and write how I feel than it’s easier. I’ve had time to really think about it. When it’s impromptu you can say something but it may not really represent how you really feel. You may wish you said something else. When I have time to write something it’s a lot easier. It’s different when you’re in room or the studio and it’s just you and the music and you don’t feel any kind of inhibitions, you feel connected, so you express how you feel. Performing is a little different, it’s almost like acting. You don’t feel that emotion anymore, and you have to act like you do. It’s a little different than the actual creation. I see “Delayed” as inspiring. My grandmother said it’s depressing and not to play it for anybody. I don’t feel that way right now, so you’re not going to get that out of me in person. You’ll just get how I’m feeling right now, which is usually calm. But if we get into a debate about something you may see me become passionate, get a little louder – you may see things that you see in my music.

“You write profoundly.”


I played “Delayed” in the car for my grandmother, she liked it. But she said it was too heavy, she said “You write profoundly” – she always says I’m profound, that’s her word – “but this is so heavy, you’ve got to think about the times peoples are living in right now, I don’t know if this is something they want to hear.” That’s an honest opinion, whether I agree with it or not. I see it as inspiring, something people can relate to. It was reflective of how I was feeling at the moment. There’s some hope in “Delayed.” I sent her the video for “Terminal”: “That one is alright. ‘Beyond’ has that beat I like. ‘Terminal’ doesn’t have any kind of melody in it. How are you making music if your equipment is here?” I said, “My laptop, I have a couple things.” “That’s probably why it sounds that way.” Ha. She’s very blunt and honest. I respect that. I would rather someone tell me that than “Oh it’s hot,” and not really mean it.

On Beyond, you talk about flying away. Where are you flying from, where are you flying to?

I would go somewhere where you can be free. I know that’s a cliché, but I don’t feel like we’re free. It’s a choice you make yourself. It’s very hard to live your life completely free of making decisions based on other people’s opinions. When you’re born, you’re taught fear, taught what to do and what not to do, a lot of things that stay with you throughout life that can cripple you a little bit. It’s accepted because that’s the way it is, but what if we can live in a world where that didn’t exist? When I wrote that song I was working at a college, filing medical records in alphabetical order, it was insane. I thought Why am I here? I’m in a place working with people who are satisfied with that. 35, 40 years old and they’re cool with it. I have talent, I’m good. I know I’m good, I’m meant for more than this. I’m better than this. Not better than them, but better than the job. I don’t know if anyone ever reaches a point where they have everything they want, completely. But you just want the positives to outweigh the negatives. Flying from sadness to happiness, from bondage to freedom – even if it’s self-bondage.

What do you know about self-bondage?


I know it exists. My dad was a singer on Motown, but he got snaked by his label, so he never reached the heights he should have reached. My step-dad is a pianist, guitarist, vocalist, bassist, crazy musician – and he took the corporate route. It starts out, I’m going to just work here and still do my music. Then you get a promotion, then another promotion – now you’re making money – and all of a sudden you have a wife and kids, then all of it stops and you forget what you were even going after. He’s still doing his thing, but it’s Delayed. My mom wanted to sing, but she wasn’t really pushed. Because of that they remind me all the time, “You don’t have any responsibilities, go after what you want.” I’m grateful to have that push behind me. I saw what happened to them, not to say their lives are bad, but they want more, and hopefully I can be the one to give it to them.

Road-racing.


I’m very particular about what I let influence me, I make an effort to read a lot of positive things, whether it’s a quote or a self-help book. That helps me to stay positive. I’ll be listening to my music and I think it’s great. But I’m in the same situation I was a year before when I didn’t have this music. You start getting into that doubt mode, like Is it worth it? What am I doing? Sometimes you feel like you’re running a race and you can’t see the finish line. Am I going to make it? Does it even exist? Is this in the cards for me? I thought I should have been successful a long time ago. That Delay starts to bother you.

Sometimes you will not get it. If you haven’t felt it.

I sent a song I did called “Outta Space” to a friend of mine whose opinion I really trust. He said it was alright and that he didn’t like it. There’s a verse in there about a past relationship. He broke up with his girl and like two days later he was like, “I love this song.” A lot of times it’s where the person is in their life when they hear it, you don’t even have anything to do with it. If you love it – that’s what matters. Others may or may not. But you make the best music you feel and the right people will find it. Even the people who don’t like it may end up liking it later.

On living in a generation of branding and selling.


Some people may see it, as there’s so much competition, and so much to filter out. But I’m big on belief. I’m big on you creating your own destiny, having faith, thoughts having power, all that type of universe stuff. I don’t care if there are a million people – if I do my job and create from a pure place, then once it’s created I really really believe that this music has its place and it’s going to get to its place. I don’t see a problem with everybody trying to be expressive. The people who are good are going to stand out. I don’t feel threatened by it. Even the way I create music is different from when I started. When I started all I wanted – and I still do – was to have a Hip Hop classic, and be mentioned in the Top 5; that’s like the rapper’s dream. The more I started doing music I started to want a little more. I don’t want to follow the same path as the people I looked up to. I want to create my own path – I’m doing the music a disservice by following someone else’s path.

Believing.


Faith is knowing. If someone asks what color is the sky, you don’t believe it’s blue, you know it’s blue. Real faith is when no one can tell you otherwise. It’s perseverance. Knowing something is going to happen regardless. You continually tell yourself it’s going to work; it’s going to happen, until you get to that point of knowing. Whatever you expect you get. I really believe that.

Is being a musician it?

I think writing is really what I’m supposed to do. For so long I resisted that. When I was young I wrote comic books in my notebook for myself. I really wanted to be the person who came up with the concept for video games, just the idea for it not the graphics. In high school and college I started resisting writing because I was forced to write about things I didn’t want to write about. I don’t relate to Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, yeah they’re great but they’re not speaking from my perspective. Now I have to decode all these books and go on SparkNotes. I would love to write a sitcom. I think I’m hilarious, though some people may disagree.

Afraid of Heights, the mixtape.


I want the mixtape to be cohesive. At some point I lost the fact that that was what I was going after, which is why the mixtape is taking so long. I want it to be more than a mixtape; I want it to be a project. I want listeners to say, “That’s better than a mixtape.” I want it to be layered, where you go back and hear different things. You may go back six months later with a different interpretation of a song. I want to make songs that people can live with.

Owning what you create.


What I create is free. Not monetarily. It’s not about rules, it’s not about a traditional way of doing things – and it’s skillful. I really pay attention to the Greats as far as rhyme structure, rhyme scheme, breath control and intonation. There’s a lot to rap that is studied that people really don’t see. If it’s not completely my experience, it’s genuine. People always say I’m different in person. But I’m not – music is just a different way of showing who I am.

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Street Mural | Ben Slow & Ma O Shishu

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Video: Janelle Monae - Tightrope



Everybody knows by now, I'm a Janelle Monae fan but, I think this video is dope because of the symbolism. I see the death/mirror looking guys as a reflection of how we are the only ones in our way. Maybe I'm reaching...what's your interpretation?

'PORTRAIT' by George Morton Clark

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18.3.10

Shadow Art | Kumi Yamashita

No clue how this is created. Dope though.

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New Interview w/ Street Logik




The folks over at www.Streetlogik.com recently gave me an interview, and posted it up on their site. Here is the transcript. Hope you enjoy the words...

You’re pretty new to the game, tell us a little about yourself?

Omen: My name is Omen, I’m a musician born and raised in Chicago. I’m a person that really dreams big and is always trying to grow.

What made you decide to pursue a career in the music industry and how long have you been making music?

Omen: I’ve been playing piano since I was like 14 off and on, I’ve been rapping for about 8 years now and producing for 5 of those years. Music is just something that’s always been in my family, whether it was just being played or actual family members pursuing it as well. So it’s always been a love of mine, but it took me awhile to really take it seriously. I was focused on hoop dreams like every other guy in my neighborhood.

Who are your musical influences?


Omen: Rap wise, my biggest influences were probably Nas, and Common early on. Right now, I’m not really directly influenced by any one person, I just get inspired by different people’s songs or careers. I think the more you grow, the less you are influenced by someone else; and more so by your own life, things you see, hear, read, and just your own world.

The word “omen” usually has a negative connotation attached to it although your music has a sense of heightened awareness. What made you choose the name Omen?


Omen: Omen is a name that really has nothing to do with the devil or whatever else. It’s just that movie that created that. The real meaning is more of a sign of things to come, whether positive or negative. It’s a symbol of change, and it has a certain divinity to it. I’m a pretty spiritual guy, so it just felt right when I was choosing a name. It also was a high school nickname.

Many people will agree that a rap song is simply poetry over a beat. Being a poet as well as a rap artist, would you agree or disagree with that statement? And do you incorporate your poetry into your music?


Omen: Well, poetry is such a like subjective thing to me. It’s kind of hard to determine what’s poetry on a beat and what’s just rap, you know? It’s more so a person’s preference that will determine that for them. But with that said I do write poetry every blue moon, but rarely put them to music. However, I am considering putting this poetry joint I did on the upcoming mixtape. We’ll see though.

Tell us a little about what your working on as of now.


Omen: My upcoming project is actually a mixtape called Afraid of Heights. The sampler I released a little while ago, Delayed, is just a precursor to this project. It’s coming along nicely. I’m handling the majority of the production, and I have some pretty cool features on it so far. Other than my own production, so far the only other producer on it is Volatile, who’s an ill overall artist that you all should be hearing about soon. I’m still writing though, so you may see Elite or some others on production as well. But it’s important to me that people see that I’m more than a rapper right now.

Who would you give your right arm to work with in the music industry? Producers?


Omen: I’m a big fan of tons of producers in the industry. My favorite producer of all time was Dilla. And that’s probably one of the only times a person I had never met that had passed, impacted me like a family member or friend. Working with him was a big goal on my checklist and it’s just something that I’ll never be able to complete. So that one kind of hurt. I’m not giving my right arm for anybody though (laughs) maybe my momma…maybe (laughs).

What is your ultimate career goal?


Omen: I honestly don’t have one ultimate career goal because there are too many things that I feel are equally important. I could say something vague like, to be successful or to add value to people’s lives but what does that really mean? I just wanna continue to grow as a person, as a musician, and as a writer. I want people to love the music, I want financial freedom. I want people to connect with the emotion of the music and for my time here to make things better for people in some way. Before I’m done, getting actual critical acclaim from some of the greats like Stevie Wonder or Quincy Jones wouldn’t hurt either.

What are some of your upcoming projects?


Omen: Right now, my main focus is the upcoming mixtape, Afraid of Heights, and making it incredible by my standards. People can look forward to more videos for songs from the sampler and for the upcoming mixtape from Impakt Studio. I’m doing production for a couple singers and maybe some interesting collabs coming soon as well.

Any shout outs?

Omen: Yep. Shout out to The Bulls, The Lakers, The Last Dragon, Harold’s Chicken Shack, Gucci Driver Shoes, Air Jordans, my momma, and God.

Photography | Valeria Picerno

How do you interpret this?

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Paintings | Simon Burch

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Pharrell x Moncler

Tough.

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Blu - Disco Dynamite

Disco Dynamite from A.C.R.O.N.Y.M on Vimeo.



via - http://newworldcolor.com/

Photography | Layka

Just a dope feel.

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Hyper-Realistic Acrylic Body Paintings | Alexa Meade

I don't even understand how those can be real people. Incredible.

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azulito

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11.3.10

Photography | Kwesi Abbensetts

I've become a fan of Kwesi's work now. It's always really creative and just dope. Hopefully, one day we can do an ill shoot.

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Cinnamon

Some of the best stories can be created and interpreted through an image this simple.

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Esperanza Spalding | Live In Copenhagen



I've been hearing that Esperanza has some new material coming this year, so I'm pretty excited. This is performance footage sprinkled with clips from an interview in Copenhagen. Definitely worth checking out if you're already a fan or even if you aren't familiar with her incredible work.

Christian Hagemann

Ill.

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Five Ways To Increase Creativity

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I found this @ www.freshcreation.com and thought it may help someone visiting. Also the above art is from Shadowtuga.

1. Clear your workspace

In order to be creative you have to clear your workspace. Give your mind some rest to come up with ideas without constantly being confronted with stuff that you still have to clean up or file. My workspace is a desk in the corner of my living room. Since I realized that loads of stuff was just lying there, I systematically started to get rid of stuff and I started to file the stuff that I hardly used. This way my mind didn’t have to think about the mess around me and creativity could flow.

2. Talk to friends

Many times I came up with ideas by just talking to friends about the projects that I was working on. Some of these friends are working in totally different areas than me. But just that is the reason that they are able to look at a problem from a totally different perspective. A fresh look can do miracles for the whole creative process.

3. Find out what makes a project unique

If you do projects that are similar, you tend to start working on them in a similar way. This means your work starts to look alike and you get less energy out of it after you finished it. The same happened to me when I was developing concepts for companies that had similar problems, similar goals, similar… . You get the point. I discovered that this made me approach these projects as being similar. The challenge is to discover the differences instead of focusing on similarities. So if you feel like you’re duplicating instead of creating then restart and look for the things that (could) make your project unique.

4. Do less

This is one of the things that really boosted my energy and creativity. Instead of wanting to do everything in a day, I made a list of the things that were really important to me. Then I compared that list to the things that I would do during a day: check my emails every hour, check my site statistics, surfing the web for new creations, answering phone calls, answering emails…. It became clear to me that I was wasting a lot of time on stuff that were not on the list of stuff that I wanted to do. After that I started asking myself questions about all these activities. Did I really need to do them? Did I have to do them instantly? Did I have to do them so frequently? Answering all these questions made me reschedule and reorganize all my activities. Now I get a lot more done in one day. And practically all of it is stuff that I want to do in that day. Not stuff that just happens to me as I sit behind my desk. That gives great energy. And more energy leads to more creativity.

5. Do one thing at a time

During a workday I won’t turn on my computer or my phone until I am ready to start receiving and making phone calls or writing emails. This gives me time to totally focus on the work that I’m doing. No distractions. I actually have blocks of time scheduled during the day to go through my emails and make phone calls. At first it was really difficult for me to switch off the phone and not check my emails first thing in the morning. It was like a voice inside my head was saying: “Go on. Check your mail! Listen to your voicemails! Check your site statistics!” Now, after a couple of months, it starts to get easier and easier to start doing the things that I want first and then doing the stuff that needs to be done. Doing the creative work instantly in the morning, without being distracted, gives me great joy.

i think i would. but i'd also be confused.

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Photography | Parpadeo

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7.3.10

Laundry | Directed by Danielle Katvan

I'm a big fan of "shorts." They remind me of songs, because you have such a small window of time to tell a story. And like the best storytelling songs, the best shorts have layered stories with room for interpretation. There is really an art to creating a good short.



Written and Directed by Danielle Katvan.
Produced by Saleah Askia.
www.daniellekatvan.com

In an eccentric, old-school laundromat, a young man is lulled into a daydream while waiting for his wash cycle to finish. "Laundry" is a quirky and colorful segment that juxtaposes the mundane with the magical.
I can't give you a reason why, but I just find this picture to be dope.

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J'Davey - Get Together

J*DaVeY "Get Together" from Veronica "V-Chip" Hinds on Vimeo.



I'm not sure if I get every element of this video. But, I think its a nice video that matches the song pretty well vibe wise. J'Davey consistently delivers dope music. I'm anticipating their new album.
This is what my apartment will look like next year.

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Via - Dreams For Dusk.

Gucci x Mark Ronson Sneaker

Clean.

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Inspiration | Bill Withers

Still Bill Trailer from B-Side Entertainment on Vimeo.



The story
Still Bill is an intimate portrait of soul legend Bill Withers, best known for his classics “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean On Me,” “Lovely Day,” “Grandma’s Hands,” and “Just the Two of Us.” With his soulful delivery and warm, heartfelt sincerity, Withers has written the songs that have - and always will - resonate deeply within the fabric of our times.

Why this story inspired me
The trailer shows that Bill Withers’ main strength is to not become distracted by what other people want. He’s not looking for people to like him, he’s not looking for more money, he’s looking for ways to know how it feels for his “desperation to get louder”.

What I hope sharing this story will lead to
I hope that more people will find the strength to do whatever it is that they want to do. This means: being true to yourself.


Via - http://www.freshcreation.com/

really.

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Painting | Alan Sastre

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Omen ft. Elite - Holy Omen

So, as always it seems I'm the last blog to post my own video lol. But, I just wanna say I appreciate all the love, feedback, posts, and views I've received. Shoutout to Elite for doing an ill beat and feature. Shoutout to Impakt for making it doper than just something to hear. Shoutout LJEC for premiering the vid. More to come y'all....peace and love - O

Omen "Holy Omen" Feat. Elite Music Video Directed by Impakt Studio's Chris & Blaq from IMPAKT STUDIO/Chris & Blaq on Vimeo.