BYT: Can you tell me a little about your new project, the “Omar Mixtape?”
Actually, I recently retitled it “Grand Prize” because it’s been about a year since I put my last project—although I have put out a few freestyles since then—but I really wanted to have a project that encompassed everything that I have experienced. I wanted Grand Prize to be about me trying to make it, doing all these shows, meeting all these crazy people, being ready to pull my hair out and jump off the deep end, and then pulling it all together to make it work. It’s about that struggle.
BYT: What are some of those struggles and barriers you have encountered so far?
You know, just basic artist struggles.
Trying to dream about being more and booking shows. I also struggle with depression to the point where sometimes if things are not going well, it’s hard for me to just get out of bed in the morning. Sunday was a really hard day for me. I went to two funerals back-to-back in the span of a week—young people all under the age of 30.
Living an artist’s life, I don’t work full time, but everything I do is music related. It’s a stable life, but only until you reach a certain level. Until you are A) signed, which is an old dream for today’s artists because being signed isn’t all it used to be, or B) just trying to get some notoriety by getting the good bookings and getting into good festivals and things of that nature.
And just life.
Baltimore is a great place. It’s a great place to find your gifts and really harness who you are, but being a native, sometimes it can be really depressing. There a lot of opportunities in Baltimore, but the city suffers from a lot of social and economic problems. It’s a city separated by class. People that have money and people that don’t have money. I walk through the streets, even in broad daylight, and I feel like the homeless people are out in record numbers—people just eating out of trashcans. It can be a very depressing place.
When you are trying to pursue a dream that is far-fetched or non-conventional, living in a place like this can be very, very, depressing. That’s something I think about everyday.
BYT: How has Baltimore impacted your music? Do you think that it has become an outlet for you to talk about some of those problems in your community?
It definitely has.
Living in Baltimore and being a musician has made be a fighter. My sounds is very aggressive. Baltimore is kinda like The Hunger Games—this is Disrtict 12—you have to come out fighting, you have to be aggressive and ready when it comes to the public and the industry. Not so much the public, people that come to a show are just looking to see a great show. But, when it comes to the industry, whether you are meeting with a label or executives, they are just looking for your flaws.
Being from a city that has a lot of musical history, but on the hip-hop side of things we are not really known for that. We have had people signed, but there is no point of reference when the industry comes here. Unlike cities like Atlanta, because of the region, people are willing to take a chance on you even if you aren’t that good.
Being from Baltimore, you are under the gun because there is no proven track record of success when it comes hip-hop. We’ve had a black eye because of mistakes that were made by artists in the past years and years ago and kids coming up these days still have to deal with those stigmas and stereotypes.
Also, the way that the music industry looks at Baltimore is different. Baltimore is seen as a consumer market. From a fiscal standpoint, acts from out of town can come to Baltimore—acts that are low budget or might not be doing well as nationally—and can sell out show. As a consumer market, we will go out and support someone else, but we don’t produce stars. I think there is a direct correlation between music and the living conditions here. If you don’t feel great about where you live, how can you expect someone from here to think they can be a star?
BYT: You address a lot of the problems that Baltimore and the area faces on your track “Industry Stick Up,” can you talk a little about that track?
* Laughs *
Actually, that started purely as a joke. One of my friends was listening to 50 Cent’s “How to Rob” and he was like “You should do your own versions of this!” So then he kept hitting me about it and I was “Ok, fine.”
Now, I’m still a trash talker. I talk trash better than a lot of people—that’s something that just comes natural to me—so when I sat down and talk about the record industry it was kinda fun. I talk a lot about some of the crazy things that celebrities to that people glorify. I think especially in rap music artists get overhyped and then the actual products ends up not meeting the hype. That’s just funny to me.
BYT: But you stick by some of those critiques of the industry?
Yea. One thing I don’t do is if I say something I don’t back down from it. When you back down from things you open up yourself to scrutiny. It might not always be the nice thing to say at the time, but at the time, that’s how I felt. So I’m not going back to backtrack and say, “Oh, this person is great not!” because I feel like—and maybe it’s a regional thing—but hey, I’m poor now and being your friend isn’t going to make be rich tomorrow. Why would I change my opinion? Rap was founded on those principals of speaking your mind. Why would I not speak my mind? I feel like rap now is almost too polite.
BYT: I think people really appreciate that honesty. What would you tell a new or prospective fan who has never heard of you?
DDm is kind of like an engaged species.
I’m very blunt. One thing about me, I’m very fair person but I also talk about what’s really going on. If you wanted sugar coated pop, go see Brittany Spears. I’m a rapper from Baltimore, one of the toughest cities in the country. Don’t come to me for that. Come to me for real talk, a good time, a lot of energy, a lot of dancing, and some good trash talk.
BYT: As an artist, you obviously bring a new prospective and voice to the area. How would you describe that voice and what do you think you add to the DMV?
Honestly, I don’t even think it’s this region. I really don’t think there is someone nationally like me.
Meaning that, you have a gay hip-hop figure who is aggressive and not afraid to bring up the tough issues, who can preform live, and who also works with non-profits and charities. I was actually just at a symposium with some members of the Nation of Islam talking about homophobia in Black America. I was scared to death, but I was like “I gotta do this.”
A lot of artists are self-promotional, which yea that’s our job, but what are you going to do about the places you live? A common complaint from artists is “Aw, the city don’t come out and support!” Well, what have you done for the city? If you are out of context and out of touch, why should they support you?
BYT: Being gay is really only a small part of who you are, but can you talk a little more about how it has impacted you as an artist?
It’s crazy because I spent a lot of my life in hiding, especially during my battling days, but the only reason I came out was because I don’t like people telling me what I can and cannot do.
Hip-hop is a genre that is supposed to be about breaking the rules and being rebellious, but it’s really not. It’s very cookie cutter. There is a set of rules that everyone body follows and governs. I’m just not that guy. The whole gay thing, I’ve always thought it would follow me to a certain degree. A lot of kids come to me and say “Oh my god you make me feel so much better!” and that makes me feel like I have an impact.
I do it for them so they can feel good. But for me, I don’t really care. I’m over it.
At the end of the day, there is way more to me than that. It’s just because it’s rap. Rap was founded by rebels, it was founded by outcasts, it was founded by people who do not fit the social norm. So, I get irritated when rap says that we can’t exist inside of it, when rap was created so everyone can fit in.