Photo by: Scott Schatek
As an artist, achieving the success of a number one record must be an unbelievable feeling. Well, our cover artist has achieved a level of international stardom that most artists only dream of. Even with that level of success from his 2014 megahit “Cheerleader”, he has maintained an incredibly humble and respectful frame of mind with all whom he encounters. After a brief hiatus, he is now back on the scene with new music that not only is sure to please the ears of his audience worldwide but also reveal his Jamaican roots. We hope you enjoy this exclusive interview with International Pop artist OMI.
SFND MAG: We want to thank you for interviewing with us. This is an honor. We are glad to have you. OMI: The pleasure is all mine. SFND MAG: So, we are just going to hop right into it man. 2020 was a tough year for us all. It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through 2021 already. OMI: Yeah, halfway through already. SFND MAG: How has this year been treating you so far? OMI: Man, so far, I’m just here putting in the work. I know that I’ve been laying low, but I have been doing a lot of groundwork in terms of the direction we are going to move into after this. As you can see, I think things are returning to normal somewhat, so I’m just using this time very constructively and just not stopping. SFND MAG: Yes. I think we have seen that with a lot of other artists as well. Many of them seem like they are anxious to get back out there. What do you think you are looking forward to the most coming out of this pandemic? OMI: Well, one of them is quite obvious, which is performing on stage again in front of my audience and just having that one-on-one interaction with my fans. I have noticed that a lot of artists have returned to the stage, and they are performing in all this, and I respect that, but I think that now is the time that we are going to put out some more singles and build that momentum again before I actually do. Even though a lot of people, even on my social media are asking, “When are we going to see you again?”. The fans don’t know how the business side of it works and how the label and the artists strategize and plan these things. All they want is to see their favorite artist perform, but there is a lot of planning that goes behind all appearances. SFND MAG: Absolutely, especially when you are coming behind a record that was as big as “Cheerleader.” The song was literally played all over the world. I mean that song was a world-wide phenomenon. But with achieving that level of success, I imagine that there is an awful lot of planning that has to come behind that. OMI: Yeah, and it is not something that you can rush, because when it comes to the music, and it comes to the business of music it can go either way. You want to make sure that whichever way it decides to go, it’s in your favor.
SFND MAG: Right. You have to make your next move your best move. OMI: Your next move is your best move, and the reality of the situation is people’s attention span is very short. It’s the time we live in. Entertainment has a wider platform now. It’s not just music. So, people's attention span is short. So, whatever you are doing, and whatever you are putting out there or whatever you’re marketing you have to make sure that it is on par with what is going on now in terms of having that quality to keep the interest of people and keep their attention. SFND MAG: That is very important. So, you are back now with some new music. You have some new records man. We checked them out and they are dope. We love them. I want to talk a little about each. So earlier this year you released “Hello Hater” and “Make It Now” Let us start with those first two. How did those records come about? OMI: So, those records were sent to me by the label. This is what I love about those two records. I think, those two records take me back to my roots of how I started out back in 2012 before we released the remix to “Cheerleader” by Felix Jaehn. And then we kind of went in the direction of Pop. So, all of the music following “Cheerleader” was leaning towards the Pop genre as opposed to dabbling more into my Jamaican culture, my accent, my style, my flow. I guess we sort of went into that direction, so I really appreciate those two songs took us back there. I felt more at home. I felt more comfortable in the delivery of the song, and I know I’m going to feel comfortable performing the song. SFND MAG: Yeah man, when we heard “Hello Hater” it definitely gave us that vibe and it’s dope.
Photo by: Bart Pajak
OMI: Yeah, and it’s on a lighter note. Even though it is about something as dark as hatred, it’s still as though it’s taunting, It’s kind of poking at hatred. Like “Yo, you can’t faze me.” In fact, hate me more because it makes me stronger, and makes me want to do better. A lot of people are very “thin skinned”, and a lot of people get depressed, a lot of people are bullied, and they may not have the mental capacity to really deal with situations where people hate on them. I mentioned in an interview that I did not know how thick your skin had to be especially in a business like this where you are open to the criticism of the public. You are somewhat open to public criticism when it comes to your work. It even affects your private life depending on how much you put out there, but you have to be very thick skinned to be able to bounce things off you. SFND MAG: With you being an international artist, I imagine that varies from country to country. OMI: The wider the platform the more susceptible you are to getting love, hate and mixed emotions. You have got to know how to filter that. SFND MAG: Wow man! That’s heavy right there, but you handle it well. You manage it very well. OMI: Tunnel vision. I’m like a racehorse with blinders on right now. I am focusing. People are entitled to their opinions. To each his own. Everybody is entitled to having a preference and I respect that. I really do mean that. I am not throwing shade. I really respect the opinions of others because opinions are good sometimes, if it is constructive. Now that is the thing. You have to know when it is constructive criticism or just criticism that is intended to tear you down. If the intent is to tear you down, then there is nothing constructive about it. When you tear something down, you deconstruct. We are not supposed to confuse someone trying to deconstruct you as opposed to giving constructive criticism, something that will uplift you and help you better your craft. SFND MAG: So, let’s talk about your most recent record that you dropped in June. “Crazy with Somebody.” It is such an amazing record. We loved it. What was the inspiration behind this one? OMI: Well, basically you know that is targeting the summer. As a music lover, what does it make you feel when you hear that song? It’s kind of a summer, light and airy kind of vibe. Even the other two songs before, you can kind of consider them summer songs, because nowadays, music is all about a vibe. That is what I realize. I am listening to songs on the radio that I cannot even understand the words, but I know how it makes me feel. And it’s not like I’m shitting on anybody’s culture, but a lot of the lingo I may not understand, but it has such a nice vibe it makes you want to listen. It makes you feel a particular way you know. That is what music should do. SFND MAG: Reggae music makes me feel that way, because I cannot always pick up all the words or understand everything that is being said, but the vibe is so infectious. So that makes perfect sense. When the vibe is there, you feel the music and that makes all the difference. OMI: That makes all the difference. That is my job basically, to keep bringing different vibes and different energies to people. Once I decided to be an artist, to be a musician, to be a creator of music, that is what I signed up for. SFND MAG: So, like you mentioned, it is all about the vibe. Now your music is very catchy, and energetic, it has the reggae vibe, but it has a very universal feel. I can see how people all over the world gravitate to it. Are you a primary driver when it comes to writing and producing these songs? How are these “vibes” created? OMI: Well, I am very involved in my music and in the creation of my music. “I’ll turn shits down”. I will turn it down. I’m just giving it to you straight. Plain talk. I’ll turn it down. If I don’t think it suits me or if I don’t like it, I’m not doing it. That’s just me and it is not about being cocky or being hyped up, but at the end of the day I have a brand to protect. It’s going to be my brand to live with, so I have to protect that, and I take pride in that. But so far, I think I’ve earned respect. The biggest song that put me on the map was written by me and I’m very aware of that. I am humbled by it but I am also aware of it. One of the best things for an artist is to be aware of your worth. Just because I’m quiet and reserved does not mean that I do not know my worth. I do know. I ‘m just very easygoing. SFND MAG: You are right! You must know your worth and understand that you are the source. So, with that being said, do you have a set of producers you prefer to work with?
OMI: Well, when we are doing writing camps, you meet so many people, it is hard to remember everybody’s names because those people are brought on by the label and I welcome that because it’s like an exchange of culture in the room. But I do have producers that I work with on a consistent basis. I have my in-house producer. I also work with Salaam Remi. I am still with Clifton Dillon aka “Specialist” and also his son Ryan Dillon so I do have people that I work with closely when I’m inspired to do something. SFND MAG: Cool, so you do have that closely knit core group of people that you like to work with, but you welcome the outside sources as well. So, who are some of your other influences? What created OMI? What type of music do you listen to? OMI: Man, I listen to so many different genres. I was driving in my car listening to Enya. Do you know Enya? SFND MAG: Who??? OMI: See! [LAUGHS] You have probably heard her songs being sampled or heard it on the radio. [Hums familiar melody] SFND MAG: Oh yeah! OMI: That’s Enya. So, her music is so relaxing. When I want to clear my mind and just relax and be mellow, I listen to Enya. It puts my spirit on another level. A whole other world is open to me at that time, and I am so inspired and totally unrelated to my genre and what I do, but it helps me in such a big way.
SFND MAG: That makes it hard to put you in a box to man. That is a good thing. OMI: Very much so. I tell people all the time, I’m more of a producer, creator, writer, than I am a performer. So, I’m an artist in that capacity because I get so many inspirations that I know I can’t be the one to deliver all of them, so it makes you even more valuable because I’m very OK with working behind the curtains. I am very reserved. I’m a very private person, but if I have to go on a stage to perform, I will., but I mostly enjoy the creative process. SFND MAG: So, I heard that you are also a big Eminem fan. When I first heard that I was kind of shocked, but when I started to think about it, it actually made sense because as a writer, you have to respect the pure lyricism this man has a gift for. OMI: It is out of this world. I’ve listened to his albums, especially his latest work and my mind is blown hearing it. I have to play shit back. I have to back up. SFND MAG: That's the beauty of hip-hop. When you have to press the rewind button on a punchline or when you are still catching something new six months later.
OMI: He gets so deep in the lyricism, so I admire that. That is one of the things I admired even going back to my high school days listening to Eminem. For me, Pac was the energy, BIG was the energy. Eminem was the lyricist, Nat King Cole, James Brown and Sam Cooke were the soul. So, I had so many different influences. Let’s not forget Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and all the people that are from my area. SFND MAG: Legends. You just went down a list of legends. OMI: I am like a sponge. I learn I soak all of this up. I am influenced by it, and I’m inspired by it, and I use that as a compass in my creation. SFND MAG: Is there anyone in the industry currently that you are inspired by or that you would like to work with? OMI: Most definitely. You know who I would love to work with on a project? I would love to work with Justin Bieber. SFND MAG: I could see that. . OMI: I have realized that he is also a creative person. SFND MAG: You all have similar styles. Even the way the music sounds. At times I think he kind of pulls from that island feel sometimes. OMI: When “Cheerleader” came out, it influenced a lot of mega-artists to start making that kind of music. I’m not saying that I pioneered it, but it is obvious. SFND MAG: You are right though. There was a fusion with Pop. There were not a lot of artists doing it until after the “Cheerleader” record. You fused it together man and it worked. OMI: I respect the artists and I respect the creative process, because I know what goes into it and a lot of time, we work so hard on it for the opinion of someone else. So, all of those hours, days, months and years even put into a project only to have someone say “I like it, or I don’t like it” is crazy. SFND MAG: I can see you working with DJ Khaled man. I think that would be a dope collaboration. OMI: Khaled, of course. Well, if I said Justin Bieber then of course Khaled. He is one of the people right now who is kind of like me in a sense. I see where we have similarities in the sense of embracing the culture of other people and lately, he has been doing a lot of work with different people exposing different cultures to the world and I appreciate that. I really respect that.
SFND MAG: Absolutely. We love what he is doing as well. So, Let us shift gears a bit here. As a person what types of other things are you into? When you are not doing music and you are not writing, what other things are you into? OMI: When I’m not writing, I do building and interior decorating. SFND MAG: Really? OMI: I have a passion for it. I might even have my own show on HGTV. I don’t know man. [LAUGHS] I’m that passionate about it. SFND MAG: That’s cool man! That comes from your creative side too. You have to be able to see it and visualize it before it comes together. OMI: The thing is, I’m also a visual artist. I also draw and I paint. So that was an easy transition for me. I like building houses and creating floor plans and even designing furniture and layouts. I love creating spaces because I believe that affects your mood. I kind of had an appreciation for this after I became deeper in the music. I realized that since I don’t go out, I need to make my space very comfortable and very inspiring. So that is where I developed the appreciation for creating spaces. SFND MAG: That’s dope man. That was something that was the furthest thing from my mind when I asked that question, but I think that is impressive. So, we always like to ask people we interview this question. What type of advice would you give either to your younger self or someone like you that is aspiring to take a similar path that you took? Someone who may be talented but may not know how to navigate through the industry. OMI: My number one piece of advice would be: Getting to fame is one thing. My manager and I have this saying “Gum on the way up… Grease on the way down”. It is easy to become famous. Fame is something that can happen overnight, especially in the digital age where we are today you know. But you have to understand what you are about and understand what you want from this. You have to make sure you are knowledgeable about what you are getting into. Do not let shit catch you off guard and you’ve got to surround yourself with people who have a common goal and are vibrating on the same frequency. It’s very important, because energies do clash. One energy can prevent the other from becoming successful or reaching its true potential. It’s best to keep your circle very small and in doing so also make sure that the people around you have your best interest at heart, meaning they are going to be honest with you. If my work is crap, just be honest with me and let me know that it is crap. Do not be a “yes man” and make me look like a fool. Tell me the truth. Be humble, speak less, observe more, learn more. That in itself will teach you how to navigate through this business. SFND MAG: I know we are winding down on this interview, but I have to ask you can we expect a new project here soon? Perhaps a full album?
OMI: Of course! Most definitely. I’ve been putting together some materials. I’ve been putting together a lot of songs. I have a lot of people who are interested right now are just waiting for us to sign off on doing something together. So far everybody is huge. I will not say too much about it, but so far everyone is huge and on top of their game and has such a wonderful legacy, and I am humbled at the fact that they would even want to work with me. SFND MAG: Well please let us know when you lock in a release date man. Keep us posted. OMI: Of Course! SFND MAG: Before you go, we have one last question. We always like to ask everyone that if they had to name another person who they thought was So FN Dope who would it be and why. OMI: Ahhh man! Listen, this is going to sound cliche,’ but my mama is Dope! My mama is dope! SFND MAG: Well, listen Omi. We cannot thank you enough for interviewing with us man and taking the time out of your busy schedule. You are So FN Dope, your music is awesome and it has been an honor to sit down and interview you. OMI: Thank you so much my brother.