The London-based, genre-jumping artist chats about the release of his latest EP 'OVMBR: Roses', telling stories through his visuals and the importance of shining a light on new talent.
How has the reaction been to the EP and how does it feel to have it out?
It’s been good - it’s been one of the best rollouts I’ve had, personally, so I’m just happy with the way it came out. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it … I just like to move onto the next, you know.
How did you link up with YKKUB and how was working together on the project?
We’ve been working together since the end of 2018. He started as my producer and we linked up through a friend who sent me a beat pack and I loved all of the beats and I hadn’t heard production like that before. He definitely took the music to a new level, which is what I wanted but wasn’t able to. So, we’ve just been working and working and then in 2019, I started producing myself - so, we just gelled like that.
There’s a lot of different sounds on the project, how important is it for you to not restrict yourself to genre boundaries?
That’s a big thing with me, especially with making music. Not just focusing on a certain genre or catering to this or that - I just like making good music. So, as it was OVMBR and people were getting drawn to my music through ‘24/48’ which dropped earlier that month, I thought it was only right to drop an EP that had different sounds in there and styles of music that I was capable of doing.
"...how I got into music in general was not hearing what I wanted to hear."
How was the process of working on the project as both a writer and co-producer and did you find doing both aided your songwriting?
Yeah, 100% because it comes straight from you. The more hands on you are, the more control you have over it. So, I’m happy that I could put myself into the music.
Is this the first project that you’ve co-produced on?
I did additional production on my first ever project but not like that and that was back in 2017. This was my first proper one that I’ve produced. Apart from that, I’ve had singles that I’ve produced like ‘Vicious Cycle’, ‘Drain Me’ and ‘More Life’ I produced that too with YKKUB, so yeah.
Why did you first get into producing? Was it to have more control over your output?
Yeah - to be honest, how I got into music in general was not hearing what I wanted to hear. I wanted to put out music that I would want to listen to, so, that’s how I started making music. Then, I think as time went on and I heard different beats and stuff, I was like you know what it would be nice if I could make my own and create what’s in my head.
"... even before I’ve made the music or finished the song, I know what the video should look like."
How was shooting your latest visual, ‘Something / Composure 2’?
It was all good - we linked up with Chris Chuky, an amazing director. Definitely someone who brought my vision to life. There’s the whole story through the EP, which people get a bit distracted from, the fact that the EP is actually a story because of the different genres, I don’t think people have seen that before. So, once I presented the vision to Chris and told him how I wanted things, he literally just brought it to life.
How important is it to remain a storyteller within your music?
It’s really important, it’s a different world. I feel like a lot in music, especially when people do storytelling, it’s mad storytelling and maybe sometimes it’s too much for people to take in. So, I just like to do it in little bite sized things that you can take in like ‘Rah, that was something’. I think it’s mad important for me because even before I’ve made the music or finished the song, I know what the video should look like.
How was the response to ‘More Life’ and what were the initial inspirations for the track?
It was just based on the whole year, being in lockdown for most of the year and during the whole pandemic where the world should be more together ... things were just falling apart and you just think what is this, this doesn’t make any sense. People are dying, there was extra greed and I was just like ‘nah’ - I had close friends that passed away and I was just thinking, am I even going to be able to live to see out all of the things that I want to do? That’s how the song came about, I literally just wrote about all the things that were going on in my life at the time and saying that my people need more life and they need to live in order to see their dreams out, you know.
Do you feel that your process has evolved since working on your EP ‘Pragma’?
100%. I feel like it was a lot like this EP in the sense where it just had different styles of music in it. So, I just feel like where I’m a person that likes to do different genres, my main aim is to solidify myself in those genres and I feel like I was able to do that in this project. You can see the quality increase and everything, so there’s definitely been a great change since then.
How did working on collaborative projects help you grow creatively?
When you’re working with these different people, it’s like you’re entering their world. So, that’s something that I find really interesting, especially if I mess with it. With ‘Supah Melody Bros’ and the ‘*insert here*’ EPs with my friend Marzi, he’s one of my close friends and both of us just understand each other musically and we’re both in the same headspace when it comes to music. So, when we were making the music on those projects, it was just so easy and we were able to have fun in that environment.
Then with EDashMan who was the producer of ‘Swing Street’, it was a joint tape with him and his style of music and the way he produces and the way we can have fun with that. I love delving into different people’s spaces and seeing how I can play with it and perfect myself in it and just create good music within it.
How did living in various places around the world with varying cultures help to diversify your sound?
A lot of people who grew up in London, not even outside, just London in particular they only see London, so everything else to them is a bit different or not normal. Where I’ve been in different places it’s like, ‘ok, this is the culture here and this is the culture over there’ - so, being able to accept people’s cultures is a big part of me, I just incorporate that into my music. Being able to accept the culture and ride with it and experiment.
"... that’s one of the biggest parts of my music, like anything I do no matter how experimental, I need it to be sonically pleasing. "
Do you feel that London encourages artists to experiment with their sound?
They encourage people to experiment but when people do experiment it’s not pushed. So, they’ll be like ‘yeah, I feel like we need people to be versatile’ and some people’s version of versatile is not even versatile. Like, in London not even in the UK, just London - so, I don’t know. I feel like people say they want people to be diverse and experiment with their sound, when people actually do it now those people don’t have a voice. It’s like you have to do what everyone else is doing to have a voice and then when you do that, someone comes out and says why is all the music the same.
Everyone’s always complaining about everything, like there’s a mad underground scene in London, full of talent that nobody’s listening too but then someone’s going to drop a diss track and that’ll go viral, like that’s not music, the community of music need to be the gatekeepers of good music, that’s me.
Are there any local artists you would recommend?
Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?
I started listening to people like Wizkid, Davido at the time, a lot of Nigerian artists to be honest, I grew up listening to a lot of Nigerian music. Then there was the Caribbean influence, the Bob Marley’s. Fela Kuti, people from back in the day like James Brown. Micheal Jackson was just insane, he can make anything sound good, that’s one of the biggest parts of my music, like anything I do no matter how experimental, I need it to be sonically pleasing.
Then today, people like Drake, he’s done so much and gets so much hate for a weird reason but really, deep down everyone loves him! You might not like the song he drops today but you’ll love the song he drops tomorrow and if you don’t love the song you’ll love the visual and if you don’t love that you’ll be on some next promo stunt he does. He’s just really dynamic and he works with different people and dabbles in different cultures and sees what he can do, that’s very fun, there’s no fun in just doing what you’re doing. Also, he’s an artist that literally births other artists careers and gives these artists a voice, you know? There’s artists in the UK and other countries who are huge in their countries but they don’t do that - which is like, why are you in that position if you’re not going to try and make a change?
Is that something that is important to you, bringing on new talent?
100%, that’s the whole point of OVMBR. That’s my label/collective, I’m just looking and always on the search for artists that are great but they might not necessarily have the right team around them for quality control or the love for music around them. Four years ago, when I was still making music independently, I didn’t have that much - just myself. I would think ‘Ah, if only I could do this visual …. if only I could get on this playlist …. I wish I had studio sessions constantly’, those things if they’re provided for people who are actually hungry for it, they can go places. Just having a community, like, OVMBR is a community - the OVMBR family are my supporters and I can introduce them to other artists that are going to be a part of it and that’s how I’m trying to run it.
If you had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?
First is Marzi, he’s my guy and he makes amazing music. Another person is Bawo. Santi, he’s sick. My guy, Dizzilo who is hard - he’s going to start dropping music soon and he’s hard, so keep your eyes open for that, also part of OVMBR. Pa Salieu, he’s hard.
What’s coming up for 2021?
2021 … another project and a completely different vibe and singles from January - let’s go.