If there’s still any leftover residue form his B2K days, Omarion has done his part to crush any and all misperceptions, as he officially addresses his critics on his new mixtape “The Awakening.”
One year ago, the 26-year-old was prepping his third solo album “Ollusion,” which was not as commercially successful as he may have hoped. After label shake-ups that took him from the newest member to sign to the Young Money imprint, to being released from the label and starting his own company, StarrWorld Entertainment, his career has definitely had its ups and downs. With over a decade of experience in the music industry under his belt, the Los Angeles native has done everything from act, to release his own sneaker overseas, yet the rumors still seem to follow him around.
Earlier this year, Omarion addressed false stories surrounding his sexuality and went back to the basics to gift his fans with a mixtape in hopes of giving them what the R&B game has been missing. He’s even testing out his rap skills on a DJ Drama hosted project out today. Featuring the likes of Method Man, YG, and M.I.A’s new artist Rye Rye, he classifies “The Awakening” as a way to hit back at the naysayers. GlobalGrind caught up with the former B2K frontman turned solo artist, to explain the title behind the new project and why his fans shouldn’t count him out just yet.
GlobalGrind: Why did you opt to put out a mixtape instead of an album?
Omarion: I’ve done so much. The game has changed so much, especially from what I’ve known it to be. When you start in the game as young as I did, a lot of people, I think that they forget, I was working. I was making music, I was being a business man and to come from that place and fast forward to now where the person behind the computer can be just as famous as the person behind the ground work, I’ve had to change my perspective.
You rap on one of the songs ‘Bulls—’ featuring Method Man, that’s pretty out of the box for you, what are some other ways that you pushed yourself on this project?
I took away the boundaries. When you’re dealing with a company and some type of format, you’re involved with people that give you the type of advice that benefits everyone. But we’re in such a selfish world now, that it does not work that way. So really I had to say ‘wait a minute, hold up!’ singers are rappers, rappers are singers, if you don’t do everything, someone might take your place. You have to kind of do everything in order to compete.
How did the collaboration with Method Man come about?
I think people are kind of raising their eyebrows because of Method Man. I think Method Man is a silent legend, so for him to come out and hop on the record with me, it wasn’t no politics involved. It wasn’t like ‘how much for a hook?’ it was a mutual respect with [him and] all of the people that’s on [the mixtape]. They definitely support the Omarion movement.
Is it easier to link with people for a mixtape versus a full-length album?
No. For me, the type of person that I am, it’s people that really support you or they don’t. From an artist’s standpoint you can see who supports your movement or you can see who’s gonna charge you. When you have a world, say like the NBA or football, or the music industry, it’s important that as an artist like myself or say like a Beyonce, or a Kanye, these are players and pieces on the chest board that if these players didn’t exist, than it wouldn’t be no game. It’s important that people show support even if we are competing for the number one spot.
Do you ever think that the mixtape might not be well received?
As an artist and as a creator you do take that into consideration, but when you’re talking about working from your heart, there’s no boundaries. So especially like the song with Method Man, when I say: ‘I can’t understand ya’ll so quick to believe, I guess I’m in demand, ya’ll keep discussing me’ stuff like that is factual. B2K hasn’t been around in forever, but we’re still talked about 10 years later. To me, that helps me understand the impact that even that group and what I’ve been through has had on people’s lives. You don’t see me in a lot of places all the time, but I’m written about.
So this mixtape is a way of addressing all of the rumors?
Everything. This is a way to experiment on certain things too. Really because of the Internet and because of blogging, the public opinion is changed. Somebody can write behind a computer and say something about somebody that’s not even true. If it trickles down and it has a tumbleweed affect, a whole bunch of people believe it and it’s so unfortunate. It’s like a gift and a curse. I use the example of like Osama bin Laden. He [the president] announced it and now people are showing interviews saying that he died in 2007. It’s so much to speculate now, so you don’t really know what to believe. When you’re talking about a sensitive issue like politics, you want to believe what Congress has to say about that, but with the Internet you can’t.
You take it a little bit more personal when you’re someone like me, or someone that’s an artist that’s only really spoke positivity…you don’t hear [about] me going out and smacking people but that’s the type of press that people pay attention to. I really hope to enforce at some point in time in my career with young people, that it’s important to get accurate knowledge.
Is it safe to say that you would liken this project to providing your fans with “accurate knowledge?”
To open people’s eyes. That’s why it’s called “The Awakening.” Everything is new, the team, my state of mind my feeling, my approach, it’s not what you heard last week, it’s not what you heard two days ago. It’s a new day, and it’s a new Omarion.
Why do you think that you’re solo album “Ollusion” wasn’t commercially successful?
Having a career is about valleys and peaks and I think that at some point in time, it don’t matter if you’re Michael Jackson, we can remember them for all of the hits that they did, but every single didn’t work. Every album didn’t work. To me, I think that was a really important move for me to make in reference to building up my company and going to get distribution through Capitol/EMI because it made me something that I believe my peers should be. A lot of younger artists, like Wiz Khalifa, had certain opportunities to connect to certain entities or business men but didn’t.
What people have to understand, especially with writing, with publishing, there is always going to be a person there that is either going to really support you and help you gain what you want to gain out of it, and then there’s gonna be a person that really doesn’t care about that goal. A lot of this stuff that artists go through, they’ll tell you they really want to quit all the time because it’s so much extra stuff that goes with it. I really had to go through that this go ‘round for myself. Based on my [previous] moves I would encourage people to have more ownership.
Aside from the mixtape, what’s next for you?
For my career I’ve never been to focus on one thing at a time, it’s always been movie, music, movie music, or I’m doing artist development, or I’m working on my sneaker line. I’ve always juggled a lot of things at once, but I think for now I want to see what’s going to happen on the mixtape. I’ve been really getting good vibes from it and I want to take my show on the road. I have this concept, I really can’t give too much away, but I want to do something really special. I want to put together a special show that’s limited for certain people to come see, for really small audience. It’s something new, it’s something that no one has ever seen. It’s like a Broadway piece and I think it’s going to elevate performing and take it to the next level.
Would you ever join another show similar to “America’s Best Dance Crew,” where you’re critiquing aspiring performers?
I would like to. It’s so many amazing dancers around the world that people don’t really get the opportunity to know about. To me dancing is expressive, but it’s not in a structural way. I definitely want to open up my own dance studio maybe in a year or two. Dancing is such a big part of my life. I love it so much.
I have this sneaker in Japan called the ‘O Boys’ it’s the first dance sneaker ever created. I got some knowledge on how to market and put together a shoe, so just know to all the fans out there, I love ya’ll even if you don’t hear from me, I’m always working. I always got something. I’ve been thinking about bringing it out here to certain stores now that Gatorade looks at dancing as a sport now. I feel like if I’m gonna do a shoe out here, then there’s certain things that I would want, that need to be respected about the dance culture.
Some of your musical peers like, Chris Brown for example, have had trouble maintaining a positive public persona. How do you stay leveled in the public eye and what advice would you give them?
I don’t think it’s an on camera thing, I think people would like to think that it is. If you’re not living it, aside from the he say, she say, this is who Omarion is. It’s really hard to sit down with my team and for them to give me suggestions on how to not say what I feel. There’s a part of the game where you really have to be prepared to talk about certain things but to answer your question, I think you really have to leave it in God’s hands. I believe that if you’re really smart, if you really know the difference between what looks right and what is right, I think you have to then put it in perspective for yourself. That’s a personal choice. I would just stay stick to your guns, stick to who you are, pay attention to your surroundings and remain positive because there’s always going to be all different kinds of people to take you off your goal, but I feel like what’s a career without that?
How has your perspective on the music industry changed?
Nowawdays young people are coming in the game and are winning from putting together mixtapes, which is essentially a cool idea because you get to keep your own vision, you get to put together whether it be your favorite artist or the popping song, you can hop on that too and get some love, or you can put together your own original tracks. I used to be so opposed to mixtapes because I felt like ‘what’s the purpose,’ you’re not selling the product. Now with growing and checking my perspective a little bit and changing my surroundings with my team, I think that I’ve grown and I feel like that’s what this mixtape is about. It’s not even about me giving away free music, but it kind of is. It’s like what have I done for my fans other than present product for them, when really that’s not why you’re connected to certain artists or certain people. You’re really connected because you make music that collapses boundaries. I’m so excited about it [the mixtape] because this is the first time that I came up with an idea for myself and it wasn’t marketed, this is just from the heart. I want my fans to know that I’ve been in the studio. I’ve never really had the opportunity to really just take it to the next level for me. It’s a whole new step and a whole new phaze in life and it’s exciting.
Was there a defining moment where you started to look at your career differently in regards to motivating you to put out the mixtape?
I think it was a couple of different things. I think one of those big things was actually being put in a box, where people saying, ‘oh well what do you think about this?’ or being compared to certain artists. We’re in the culture of “now.” If you get a new product like an iPhone or anything, you have new updates every month. Somebody’s dropping a new mixtape every week. I think because of the “now” movement I had to adjust. Because of my history, because of what I represent, it was a lot of things. It was a little bit of me asking myself, ‘do I really wanna do this for the rest of my life?’ I’ve done it so long and I’m still so young and have so much more to do, it was a lot of different things, it wasn’t just one defining moment.