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Omni interview

Author: Benjamin Preiss
Wednesday, 28 December 2005
Born in LA but more a world citizen, omni has taken to hip hop like a duck to water, thanks to the power of speech.

It's been a long year for LA rapper Omni. The MC is in Melbourne to cap off a year of touring which covered the US, Europe, Japan and now Australia. He has played more than 250 shows this year to promote his latest album 'Ballyhoo'.

Omni may be little known in Australia - but his rigorous touring schedules appear to have cemented a strong presence in underground hip hop scenes around the globe. But Omni has also managed to release several albums amidst touring commitments. His first solo album, 'Funkdafied Freddy', was released in 2001, which was followed up two years later with 'Burgundy Brown'. Omni says his artistic development is most clearly visible on the evolution between these two albums.

"It's crazy because you can actually see the growth from my first album to my second album - 'Burgundy Brown'. From the first song on 'Funkdafied Freddy' to the last song on 'Burgundy Brown' it is in perfect alignment, it's all growth," he says.

"It's crazy because for me noticing as an artist my work getting better and better and sharper and this being my fifth album while I'm here in Australia - I'm just trying to do something different. I want to beat myself and beat the average MC. I want to do something that hasn't been done yet with patterns and concepts and song patterns. I definitely want to write more songs instead of just spitting out lyrics."

It is not surprising then that Omni's physical surroundings serve as the most common triggers for his creativity. "Every word I have on the album was either written in Europe or the US. I made 'Funkdafied Freddy' in the US, I made 'Burgundy Brown' in Europe and I made 'Ballyhoo' in the US. Those were my two main environments for the last five years… Just the environment, what I'm going through and what I'm seeing, how I'm feeling at the time and the people that are around me. Everything affects my creativity," he says.

Despite LA's reputation for the excesses of gangsta rap, Omni says freedom of speech was the initial motivation for artists in the city - not money. As a child he was attracted to the "craziness" of hip hop and the sense that it was beyond the control of social boundaries.

"When you really got into hip hop and when I was on the outside looking in on it - it was more like 'how are they allowed to do that- How are they allowed to make money without a suit and tie-' How can they walk around with big chains on and say fuck the police-' That's what really intrigued me, the freedom that you have. You can be just as respected as the dude that's sitting behind the desk," he says.

"Back then that wasn't what it was about - it was definitely about the free speech. I believe in what it was and there's a lot you can do with the power in this culture."

Even in his early days as an MC, Omni claims he has always tried to contribute a lyrical and musical depth to his albums. Today he tries "not to be too selfish" in his music, making it accessible to the "average person living and going through the average things that I go through."

"My beats definitely have to have depth and they have to carry their own message. I want a beat to talk to you without me talking to you. If a beat can talk to you before I do that's a good thing because when I talk to you, me and the beat together is really gonna capture you. With some beats the MC has to work hard to make the song stand out. I like beats that stand out by themselves without me having to say anything so when I do jump on top of the beat it's like butter on biscuits."
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