As we continue to shed light on members of the Twin Cities aesthetics community, we bring you Milwaukee to Minnesota transplant O-D.
Born out of the Pete Rock/J Dilla school of thought, the beat maker has paid dues producing music for Ghana’s M.anifest and Blitz the Ambassador, The Chalice and the collaborative album with K.Raydio, “One Drop.” I recently sat down with O-D to talk about his music and family roots.
AS: What do you want people to know about your music?
O-D: I take music very seriously but I also don’t try to approach making music seriously, if that makes sense. I try to make a place to create and let go. I’m from an era where we dig for records and we learn about music from the past and the present. I approach hip-hop music with intentionality and also view it as a cultural practice. There’s an intrinsic value in doing it regardless of where it goes.
AS: Can you give our readers some background on who you and your family’s roots?
O-D: I was born and raised in Milwaukee and went to Rufus King High School. My parents both are immigrants to the U.S. from very different parts of the globe; my dad from England and my mom from the Seychelles Islands. Most people may not be familiar with them but they are a set of islands in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of the African continent, northeast of Madagascar. I came into hip-hop and social-political awareness around the same time. Milwaukee is a place that has a way of politicizing people.
A-S: What else can you tell us about Seychelles as many of our readers may not be familiar?
O-D: There are about 150 islands but only a few have people living on them. Initially there were no indigenous inhabitants before the French colonized it and was a place where a lot of pirates used to frequent. There was a prominent and less talked about slave trade in the Indian Ocean. The islands are mostly African, though some Arab. My grandfather was actually was a Chinese immigrant so on my mom’s side we’re African and Chinese decent. It’s a similar dynamic to some Caribbean nations. There’s a lot of racial intermixing. I still have a lot people there and go back every few years. You’ve got to save that bread and vacation time to make that trip halfway around the world but it’s a beautiful place.
AS: What do you mean when you say Milwaukee has a way of “politicizing people?”
O-D: It’s a very segregated city. Having a white parent and a black parent it’s very clear the spaces available that are welcome for different sorts of people. Fortunately, I had the privilege of going back and forth between some of those lines. Seeing that, you can’t help but be very critical of those dynamics being very light-skinned and sort of an ethnically ambiguous person of color of African descent. There’s a lot of privileges I benefited from but also had a set of challenges.
AS: You recently released the “One Drop” album in collaboration with singer/songwriter K.Raydio. What’s your take on the title as it relates to the record?
O-D: As we started working on the record, one of the first songs that K.Raydio wrote was “One Drop.” It’s about a set of experiences that she was familiar with – not saying that’s her story. As soon I heard it I said, “This just might be the album.” You know the history that if you have any African blood in this country you are Black. This goes back to people wanting to have the largest number of people they can enslave but also creates a solidarity that doesn’t necessarily exist in other parts of the world where there are people of African descent.
AS: How does your African history influence your work?
O-D: There’s a musical tradition there that is part of the African Diasporic experience. There’s a genre called Sega. It’s sort of a mixture between Southern and Eastern African rhythms. There’s also a history of storytelling called Moutia. That’s people sitting around fires and telling stories in Creole. There’s also a dance that people do. Personally I’ve been more influenced by Black American music.
AS: Who were some of those American influences?
O-D: There are people that influenced me but not technically. Bob Marley is a big influence but I’m not pretending my music sounds like him. In terms of hip-hop, producers like Pete Rock, Dilla, Primo, Dr. Dre. More recently some the L.A. beat scene folks like Flying Lotus and Kaytranada are some of my favorites. Going back, Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, De La Soul … the golden age stuff. Being someone that collects and digs for music, John Coltrane, Gil Scott Heron, Fela Kuti, Curtis Mayfield (are also influences). Getting into sampling you have to appreciate that music.
AS: What listeners look forward to in the future from O-D?
O-D: I want to do an album centered around my production with different artists. Potentially some instrumentals but featuring MCs and vocalists.