Interview: Omarion

Photographer JAKE MICHAELS
June 26, 2013
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    For Omarion,
    there’s no time like the present

    Former B2K frontman and teeny bopper heartthrob Omarion was only signed to Maybach Music for a matter of weeks before he had the words “Maybach O” tattooed onto his hand last summer. It was an especially bold move for someone who two years prior had aligned with another rap crew, Young Money—a partnership that ended before any music was released. The singer, though, has never had a problem finding work, be it as a sturdy hook man for likeminded rappers or a purveyor of gritty, slow-burning love songs like 2012’s “MIA.” Currently preparing his first album in three years, the flagship R&B singer of one of the most respected brands in rap talks to us about how despite all the success he’s seen, the best is yet to come.

    Where are you now, musically? If B2K was eighth grade and after B2K was freshman year, now I’ve graduated from high school and I’m in real life. Back in the day it was like, I got a great record from a great producer and writer and it’s a hit single, so let’s sing it. But it’s different when you’re really living out your lyrics. This album is that. We’re playing around with the new album title—we’ll probably change it, cause there’s a movie with the same name—but the core idea is Love and Other Drugs: the infatuation, the euphoric feeling of liking someone. A woman inspiring you to act differently and feel differently—it’s similar to a drug. This album is focused on that feeling.

    How was it that you fell in with another band of rappers at Maybach Music? I ended up going to a strip club with friends and somebody was like, Rozay is here. So I was like, Lemme go say what’s up. I told him, I’m bout to sign this deal and I would love to do a record with you. He said, Before you do that, let’s have a conversation. The next day we got on the horn. He was like, I’m a big fan of what you’ve done and I’ve been watching you; we need to do this. I was just like, well, what’s winning right now? What was winning was the Young Moneys, the Maybach Musics—the camps. So I thought his idea was great. Literally two weeks later, it was a done deal.

    Does being a part of a camp change the way you approach music? I’m inspired to be more tedious and take my time. The camaraderie here is immense. Coming from B2K, I understand the importance of camaraderie. If you have that, it could mean a lot. It’s like the Lakers.

    When R&B singers hang around rappers, they tend to develop a rap aesthetic and often end up rapping themselves. You’ve mostly avoided that, though. I actually started out as a rapper, and rap has been a big influence on what I do in some of the cadences. But rapping kind of became a fad among singers and took away from why we’re special. The guys that I look up to—Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder—were always in touch with an emotion that is familiar to every man: the emotion of love for a woman. That’s what I do. Even if you might catch me in a cipher, I’m just playing.

    Are you still growing as an artist? Every day. I think you get into these age pockets where you create, and I’m in an age pocket where I can have that album. I believe Michael was around 28 when he was doing Dangerous and coming off Thriller. Twenty-eight is a very special age, then the next special age is 35, almost like in the 40 range. That’s when people like the Pharrells, the Puffys, really started.

    Are you looking forward to getting old? Not old, but more seasoned. Everything is research and development until you figure out what works. I’m always chipping away at myself, fine-tuning the music that I want to do and the influence I want to have. I recognize that if I’m talking about love and sex, I might actually bring upon a time where kids are made. If I’m gonna really do that, I gotta take responsibility for the tone.

    Interview: Omarion