With over ten years under his belt, Omarion has grown up before our eyes. From his heart-throb days with teeny-boppers B2K to his inventive solo streak, which included a string of hits with Pharrell and Timbaland, O has consistently approached R&B with a maturity beyond his years–one he may just be catching up to, as he explained in FADER 86. At just under 30 years old, the singer is seeking to bridge the old and the new with his upcoming album, Sex Playlist, and cites a new crop of artists reshaping R&B as his prime inspirations. For today’s FADER Mix, Omarion brings together the glitzy ’80s soul your mom cleans the house to and the pulsing dance/R&B hybrids you stand in line at the club for. Download the mix below, and read our Q&A for nuggets of wisdom from Pharrell and stories from the set of his 2004 film debut, You Got Served.
Download: Omarion’s FADER Mix
Your new album Sex Playlist will be your first on Rick Ross’s MMG imprint. Can you talk a bit about the sound? It’s really interesting putting together this first project, being part of Maybach Music. I really took my time with this album, and for the first single “You Like It,” I just really wanted to implement what I felt was missing from the game—that song that makes you feel good and is reminiscent of the old times. People be like, “So what are you bringing to the game this time?” and I’m just like, “Emotion. Fuckin’ feeling.” When you hear my shit you gonna feel some shit, you gonna think about some shit, because that’s what the core and the true R&B is. Rhythm and blues baby. There’s this El Debarge loop in it—it feels like what people need.
How has your approach to songwriting and creating changed over your career? Art should reside in your work. The more mature you get and the more you understand about life, your picture gets clearer, the focus gets clear. I recall a conversation I was having with Pharrell one time. We were in the studio talking about R&B, and he said “You’re like me, we’re like each other, we think the same way.” He’s one of the few people I would consider a mentor, not because I look up to him but because he’s actually given me sound advice and it came from a place inside of him. A lot of the conversation with people you work with is never that, it’s “alright let’s work,” it’s never like “yo bro, you’re dope. You gotta keep doing what you’re doing, there will be a time for it.” That’s kind of where our conversation has been. I’ve just taken all of the information I’ve learned over this period of time blended it up in the blender man. I feel like this work is my truest work, it speaks to everything I feel like is missing, and everything I feel like I am.
How has it been being an R&B artist on a primarily hip-hop label that has a sound and reputation like MMG? I love it, because I get to stand out. To even think that it’s been three years already, we put out Self Made II and III and we put out God Forgives I Don’t, I put out two mixtapes, so yeah, we’ve been really working, and this is what I’ve been really looking forward to. It’s been amazing to rub shoulders with everyone, and have a real sense of friendship and family, that’s what Maybach Music is all about.
Your album is called Sex Playlist. You’ve got some essentials on your FADER mix, but what are your favorite joints on your sex playlist right now? It depends. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes the playlist is for a lusty vibe, and other times it’s these songs that have a euphoric vibe where it’s really no space and beat but it’s just music that makes you feel something. As far as essentials, this new mix I’m playing by this dude named Sango Beats. It’s like a Drake and PartyNextDoor mix. It’s like a Ginuwine sample, it’s like an old clash-type vibe, but it feels really like paced but also euphoric too. You know BANKS? That’s another one. It’s like new R&B. Not just the dubstep sound with singing on top or the pop sound with Disclosure. I think anything melodic is R&B.
It’s been ten years since “You Got Served.” That movie was big for my generation. Could you speak on one crazy or fond memory from the set? The set of “You Got Served” was like a dancer’s dream. Before we were shooting, when we had our big dance battle days, we shot that for like two weeks. You had every top dancer in the country just in one space—a b-boy circle over here, a house going on over here. During that time we were shooting I was like a sponge, man. I was soaking up so many different styles. The opening scene where I’m battling Columbus Short, that was the first time that we were filming. That was the real battle, everybody had the real energy, it was real dancers in there. None of that was scripted besides the choreography. It was so real. People didn’t want to lose! It was real life dancers. People take it dead seriously. It’s really cool to be a part of history like that. When I meet people, a lot of people know me from different things whether it be when I was in the group or my solo stuff or “You Got Served” or movies, it’s really interesting that that film is a part of history. That’s nuts. I didn’t even know that it would be that. That’s like so cool.
1 Kaytranada – At All
2 Sango – No One Else
3 Sweater Beats – Make A Move
4 Falcons – Call Your Name
5 Rustie – Slasherr
6 Kaytranada – Hilarity Duff
7 Shlohmo – When U
8 Clouded Slum – Play Dough
9 Soul for Real – Candy Rain
10 Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long
11 Gap Band – Outstanding
12 Lapalux feat. Jenna Andrews – One Thing
13 LL Cool J – Around The Way Girl
14 Perseus – Love in Zanziba
15 Pharrell – Gush
16 Chrome Sparks – Still Sleeping
17 Sango – Trust Me