posted: 07-16-05
interview: durango jones
Explain to us what is the meaning of O.U.O?
O.U.O stands for 'of unknown origin,' also a couple other things including 'official underground original.'
Who are the members of O.U.O and how did the group come together?
O.U.O is Pep and Dumi Right and Akim the Funk Buddha is a honorary member. More on that later.
Dumi Right, you are also a member of the old school crew Zimbabwe Legit, correct? Please update us on what is going on with Zimbabwe Legit from past to present?
Yes, I am a founding member of the group Zimbabwe Legit along with my blood brother Akim the Funk Buddha. We were a pioneering rap group and, as far as I know, the first group from Africa to sign a deal with a major label in the U.S.
To make a long story short: things went sour at the label and it eventually shut down leaving us in a kind of limbo. However that did not stop us from continuing to record, perform and bring our music to the masses. We've performed all over the U.S and internationally have rocked in Japan and France. My brother Akim is a performance artist so he dances and puts on theatrical performances and he's been to Thailand, Bali and many places in the U.S with that.
The present just got super exciting for ZImbabwe Legit. We hooked up with an incredible independent label Glow-In-The-Dark records. We are releasing the material that was recorded but was never released when we were signed to that company with a Hollywood complex back in the 90s. We're dropping a really interesting eleven track album called "Brothers From The Mother" that comes out June 28. It can be regarded as kind of a 'lost tapes' project and it includes the material that was heard on our four song EP including tracks produced by Mr. Lawnge and the Zimbabwe Legit mix by DJ Shadow which was his first appearance ever on wax. We also worked out a deal with Glow-In-The-Dark for an exclusive licensing of the album in Japan. The Japanese version has two bonus tracks and alternate cover art. The album will be available on enhanced CD featuring the music video for "Doin' Damage" and vinyl.
That's really got me amped so we'll be doing some shows soon to celebrate the launch of that project.
"Of Unknown Origin" is out now, why should heads check it out and please let us know who are all the key players that participated in the project as well?
The album "Of Unknown Origin" is for anyone that appreciates good hip-hop. If you find yourself reminiscing about how good things were in the 'golden age,' this is a record that you will enjoy. If you like your beats rugged and your emcees with skills by the pound and lyrics to go, this is a record you should cop. The record features rhymes by myself and Pep, along with guests that include Cadence from Raw Produce, Kev Strange and Storm The Unpredictable. We also have an exclusive interlude voiced by the world renowned poet Nikki Giovanni. Production duties are handled by a couple different producers that are kind of de facto members of the O.U.O Fam and that's my peoples Kev Strange and Cadence. This cat named Mr. Do also hit us with some heat.
Tell us about the hip hop scene in Zimbabwe and are their any hip hop artists coming from Zimbabwe that we should keep our ears open for?
Yeah, compared to when we were over there and first trying to do this, things have grown immensely. Keep your ears to the ground because I think there's going to be a renaissance of African hip-hop with ill emcees from Zimbabwe but also South Africa, Tanzania and all over the continent. There is also more of an infrastructure now to where there are African hip-hop publications, web sites and labels and distribution companies are interested in getting involved because they see how big the movement has become.
With Independent hip hop so crowded with artists, labels, etc. how do you feel about the current state of it and how to stand out from the crowd?
I think a lot of people in indie hip-hop are missing the point of why there is independent hip-hop in the first place. One: it's to make music that's different than the crap being put out in the mainstream. But two, it's so that artists can make unique music. Even on the indie scene there's a lot of 'sound alike' groups and I wonder what the point is. What part of the game is that? As for us we do our own thing, we stay away from trite run of the mill subject matter and just do our own thing. If the stuff sounds a little unorthodox or different from the everyday formula, that's the whole point.
I noticed you have a tight connection with Cadence of Raw Produce, how did that come about and what is it that makes the connection so strong?
I hooked up with Cadence through a good friend of mine Peter who runs Female Fun Records. He sent me a beat CD and the stuff on there was a perfect compliment to the things that we were doing when we were working on the album. Besides being a dope producer and emcee, he also has no ego whatsoever and is willing to put his all into a project. We related real well so he ended up producing a bunch of tracks on the album and rhyming as well. In fact as I say on the album: O.U.O and Raw Pro is a deadly combination like guns and malt liquor. So deadly in fact that Cadence and I are working on a project together called Alternate Reality that will drop sometime after he puts out his next solo album. Cadence is also the one that put me in touch with Domination Recordings and DJ Fisher that we partnered with to do the album.
Tell us about your company ph Music and what are your plans with it?
ph music is 'pure hip-hop,' 'progressive hip-hop.' My long term goal is to change the paradigm in the music business and put this so called game on its head. But more immediately ph music is the company that is the conduit for the groups and projects that I'm involved in.
Currently, you guys represent the Mid-Atlantic and it appears the scene is starting to grow as of late. How do you feel about the area and do you feel it can be one of the next major area's in the USA for upcoming artists?
The Mid-Atlantic is real challenging to try make it out of. I think that in the same way that DC is not an official state with voting rights, when it comes to music the area also gets the step child treatment. We have major stars that have emerged from the greater region including the legendary Chuck Brown who was recently inducted into the hall of fame. But you can also add Missy, Timbaland, Mya, Ginuwine, the Neptunes if you're looking at the larger region and reaches of Virginia. But specifically from the DC Metro area things aren't that great. I think a big part of this is the lack of support from local media - newspapers, magazines and especially radio. The only time they give you some shine is after you've made it. Until then, they tend to sleep on artists from the area whereas other regions support their local acts and help them get into the national spotlight.
There is no shortage of extremely talented artists so if we can overcome the non-support of the media and dominance of Clear Channel in terms of 'clone' radio, i.e. popular format mainstream radio stations that play the same songs by 50 Cent and Kanye West 20 times a day, this region will explode.
Do you have any advice for hip hop artists trying to make an impact in the music business in 2005?
First off realize that the rap game ain't a game. Well if it's a game, it's Russian roulette. Bet you can't wait for your turn, huh?
But seriously. I'd say, get a basic understanding of how things work and come up with a plan. A dream with no plan is nothing but a hallucination. A lot of heads talk about putting out an album but have no idea what they're going to do to get it out to the audience. They don't even understand who their target market is. If you want to go the mainstream route you have to understand what that means in terms of radio, tv, promotions and publicity. And if you put out an album, don't just dupe it up for the people in your neighbourhood to listen to. If that's as far as you want to take it that's cool too, but if you want to make an impact nationally and internationally, come up with a plan. The reason mainstream is so wack is because its not hip hop heads controlling the agenda. I remember when Public Enemy was a platinum selling group. Now THEY have orchestrated things to where if you say anything intelligent you don't get heard. So the 'game' has been reduced to a step-n-fetchit minstrel show. They've taken the power out of it and made it a vapid, materialistic mess. So for me I think I'm gonna work on 'taking back the mic.' As Jeru said: "unplug it on chumps."
So for heads making music: go to the library or bookstore and get a book that explains what publishing is, royalties and how their calculated, recoupment, distribution channels and get at least a rudimentary understanding of how things work.
What are some memories that you have of when you were recording the Zimbabwe Legit album in the Hollywood Basic days?
I think the studio sessions were really some of the most exciting moments. King Sun dropped by one studio session. Dave introduced us to this group he was about to sign when we were recording our label demos - you might have heard of them: Organized Konfusion. Watching Mr. Lawnge work was pretty incredible and overall it was just great recording at the famed Calliope studios.
Another moving moment was when we went to Japan after the EP dropped along with Funkenklein and Organized Konfusion and performed out there.
One of the most amazing things though was during the recording process rolling around NYC with Funkenklein. My man knew like everyone that was anyone in hip-hop: from Busta Rhymes to Tribe to MC Lyte, Red Alert, Public Enemy - the list is endless and everyone gave him mad respect because he was really true to the music and culture. Oh, and then of course meeting Veronica Webb at the Organized Konfusion "Who Stole my Last Piece Of Chicken" party was a highlight!!
Coming from the hip hop scene since the early 1990's, how would you say it has changed up until now?
Now that hip-hop is mainly recognized as a money making machine I think there are more and more clones than ever before. Also labels are really not concerned about careers more than ever. They realize that one hit single can make an album so they rush these records out and it's like hardly even listenable. I commented to a friend before that as wonderful as CD technology is, it also has made consumers fat and lazy. You can skip right to the 'hot' joint and so artists don't have to make a total album and the songs don't have to mesh. When we were buying stuff on cassette and you didn't want to kill your batteries with fast forward, so the whole album had to be tight.
But it's hardly due to CD technology that things are kinda wack these days. That's just a symptom. Now there are just so many rappers and they literally threw the door open and let the barbarians in the gate so if you can speak English and you know someone at a label you can make a rap record.
Don't get me wrong there has always been wack rappers but now there is no balance and the people with skills aren't getting the attention and credit they deserve. Back in the days, you'd get jacked for being wack. But nowdays cats are getting dap for kicking crap. My nephew can rhyme better than half these cats.
Would you say their is more talent now or less in 2005?
Amount of talent is the same, there is just a lot more wackness that's watering it down. And the wack stuff gets the rotation, airplay and coverage. I can't wait for the proclamation to come to pass, 'the age of the ignorant mc is done!'
Any plans on taking any new artists thru ph Music?
I'm definitely going to do some things with some of the people/groups that I'm affiliated with like the Last 8th and one of the main producers on the O.U.O album, Kev Strange. Also there are some projects down the line that I want to do given the time and energy including a Hip-Hop Restoration Council compilation with like-minded artists.
So what else do you have planned in the future, more O.U.O and Zimbabwe Legit?
I'm in the process of lining up some real cool collaborations for a forward looking ZL album to come on the heels of this 'retrospective' release. Now that the ZL record is out we'll be looking to support that by doing some spot dates and letting people get some insight into the ill live show and how we get down. I'm working on some remixes to be part of an upcoming O.U.O 12" single and we'll also have some special guests appear on that. And I've always known this but more than ever I think we need to do an O.U.O video because our live show is a huge part of who we are and what we do and I think that seeing that will give people a totally different perspective and deeper understanding of what the group is all about. Like Kool Keith told me once: people want to get on stage and walk around holding their nettles and it's not about that. I'm a firm believer in the Rakim school of thought where MC means 'move the crowd' and that's what we try to do every time we rock.
What can fans expect when they check out an O.U.O show in their city or town?
I'm gonna split this in two parts:
O.U.O show, expect a mad energetic, in fact hyper kinetic stage show with Pep and I bouncing lines back and forth. Expect to hear what the heck we're saying - sound system gotta be tight of course, expect hard head nodding beats and some clever interaction contrary to cliché call and response, and come prepared to have a good time and lave thinking: "damn, remember when he said......" Fill in the blanks after the show comes to your town.
I grew up watching legendary tag teams like EPMD trade lines and verses and seeing people like KRS One mash up a party. I don't dare compare myself to those legendary artists, but we do what we can to follow the path blazed by the pioneers and make damn sure that everyone in the place has a good time, whether we're rocking for 20 heads or 200.
Our last show was classic: we were opening up for some much more well known national acts and so even though we had crew in the house, a large part of the crowd didn't know who we were and heads were kinda lookin at us sideways when we walked up on the stage. But I'd have to say like when we hit the first chorus of the first song, heads were bouncing and jumping up and down.
ZL show: expect the unexpected, percussion, rhythm, dance, throat singing (!!!!), beatboxing, b-boying, activism, politics and lyrics for days.
How important do you feel it is for indie artists to get out their on the road and perform?
Live shows are one of the most important things that an artist can do and it's just unfortunate that there are not always tons of venues and it might cost an artist money to play in a lot of places with logistics of travel and accommodation. But I know that a lot of times I get into an artist based on what I heard and saw at a show and I know that we sell a lot more CDs in a venue where we're performing because people get to see whether they like your stuff or not first hand. And they see the entire spectrum of what the group is about.
2005 seems to be pretty big for you, would you ever think this would of all happened at the same time?
I'd have never thought but the timing could not have been better if I had planned it. It just makes things extremely busy, but I've been told, busy is better than not busy; especially in the fickle music business. I just want to make sure I harness the energy and keep the momentum rolling.
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