A conversation with Ocean Wisdom
Photo by the author
The UK hip hop has its own signature, from the lyrics to the instrumentals one could almost say it is a different genre. But it is not. What defines hip hop is not only tempo, but also the attitude, the people you hang with, the way you dress and address the public. This defines hip hop as more than a genre but a true culture. And, as any culture, it has all sorts of influences and it develops over time. Many people put a blanket over UK Mcs and say it is grime. Again, but it is not. There is a big difference between Skepta and Giggs. If Skepta is what defines nowadays the grime, Giggs is the face of UK hip hop.
I remember an interview with Mike Skinner back in the days where he said “I thought I was doing grime, but then I heard Dizzee (Rascal)”. I think Mike Skinner was the one to put UK hip hop on the map and clearly put a line between the grime and hip hop in the UK.
Being a fan of both grime and hip hop I took the opportunity and interviewed Ocean Wisdom after his show at Untold Festival (Alchemy Stage), in Cluj Napoca. Following this artist for quite some time I was curious to find out more about his music vision and workflow. The 25 years old, Camden born, Ocean Wisdom, impressed me since his debut album in 2016. With Chaos 93’ Ocean announced his future supremacy. He brought something new – a really fast flow, a good understanding of both hip hop and grime and a dedication to work. He came from nowhere and hit the music industry hard. While Chaos’93 doesn’t have notorious collaborations and the artist preferred to make a statement by his own, his second release, Wizville (2018) has features with Dizziee Rascal, Method Man, Roots Manuva and P.Money.
I feel like I still got a lot of work to do. My thing is I always stay active, stay working. I never wanted to be complacent so I always think I have a lot more to learn and to accomplish.
| Since your first release your music is hip hop oriented. Of course with grime influence but still, hip hop is your thing. Why this direction? How come not grime?
I guess it depends on people’s perception. A lot of people say I do hip hop mix with grime, some of my songs are just grime, and some I would say are my own style defined by my attitude, my flow and my rhymes. The people I am around, the people I associate with, it affects the sound of your music, the life you live, it is more than just how I am as a character and people identify this with hip hop, but it is just me.
| Besides the collaboration with Dizzie, one feature that surprised many is the one with Method Man. How did you get in contact with him?
I got booked by promoters so I supported him two times, so I met him than. I met with Redman also and I told him I would like to do a track with him (Redman). 6 month past and I got a phone call from a Canadian rapper that wanted to do a track with me and Method Man and for this one I would get a good amount of money. But I said give me the contact of the manager instead of the money so I could do my own thing. So he gave me the contact and help make it happen.
| Where to you see the future of UK hip hop? I mean there are quite some good groups and artists but they don’t seem to boom and to go outside the UK borders. Why do think this happens?
I think the attitude of a lot of hip hop artists is wrong. Everyone needs to be more professional. If you are doing this rap thing you can’t be soft and you can’t be unprofessional and you can’t be in it for the wave. You need just to go in there and represent properly if you want to be a rapper, otherwise there is always RnB.
| Speaking of attitude, you are a hard working artist. Two albums in two years summing 38 tracks. What is your workflow? How do you write? You start with an idea, or do you start from the beat?
It starts with how I want to structure the album; I always look to the bigger picture. Than I hear the beat and if it fits within my idea of the structure of the album and the sounds, I will write on that beat. But yes, if I get a beat that I really like I will write on it, I get lots of content. I like to have the fundamental in my head of how I want to sound and the order of things so when I hear the beats I will have a direction of where I want to go from the beginning.
I like the vibe of an album where each thing leads into the next thing, so it works as a full project. When you first start you just write lyrics to say in a cypher but when you making albums and songs with choruses you think of how track nine fits with track 10, fits with track 11, it all has to go smoothly, but it also has to be standalone songs as well so if you listen them without the album, on their own, it still works, so is about finding the balance.
| And what gives you the energy?
I take it very seriously. I feel that you can approach it from two ways. You can approach it as an excuse to party or you can approach it as a business you are serious and passionate about and you prepare for properly and you practice for and you give fans the best thing. I feel that if you just get drunk and have a party it is not necessary respectful to the fans. I like to drink water before the show, make sure I give the full energy, and give the crowd a good show. Because the thing is, it doesn’t make music sound any better or the performance look crisper if you are drunk. If you don’t take it seriously your time just comes and goes. You have to grab it by the horns they say.
| What will you be doing in 2018? Only touring or you will also release some new project?
I am going to do another project by the end of the year, so I will have two projects launched in 2018. I will keep doing two projects per year, for the next four to five years. I don’t need to do two albums per year, but I feel I can give fans more music. Maybe I do a mixtape or maybe I do something not for profit, like I go over classic instrumentals and do my own remixes. I really like the Fugees, so I thinking of doing like a really treat for the fans, a remix project. This is not for the money. This is what I used to do before, before I had a name enough that producers would send me beats. When no one sends you beats you have to remix instrumentals. So I think it would be nice to do remix mixtape for free. But besides this I want to do also an original mixtape, with original music.
Besides that, I have new music coming up, that is very different to any music that anyone ever heard from me. Is still me, is still hip hop, but is very different. Put this way Chaos 93 – 16 tracks, Wizville is 20 tracks, if I wanted to show you my full music repertoire I need like 200 tracks. This is the best I can describe it. What people have heard is just a small fraction of what I have to offer. On top of that I have like maybe a hundred unreleased tracks and I’ve written another 25 tracks since Wizville, so there is loads of music my manager knows. My manger’s favorite song is Wrinkly. I made that song in 2015. It couldn’t go on Choas93 because I was working with one producer and he didn’t produce the beat so it couldn’t go in there and on Wizville it didn’t fit the projects, it was a bit to trappy for the project, so it is still there but no one has ever heard it. My studio engineer he’s got another 2-3 favorite songs from me, but the public don’t know them. I know I’ve got music that is different that is going to resonate with certain people and they haven’t heard it yet. I am definitely confident that over the next few years the repertoire will expand and people’s perception of me is going to change over time because they will understand that you cant fully understand what I am about as a musician from a couple of song, you need to wait the other 100 and something.
This interview was taken curtsy of Untold Festival.
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