Lately the man from Los Angeles received his first Grammy for producing Frank Ocean's Channel Orange album. But he is much more than just another producer. As one third of Sa-Ra Creative Partners he already caused a stir with Soul, Funk, and Hip Hop productions. The band did not only release two albums and a string of singles. They also produced stars like Dr. Dre, Erykah Badu, Jay-Z, or John Legend. Growing up impoverished in Hollis, Queens, Om’Mas Keith was always rich in his mind. His mother is a jazz vocalist and his late father played a variety of instruments. He didn’t look at his family’s financial struggles as limiting. Instead, they helped him build his character and appreciate the blessings bestowed upon him. Among those gifts was the music that Om’Mas’ parents exposed him to. His Jazz background has helped him to understand music theory, song structure, and compositional elements. He was born in the late seventies and has music from that era ingrained in his psyche. But the eighties vibe from the then-emerging Hip Hop culture was also cemented and encouraged when his mother took him to see Beat Street, a seminal Hip Hop film released in 1984. Consumed by music, he landed an internship with industry powerhouse RCA Records when he was at the age of 16. From there, he scored the opportunity to work with Ice T. As he gained production and engineering experience, he relocated to Los Angeles to form Sa-Ra Creative Partners. Soon collaborations with Kanye West, Common, Andre 3000, J Dilla, Jill Scott and N.E.R.D. followed. Later a starring role on P Diddy’s Making his Band brought Om’Mas into millions of households around the world through MTV. His latest coup was the artistic collaboration with Frank Ocean for his latest album Channel Orange for whom he received his first Grammy. Currently he is working extensively on upcoming projects for Odd Future artist Earl Sweatshirt, songwriter Diane Warren, rapper Vince Staples, or French pop sensation Irma. In between he composed and released his first solo record City Pulse for free download - an album full of urban contemporary music that mixes the sound of past masters such as Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson and the type of new elements that made Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange a landmark release. Just right after its release he flew over to Germany to go on tour with Brandt Brauer Frick. We manage to meet him in Berlin for a quick chat about his Grammy, his solo album, and his tour with Brandt Brauer Frick. If you want to gain an insight into his adventures with Brandt Brauer Frick during their time in the studio and on the road just check Om'Mas instagram side for an intimate pictures diary!
Om'Mas - how does it feel to be awarded with a Grammy?
Om’Mas Keith: Oh my god: it feels amazing! It’s huge man. I can’t believe it happend. After all those years in music. Finally. I didn't expect it. I wasn't praying for it. I just did some good work like I normally do and now I got a reward.
That was your first work with Frank Ocean right?
Om’Mas Keith: Yes – I started producing Frank after Nostalgia, Ultra. He called me. I played my album to him, he played me his, and then he asked me to come over.
It seems that you love to work with others instead of being alone in the studio.
Om’Mas Keith: Yeah – I don’t like to do anything alone. Except going to toilet. Collaborations are always the best for me. It is just fun and the right thing to do. Opening new musical doors. That is what I love.
How did you ran into the Brandt Brauer Frick guys?
Om’Mas Keith: Well I think Daniel from Brandt Brauer Frick listened to some Sa-Ra stuff and he just found me. No – I wonder if: I think the guys from Red Bull Music Academy hook me up with them. I am not sure. Daniel used to live in Cologne where the homebase of Red Bull Music Academy is. Anyway: from one moment on we just started emailing files and now we tour together.
But you must have liked their music too.
Om’Mas Keith: Yes sure! But at the same time when you get a recommendation for creation from someone you respect, before you even listen to the music you take the recommendation seriously because it is from someone you respect. So because it came from the Red Bull family I said lets go. I wanted to work immediately. They send me music to L.A., I did some lyrics, some singing, some more keyboard, add some percussion and finished the songs. They where so happy. You know when you send something to somebody you don’t know you never know if he is gonna like it. In this case it all matched perfectly!
And now you met them for the first time to do a video shoot right?
Om’Mas Keith: Yes – right from the plane to the video shoot. It was amazing. Daniel is so talented as a director it is amazing. He put an amazing video together.
What will be your role during the Europe tour?
Om’Mas Keith: I sing, play some piano and keyboards. We will start to rehearse from tomorrow on. That will be fun I know. It will be very experimental. I like this. I like adventures.
You just released your first solo album City Pulse as a free download. Is that also an adventure?
Om’Mas Keith: Well I would say so: that is how it is done nowadays. In L.A. I hang out with a lot of young individuals like Mike Uzi, Vince Staples, the kids from Odd Future and they advice to me as people at the forefront of technology and culture. They just said: just don’t wait for some labels - just release it. I thought about it and then everything was the right timing: Frank Ocean’s record, the Grammy, my album is ready, and now I go on tour. Great! I give the album away also because if you hold it to long it is not good for you. But my album will be out on vinyl too. I love vinyl. I have to find the best person to make a deluxe edition. Vinyl will stay you know. The CD will die and I am sure that downloads will be over soon too. The wireless technique is so advanced that soon streaming will be all over the place. Because no one wants to store files on a device. That is bad. You just wanna cloud and let them store it for you. Ones there is a fast outdoor internet all will be different. But one thing will stay: vinyl! And with vinyl also the artwork stays. There is an initiative by the Grammy’s now saying: we have to safe the artwork and the credits. In the digital age that got lost and it is bad. Nobody knows anymore who did what. It is an initiative that says: all you digital kids bring back the credits and show the contributors. People forget about them and that is not good!
Why you like to hang out with these young promosing artists from L.A.? What makes them special?
Om’Mas Keith: I like to hang out with those young fellows because they are not to different from me. They have a similiar mentality and they love creative freedom and creative desire like me. They have the need to create and be themself. It is like in Sa-Ra where we always said: fuck everybody, we do what we want and this is just for us!
Did you have the same attitude while producing the Frank Ocean album?
Om’Mas Keith: Yeah - I produced it alongside with Frank with the same attitude. Producing is a special art and people in the music business don’t know much about it I can say. With Frank I have been involved for one year and it was very deep. In that time you learn a lot about people, you have fun, you create. As a producer you help the client all the time to realize the vision. And they learn things too because everybody puts the shield down you know. And with Frank it was very intense. Also because his album is a blend of all kind of things. It is fictionalized and at the same time very personal. It wasn't easy to make it. But we grew together and that is very nice!
Do you think you will grow with Brandt Brauer Frick during the tour, too?
Om’Mas Keith: Sure. I don’t know what will happen and I guess we will improvise a lot and we will not do the same show every night. It’s gonna be definitely improvisational based on forms and structures. We will make a statement and give it to the universe. That is what you have to do: keep talking. I just work and work and work and show the world what I do.
And you don’t need a peergroup to share this passion for music?
Om’Mas Keith: Well sure. That is why I work with a lot of youngsters. I don’t know if they are my peergroup. I would rather say they are my trusted friends. With those I share what I feel about music. And they give me lots of new perspectives. You know: learning never stops. And they learn from me too. Everybody got a lesson and if you don’t open your mind to it you will just get stucked. Especially in music many people stuck and say: I only like HipHop from 1995 or so. I am not like that. I mean I have my personal music taste. When I relax I listen to Steely Dan or Roy Ayers. For my leisure time I do not listen to anything new. And that is because I am so involved into music. I do my listening to new stuff during my work.
Carhartt presents Brandt Brauer Frick featuring Om'Mas Keith Europe Tour:
02/28/2013 - Cross Linx - Utrecht - NL - Tickets
03/01/2013 - Cross Linx - Muziekgebouw / De Effenaar - Eindhoven - NL - Tickets
03/02/2013 - Cross Linx - Paradiso - Amsterdam - NL - Tickets
03/03/2013 - Cross Linx - De Doelen - Rotterdam - NL - Tickets
03/04/2013 - Cross Linx - De Oosterport - Groningen - NL - Tickets
03/06/2013 - Zoom - Frankfurt - DE - Tickets
03/07/2013 - Berghain - Berlin - DE - Tickets
03/08/2013 - Gloria - Cologne - DE - Tickets
03/09/2013 - Uebel & Gefährlich - Hamburg - DE - Tickets
03/11/2013 - WUK - Vienna - AT - Tickets
03/12/2013 - Caprices Festival - Crans Montana - CH - Tickets
03/13/2013 - Le Transbordeur - Lyon - FR - Tickets
03/14/2013 - Les Trinitaires - Metz - FR - Tickets
03/15/2013 - Point Ephemere - Paris - FR - Tickets
03/16/2013 - Rotonde - Brussels - BE - Tickets
03/19/2013 - Cottiers - Glasgow - UK - Tickets
03/20/2013 - Islingon Mill - Manchester - UK - Tickets
03/21/2013 - XOYO - London - UK - Tickets