OMID (Photo by Barbara Talia)
Omid (photo by Barbara Talia, click for larger view)

We sat down with one of Los Angeles’ staple producers, Omid (or OD), to talk a little about his new works and artistic direction, in depth recollections about the making of Beneath the Surface, his debut project, and his role as an Iranian American producer in the world today. A genuine music man, Omid gives us a perspective from behind the boards in what is still a dynamic music scene. Visit him at mysp*ce.com/omidhiphop.


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stream Gole Gandom by Omid
from forthcoming new untitled album

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stream The Lakes of Turku by Omid
from Afterwords3



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So thank you for your time. First, I wonder if you could tell us a little about the Afterwords 3 album that was released on itunes only. It seemed to have limited promotion and was not released on CD, what was the purpose of that?

Yeah basically it’s a lot of tracks that I made the last couple years. A lot of them had to do with when I was going to go tour Europe, just wanted to have some new stuff; I was working with this dance troupe out there and they wanted…


Yeah! I saw that online they choreographed something to your music, basically, right?

Yeah, it was like real experimental, interesting dance.

So was it expressionist dance or like jazz dance…

Yeah, yeah, kinda, kinda. Contemporary stuff, it was dope, it was different. So a lot of the songs from that, and just some tracks that a lot of people would just hit me up on the e-mail [about], instrumentals, just a lot of stuff that, before I put out my next album, that I wanted people to hear. Basically, it’s just a collection of tracks that I like that never really came out, and I said “I’ll put it in the Afterwords Trilogy!” Afterwords 1, was a little beat tape I did…

Yeah I remember that, actually one of my friends had that tape

Oh dope.

Yeah, yeah, yeah,

And then Afterwords 2 was a CD-R, and I thought it would be interesting, the first as a tape, second as a CD-R, and then make the third, which is digital, you know.

So this is different type of project, basically?

Exactly, yeah. It’s just a collection of tracks that the last couple years I’ve been workin’ on, and didn’t really fit one theme, and I put ‘em all together.

We spoke a little bit about the dancers, but I also read that you had an interest in working with a guy, Kurt Elling [jazz vocalist].

Yeah I talked to him before and he’s a really dope singer, a jazz singer. Grammy nominated guy, he does a lot of vocalese stuff. That’s someone with whom, in the future, I might do a song with. But that’s in the works.

The reason why I ask that question is that with the Good Life, where you started out, being so jazz influenced, and with Blowed being around the corner from 5th St. Dix, I was wondering about jazz vocalists and musicians that might have influenced your music or that you see yourself working with, besides Kurt Elling?

Well yeah, definitely been influenced by jazz. But as far as musicians that I want to work with? There’s a dude from the East Coast, a really dope drummer, Wynard Harper I think his name is. Dope drummer. That’s someone that actually performed at Leimert Park one time, and pretty much served everybody there!

Oh wow… he’s from the New York City area?

Yeah, he’s from New York.

OK, cool, I’ll look him up.

Yeah, yeah, the stuff I heard live was a lot [different], like his albums were a little more mellow and commercial, but, when he played, it was a whole different level.

Yeah, Kurt Elling I noticed, like I checked out his albums, like he seemed to be a little commercial too, but…

Yeah you gotta… you gotta, find the right songs. There’s a song called “Tanya Jean” That one sounds like Myka Nyne times ten.

Word, really?

“Tanya Jean” it’s on the album called The Messenger. And then he does another song called “Night Dreamer”, and he does a Coltrane cover, of “Revolution”, where he’s singing to all the notes of a solo.

I’ll check that out.

Yeah pick up the old stuff.

So do you feel like the audience has grown up from Beneath the Surface, to Distant Drummer, then Monolith, in the sense that Monolith was a more laid back, instrumentalist sound? It was a compilation of underground mc’s too but it seemed to be reaching beyond the standard hip-hop sound, especially of the LA underground. Did you grow as an artist?

I mean, yeah, I think so. I did Monolith in like ‘03, ‘04, and I definitely wanted to try some new things. Yeah definitely wanted to reach out, and sample a lot of different types of stuff.

More Eastern stuff?

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then with my new stuff, my next couple of albums, it’s gonna be real different, too. I think it’s gonna show a lot of progress. A lot of stuff I played out, but it still sounds sampled. So you know over the years, Beneath the Surface was more like “a fan of the Good Life / Project Blowed giving respects for their favorite artists”. Distant Drummer was like my quest to do something without any emcees, and see how crazy I can get, so big experimentation. Monolith was kinda like bringing it down to earth a little bit but still trying to grow musically. And then my next couple projects, like you remember the song “Sound of the Sitar” [from Monolith]?

Yeah, I do.

Yeah, I’m trying to do an album with that whole theme, like very Eastern sounding tracks. So it’s gonna be an album just of that.

That leads into another question actually, which is, in many ways your sound is distinct because of your use of Middle Eastern samples; Do you work exclusively with classic Middle Eastern material, or do you also listen to Iranian funk records from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s?

Yeah, I do, I do. And I also sample some Psychedelic Rock from the 60’s, where they would use a lot of the [Middle Eastern] instruments, and put effects on them. It’s really like, wherever I can get that sound from. And lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Turkish stuff, Persian stuff… I actually just got this really dope Iraqi record, spelled C-H-O-O-B-I, Choobi, you ever heard of that?

No! That’s crazy. What does it sound like?

[thinking] It sounds like some traditional stuff, but like if Aphex Twin kinda made it. It’s made in eighties but it’s so weird and it had different time signatures… it’s really crazy.

Kind of ahead of its time?

Yeah, definitely ahead of its time. It was made in like ’79 or ’80, but then a lot of effects, and just weird time signatures. Just weird stuff on it! So yeah, wherever I can get a specific sound from, I’ll use it.

I had another question about that; it’s about incorporating the Middle Eastern music into a 4/4, kick-snare element. Is it difficult to incorporate that, because a lot of it’s not in 4/4 rhythm, you know?

This album I’m working on, uh, if you go on my Mysp*ce, the first track [Gole Gandom – now the second track] is an example of what it’s gonna sound like. So that is an old school song, like old traditional funk, I took two different versions of it and chopped it up, and played bass under it. Basically that’s what I had to do, is use chopping a lot and effects, ‘cause otherwise it was like 6/4 time. 6/4 or who knows what it is [laughs]!

Yeah that type of music is very rhythmically complex so I definitely feel you on that.

Yeah and it’s old! And it’s got a lot of history, so to make it into hip-hop takes a lot of work. AND, to avoid making it sound like World Music and shit.

Right, right. Now, I want to go back a little bit and speak about you being a historical figure at the Good Life and Project Blowed. Why do you think the scene you came up into, and that you managed to bring to life on Beneath of Surface, and that album brought that whole scene together so cohesively, but what do you think makes that scene special, and LA special artistically?

That’s interesting you brought it up ‘cause, right now I’m working on a documentary on the Good Life. And you remember Figures of Speech?

Yeah, I do remember them.

Yeah, one of the emcees, Eve, she’s directing it. And I’m doing the music supervision, and all the sounds… and, it’s really bringing back a lot of memories. But basically, that scene, The Good Life, inspired me to become a producer. With the Beneath the Surface, I think I was able to capture those emcees at their peak, while a lot of them were making great music, but they weren’t able to either get signed, or do a whole project. I was just lucky enough to be able to capture that moment.

Yeah a lot of these emcees you don’t hear from anymore, St. Mark 9:23, Puzoozoo and the whole Onomatopoeia, it’s like they were dope at the time and then you didn’t see them for a while, it’s cool that you were able to do that.

Yeah, to think about it, I kinda wish I did a Part Two to that project right after it. I wish I had, because around that time they were still dope. If I were to do a Part Two now, I don’t know if it would be as good. A lot of them are still making good music, but… it’s not the same.

What do you think about the Blowed now, would you do a project with some of the younger emcees?

Uh, Nocando, and Kail is really dope. I haven’t heard too much of the other ones, but those two definitely.

So did Blowed slip or…

Oh I haven’t been to Blowed in three years, four years probably…as opposed to going every Thursday for five years [laughs]! It wasn’t the same, and it was more of a freestyle spot, instead of people practicing all week to do a show. I had to move on.

And more about the Beneath the Surface project, I actually bought that off you outside of Fat Beats back when it was on Vermont in Silverlake.

Oh word? So we met?

Very briefly, man. Just for a second. I’m gonna name like five songs, and they’re songs that I like, and maybe you can give like two sentences about them – either about the emcees, the process of making the songs, or ideas you had while making it.

No problem

(in)sense

Word, okay that track originally, that was supposed to be for Medusa and St. Mark. And the concept, was like, well Medusa had a concept where she was the Mom, and St. Mark was the baby in the stomach!

That’s ill!

St. Mark’s concept, he wanted to do a song with some Egyptian pharaohs or something… they both had dope concepts but it was taking forever to do the song…

[laughs]

…and at the time I was kicking it with Slant and them, and they’re real cool, and I saw that they were blowing up. I was like, “yo, you want to get on this?” and they were definitely down, knocked the song out. And they were like yeah we got this concept you know each of us is like a sense, and luckily, you know.

Yeah the ‘smell’ verse was crazy.

That was Slant right? I remember that. We did that at Kutmaster Kurt’s house.

You Are In My Clutches

Oh that one, we were doing the Shockadoom project. And I picked up P.E.A.C.E. and we were driving to a studio and I was playing him that beat, and he just started doing the chorus! He started doing the “You are in my clutches”, and I was like “Ah man, we gotta record that shit!” [laughs].

So it was kinda natural then, it just happened…

Yeah it just, I was like check out this beat, and he started doing the chorus? I was like… alright… it’s over. We knocked it out in one take.

The whole thing in one take?

Yeah… in one take.

When the Sun Took A Day Off

That one… [thinking]. It’s funny how that one happened. I had that beat and originally, cause the album took so long to make I was going from studio to studio, I remember at the time I was recording at Fat Jack’s. I mean Acey was up there, I didn’t know him that well then. But he was like “What’s this project you were working on?”, and I was like “I don’t know who’s gonna be on it, but it’s serious.” And then this dude named Orion South

He was partners with Phoenix Orion, right?

Exaactly yeah, they cousins I think. He was like “Yeah, just make us a beat” and I tried to get him on there. I made him that beat, but it was taking forever to knock out so I ended up doing the other song with Orion and Phoenix. And then one day Acey was like “What ever happened?” when we were wrapping up the project. I went to his house to drop off the beat and Jup [Self Jupiter] happened to be there. So I played it, and then he was beneath his breath, doing his rap, and he was like ‘huh, that’ll fit for this one concept! I’ll take a day off’, and then he started doing it, and you know… I was trying to keep cool, but [in my head] I was like “Oh shit, this is the craziest shit I’ve ever heard!” [laughs] And so it kinda happened like that, and they showed up to the studio, and dropped it.

So he did his verse live and it blew you away?

You know I could kinda hear it, I couldn’t hear every word, ‘cause he was kinda doin it under his breath, but I could tell that it was on some next shit. Basically Jup had the verses, and Acey rewrote his to fit the theme.

And what was it about, was it just like a fairytale kind a thing?

It was kind of like a small town where all this crazy shit happens, like a Jup concept of him taking it to another world, and kind of an intro to the album.

OK… how about Farmer’s Market [Farmer’s Market of the Beast] that was another one, with another crazy concept.

That one… that one started out with me hangin’ out with my friend – I was kickin it a lot with Radioinactive at the time, I mean I still do. Not as much as I used to but he was like “Yeah man, we should do this song about animals”, cause he had a goat verse he was working on, and I had laid that beat. And he was like “Yeah, we’ll get my homeboy Awol and Circus on it, and I also told Jizzm to be on it.” So then I was like, “Alright, if we’re gonna do a song with animals, we gotta get Xinxo!” He had already done a song where he was a butterfly, and another song where… he was always doing those type of things [I think there was also a song he did with a cougar on “A Tape From a Stolen Car”]. So originally we went to the studio, Xinxo didn’t show up, and Circus’ verse was three times as long! We recorded it on a reel to reel and the reel ran out! So were like “aw man you gotta do something else!”. So then we went to another studio, and he wrote another verse, which was still long, but not as long, and Xinxo happened to finally show up that night, and it just turned out like that. And at first I didn’t even know what to think of the song, I mean I knew I liked it, but it was so like, weird. [laughs] It was so long, and I was like “If I put this out are people gonna like this?” And so I ended up choosing to put it on there. Luckily I did it.

Yeah it came out amazing. It was weird and then it just grew on me.

Yeah I think it grew on me because, especially Circus’ part, I wasn’t sure about it. But then I played it, and I think Phoenix and them, when he came on, they were like “Oh shit! This is the craziest shit!” People that I didn’t really expect to like it was really pumpin’ it up! So then I started listening to it more, and then I was like “Oh… this is off-the-hook shit.”

OK this last one… BustMustJustUs?

Right, that one was supposed to be an OMD track. But the beat came out so hype that I had to jack it for my album [laughs]. But I was like “2Mex you gotta still be on it” and at the time I don’t think I had done “Sunny Side Up” so I wanted Khule on there. And then, it would have been too short with just two emcees, and I wanted to get Wreccless who at the time was in Hip Hop Kclan still so… he came on that too. So you know get the Afterlifers on there to [rip it]

Are there any other songs on there you wanted to talk about? Those are the ones I had written down…

I mean each song, started out different that what it was intended to be. Who’s Keeping Time? instead of Rakaa Iriscience, it was supposed to be Volume 10.

Oh, that would have been sick! Word. What happened to Volume 10, I’m surprised he wasn’t on that project.

Yeah he was supposed to be on there. Myka Nyne was supposed to be on that too. [laughs] He flaked on the session, he was supposed to have a solo song. He said he showed up to the studio and I wasn’t there but I, I…. I’m not buying that one!

[laughs] Yeah, man.

And… Medusa was supposed to be on the song with St. Mark and J-Smoov. And then that song actually had a cool story.

Oh, Line Posting In Pedro?

I took ‘em…that is San Pedro, hence the name… and in the sky, man, I don’t know what was wrong. There was something going on that day, the sky was totally like pink, and it had all these crazy colors. And St. Mark didn’t have a verse ready. So he was like “alright just turn it on”. He just went down and freestyled for 3 minutes singing! Which is what you hear parts of. And that was the first time… I didn’t even know he sang. And he’s doin’ that shit and I’m like “What the fuck?” It’s crazy. So he just basically sang for three minutes freestyle. J-Smoov ended up saying, “Alright, I gotta rewrite my verse,” after hearing that. So he went back rewrote his verse, and then based on Smoov’s verse, St. Mark wrote a verse with the same pattern as he did. So then the singing is the original freestyle that I chopped up to have an intro, middle, and outro. So there’s an original version, which is him singing throughout the whole thing.

Would you ever release that?

Yeah when I find ADAT’s eventually, I’ll definitely release that.

So anything else you remember about that project?

I think those are the more interesting stories, yeah.

So the last question is about your background as well as your politics. How do you see your role as an Iranian American in hip-hop, and also your role as an artist and the connection between politics and art.

Yeah I mean on Monolith, we did that anti-war song with Bus[driver]… I would try to at least here and there. I mean there’s only so much you can do as a producer, ‘cause you’re not saying words, but that’s another reason that I try to choose the more political cats. Or like even Sach who isn’t… like up front he isn’t political, but he’s real political if you listen to it. Just a lot people with a lot of messages and just try to work with emcees who are on the same wavelength as far as, you know, view of the world and things like that. I try to fit that in but not where it’s too preachy. And as far as my origin, just the fact of using that type of [Middle Eastern] music in there to maybe get people to say, “Oh okay, they got some cool sounds… maybe they’re not a bunch of crazy killers after all!” [laughs]. To show the artistic side of the culture, you know what I’m saying?

Word! So in a way you feel like you might be enlightening people to the culture…

I hope so! I hope so, yeah. And that’s while I’m getting enlightened myself, trying to learn, ‘cause you know I’m still a student and learning too. I’m definitely influenced by that. I was raised here [in the States], so I didn’t get the full spectrum, but…

My friend goes back to Tehran occasionally, do you ever go back there?

No but my brother did a couple years ago they had a great time, and eventually me and my wife want to go visit too, yeah!

Cool, thank you for the interview, it was a real pleasure!




Omid went on to talk more about his next (untitled) project, the documentary film on The Good Life café (which is being produced mainly by Eve from Figures of Speech with additional significant contributions by Omid), as well as the state of the music industry. In the independent game, where somebody like OD has lived solely from making unique music that caters to a globally-scattered niche fan base, it’s becoming harder and harder to get by using the same platform. But ultimately he has been able to succeed with his work and has come even further in developing his sound on Afterwords 3. So pick up this new prelude to future projects, it’s an impressive piece. Also be on the lookout for the Good Life documentary in the works!

Peace,

T.Reynolds