When I’m listening to an artist for the first time, I listen for authenticity, creativity, and passion behind the lyrics and instrumentals. Then, I watch a few of their interviews to look for their sense of purpose, whether it’s within their music or elsewhere. And I definitely found that in, now one of my favorite rappers, Omen of Dreamville Records.
I was introduced to Omen's music during this summer's 2014 Forest Hills Drive tour. Upon first listening to his debut album, Elephant Eyes... The song that really grasped my attention was “Zion,” and that was all that I was really into at first. His flow was reminiscent of Common, fellow Chicagoan rapper, mixed with a little Lauryn Hill, which I liked.
When the DARLA EIC and I were developing the new Darlo column, she suggested I write an article on Omen's video for “LoveDrug” (a song I had completely bypassed when initially listening to the album). I then decided to go back and listen to its entirety in depth this time and… I fell in love with it. Omen presented so many separate powerful messages that all flowed so well in theme from track to track to create an extraordinary, full project. Once the Elephant Eyes tour dates were released along with the “Purple Lights” track, I knew I had to be in New York at Santos Party House on the night of November 18th.
On the night in question, my friend and I left campus at 9pm because she had just finished an exam (side note: the show started at 9pm). We ended up arriving at around 9:40pm, which means we missed J.I.D. of SpillageVillage, but I was curious so I checked out his SoundCloud and he’s pretty legit. He describes himself as a “soft-spoken but intricate lyricist with a cocky side” who’s reminiscent of Kendrick Lamar if he was set in Atlanta’s underground…. And I couldn’t agree more. Every track I checked out reminded me of KDot... But my personal fav was his newest single “Letters." What I loved most about J.I.D. was his goal as an artist; he wants to reimage the stereotypical face of Atlanta rap so people will see the city as a “home to actual talent and not just commercial hitmaking.”
Just as I was trying to find the perfect spot in the crowd upon arrival, I turned around and Omen was approaching the stage less than 5 ft. away from me. I rushed to the closest and most accommodating spot I could find before the show started. And as soon as he started his set, you could sense a humble presence and mellow vibe from him, which made it so easy to connect with him... I guess that’s why people call him "TDK" (turn down king)…
This has to be the lamest generation for partying… the guys just stand and stare at everyone and the girls go to vip to get on their phone and video themselves having staged fun… but what do I know I’m just the turn down king.
But don’t mistake his easygoing aura for weakness, he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with. Before starting any of his sets, he let the crowd know that he was going to be briefing us with background behind each song. As he transitioned from “Things Change” to “Zion”, he let us in on how women have been influencing him throughout his life:
Whether it was my mother, whether it was a girlfriend or a fling--it was always a woman that got me through these steps...
With every song there’s a purpose and Omen gives us messages with each track individually as well as with the album as a whole. Elephant Eyes contains a reflective substance and sense of genuinity that seems to be scant in our generation’s Hip Hop. The track list consists of DARLA’s fav, “LoveDrug” which discusses the issues with social media and how it drives this generation’s need for a deeper connection which facilitates our love for attention... Then there’s “Father Figure” featuring Dreamville labelmate, Bas; even though I can’t relate to the experiences expressed in the song, I can connect with it because of the amazing instrumentals and the candor behind their lyrics.
Next is my new favorite track: “Sweat It Out.” The story cultivation of a sense of innocence and sincerity in falling in love on tour + being paired with Ari Lennox’s AMAZING vocals compels you to keep the track on repeat. During the show he even touched on the organic process it took to make the song (an approach he uses universally with all his music). He first had to send the track to Ari to record her portion. When he got it back he decided that he had to rewrite his verses to better tell the story due to Lennox’s contribution.
“Look through my eyes maybe you can see a riot... Have you ever heard a storm that was quiet?”
The show felt too short… I didn’t want it to end. But, as my friend and I were heading for the door, we see a crowd of people surrounding Omen on the edge of the stage asking for autographs and pictures. I got a picture and an autograph... While I was waiting my turn, I observed Omen interacting with his fans and his fans interacting with him... And of course, there were some people who were there just to prove they were there... But there were some who wanted to talk to him and for those who wanted to talk, he listened. It was kind of like a farewell kickback, in a way. The DJ had music playing and there were good vibes all around.... Redolent of an unofficial meet and greet. I would have personally loved to say how much I appreciated his artistry, but I was a little too starstruck to even get coherent sentences out, so I didn’t even attempt... But this is my way of saying thank you:
Thank you for your authenticity. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for following your dreams. Thank you for treating Hip Hop as an art form. Thank you for having a “why”, realizing your “why”, and living up to it throughout your career. Thanks for being dope — in the least cliche sense of the term. And thank you for Elephant Eyes (the album and the tour).