Interview - Oren Major
One day I was talking to my cousin & sister about music. Now they're both 10 years older than me so they have a significantly different view towards music than I do. One topic that we were stuck on for a while was the concept of Music Streaming.
With most things in life, there are pros and cons to everything. If my sister or cousin read this. Yes, I agree that having streams directly account to charts are dumb. Having Ed Sheeran all over the Top 40 charts is mad and silly to look at.
BUT. As a counter to that. Without streaming, I wouldn't have discovered the man I talked to for this interview. Without streaming, most of the artists I have talked to on this here site wouldn't have the platform they have now. So overall, despite the chart poisoning which, thinking about it, I never really cared for, Streaming is a blessing for me. Which brings me to my interview for this article...
I was browsing Spotify, (or Deezer, I forget which) just looking around, looking for some random music to get into and I stumble upon an album named "Blinded by Ambition" by Oren Major. It stuck out from the crowd visually, it was classed as Hip-Hop, so I gave it a crack. Fast forward a couple of months to last week where I was listening to 'Spice', a track off the album and I said to myself, "Why haven't I asked this guy for an interview yet?". (That's literally my process by the way, hitting them up and simply asking. Don't ask, don't get.) So I asked, he was more than up for it and then came a conversation talking about Mr Major's beginnings, inspirations and, of course, his Top 5.
So. Without further ado. My talk with Oren Major. (Real name by the way. I know, boss birth name)
C: So I like to start with beginnings, where did all begin for you?
O: So I was born in St Louis and I live in Atlanta now. The music for me started as poetry. Growing up I would write a lot. I didn't talk to a lot of people, I didn't have many friends besides family growing up so I would be in class all day just writing random rhymes. I still got most of the books today somewhere. Then around 9th Grade I recorded my first song. It was... It sucked. I was just mimicking being a rapper, shouting all the time but a year later about 10th Grade I started recording music, since then that's all I've been doing.
C: So 9th, 10th Grade, what age is that?
O: About 15.
C: Okay, so how old are you now?
O: I'm 24 now.
C: Ah right so 9, nearly 10 years?
O: Yea pretty much. I got serious about it around 4 years ago. Getting serious about my craft, my style. Before it was just poetry, if it sounded good I'd record it but now it's more deep. Thinking about what am I influenced by, what message am I trying to send across. Now it's an art form to me and not just a hobby.
C: So when you were doing the poetry was that just a form of expression or just to cure boredom?
O: It was more like to vent. I had a lot of random poetry but a lot of it was to do with was going on around me. Whether it was my family, my dad not being around, the environment I was in. It was just a way for me to create a different world. My album "Blinded By Ambition" reaches back into that time.
C: So a form of escapism.
O: Pretty much.
C: So you started taking it seriously around 4 years ago. What brought that about? What was your situation at that point? Did you wake up one day and say "I want to do this professionally"? O: Well it wasn't the professional aspect that made me shift my mind it was the fact that I was making music, listening back to it and asking myself "Would I listen to it if I wasn't me?" The answer was no. So I was like if I wouldn't even listen to it then why would I make it? The people that inspire me, the music I was listening to, I didn't sound like them at all. So that was it, if I was going to make music, I was going to make music that can influence people the right way. Give them some knowledge that they can take instead of just creating some forgettable club track.
C: I've asked other artists this and they all had the same answer. You kind of already have. You didn't want to compromise your artistic integrity to gain some cheap popularity?
O: No. If there's a certain beat or something where I feel like they could give off the wrong vibe, I simply won't participate.
C: So you produce your own beats?
O: Yea I produce as well. For my album, first of all I mixed it all myself. Then I produced 4 tracks on there. "The Water", "Power Up", "Blinded By Ambition" & "Flash Tha Watch". I have a team of producers that helped me out with the album. We all went to High School together.
C: That's cool. So that squad you have. Is that like a Production team? What's the dynamic?
O: I like to think of it as a team. When I was doing my 2nd mixtape "Days of Noah". The concept was a 40 days, 40 nights. Then the concept grew as I went along. Because I only hanged around certain people, they're all artistic. So Noah in The Bible, all he had was his family and that's how I saw my situation. I have my creative family but I also have my actual family who are also creatives as well. My mother sings, my sister sings, all of my family plays instruments so that brought the family element into it. So going back, the 40 Days & Nights turned into "DON40" which is the name of our team. It's not set in stone but we plan to create an independent label for creatives, creating another family.
C: So you a STL native and now live in the ATL. D'you take inspiration from the "Dirty South" at all?
O: Maybe a bit. I have so many different influences. My first was Stevie Wonder, I listened to him all day in Elementary School. John Legend, Ludacris. Ludacris was probably my biggest "Dirty South" influence growing up. Of course Lil Wayne but I'd say my biggest influences would have to be a mix of Kanye West, Wonder and Neo-Soul artists like Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Lauryn Hill. Those were the people I was listening to. So when I said that I was making music that sounded nothing like the people I was listening to. Those were the people that made me think about what messages I was sending. Also Alabama Shakes. Heard of them?
O: My taste is all over the place clearly! A bit of everything.
C: Nah I respect that! I find that the best artists are the ones that have a large palette for music.
C: So are you lucky enough to do this exclusively for a living?
O: I would love love love to be doing this for a living but right now i'm in the process of trying to make that happen. Right now I got three jobs, four jobs at one point, just trying to get everything I need. Helping other people out like Ghost Leon [featured on the album] he's actually my roommate now. I'm trying to put together a tour for the summer, visit the places I'm most listened to on Spotify. The goal is to be doing music exclusively in the next two years.
C: I didn't tell you 'Spice' is my favourite song.
O: That's your favourite?
C: Yea I've had it in my rotation for a while.
O: That was the last song we did for the album. Honestly, we just made the song because we felt like making a song. Started and finished it in an hour or two. Just played the beat and rapped whatever.
C: Ah well it’s hot! Especially considering you did it in an hour or so. Since we’re on the subject of ‘favourites’, I end every interview with a simple question. What’s your Top 5?
O: So, in no particular order. Kanye would be number one.
C: No particular order huh!?
O: Okay, Kanye, absolutely number 1, after that! No particular order! Jay- Z, I think people sleep on Jay now to be fair.
C: Yea I’m a culprit. I love “Reasonable Doubt” and “The Blueprint” but everything else I don’t have the urge to listen to. But that’s just me. Continue.
O: Damn it’s hard to think. Kendrick Lamar. I gotta add [Lil] Wayne. “2013 on down” Wayne. Last one…
C: Last one is always the hardest.
O: I got three!
C: That’s why! It’s then deciding on who you’re leaving out more than anything.
O: So, for how I’m feeling right now. Lupe Fiasco.
C: Okay! I like that.
O: What’s yours?
C: Ah knew you would. For a previous interview, I gave my All-Time. So, for this I’ll go with right now. Kendrick, Little Simz, Kano, Joey Bada$$ and I’ll throw in J.Cole.
O: Okay. Nice.
C: That concludes it. Much appreciated for participating!
O: Thank You. Hopefully I’ll make a visit to the UK at some point.
C: Looking forward to it!
Much love again to Oren Major for participating, if you want to listen to Oren’s album “Blinded By Ambition”, give it a listen below. Thanks for reading.