Oswald: Harnessing The Power of Words
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Progressive Man is proud to feature our first ever hip-hop artist, Bay-area based Oswald. While he’s been involved with music for a while, learn how he accidentally fell into rapping and what’s kept him in it. Also, Oswald releases the first ever details for his upcoming EP.
Hey Oswald, thank you for speaking with us today. For those who might not know you, tell us a little about your background and how you first got into music.
Sure, thanks for having me. Yeah, music has always been my thing and I have always listened to a really wide variety of music, but something like seven years ago I started playing drums and that’s when I would say I became a “musician.” After that point, I played in school and tried to start bands with my friends and stuff like that and I didn’t really do much else. Drumming was pretty much my place in music until recently at least.
What was it that made you gravitate towards hip-hop over any other genre?
Honestly, I never thought that I would rap. I used to volunteer at a music venue in Fresno and I got a call from some MC asking if I would play drums for his show. At the rehearsals, I met Dylan Melella, a DJ who was living in Fresno at the time, and we started talking and became friends.
After we did that show I thought it would be sweet to just mess around and put something stupid together, and it became something bigger after that. So far, rapping has been huge for me in the sense that I get to express myself and my ideas and cope with them through music. I don’t know if that sounds lame, or not very Hip Hop, but that’s probably the main reason it didn’t stop after that first song.
Do you draw from various genres when creating music or do you explicitly listen to hip-hop for new ideas? Who are some of the artists you like listening to?
To be real, probably about a fourth of the music I listen to is hip-hop. I love Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Jay- Z, Kanye, and dudes like that, and I would say those guys are the biggest influence on my flow, but beyond that, I don’t really draw from hip hop when putting work together.
I do, however, choose not to rap about stupid shit, which you could say was influenced by the rappers that only spit nonsense.
Off the top of my head, I’ve been listening to some Passion Pit, Lloyd Yates, Title Fight, Have Heart, Citizen, Washed Out, Brand New, and stuff like that. I’m always just listening to a mess of random stuff.
Tell us what went into the making of “Thank For This Life.” Did you work with a producer or did you do all the production work on your own?
I wrote the hook on a piano and then made a beat on my computer just as a skeleton. I took that beat to Dylan and he made a much better mix of it. Only a bar of my production made the final one, but I’m not complaining.
He definitely did a good job putting my ideas into the mix.
You wrote this song for and about your mom and her influence on you throughout your life. Was there any particular incident in your life that inspired you to write it?
That’s a good question. Yeah, my mom and I have always had a tough relationship. We have very similar personalities, but different views on everything. Last year, it got so bad that I ended up moving out of my house and it stayed that way for about six months until I left to college.
It definitely hit my mom hard and I always felt like I hurt her, but couldn’t really talk to her about it. She was always really supportive of my music whether it was drumming or rapping so I decided it would be cool to write her a song.
I had no idea how to put all of the love and thankfulness into words but “Thanks For This Life” was the closest thing I could put together. I visited my mom on Mother’s Day and I told her that I just finished another song and she listened to it for about ten seconds before she realized what it was about, and cried from then on.
Not to sound cheesy, but that was the best thing I’ve done with music so far.
Your music doesn’t exactly fit the mold of most current mainstream hip-hop, lyrically or instrumentally. Whereas most mainstream acts are heavily produced and have fairly superficial lyrical content, your sound is more stripped down and the lyrics are far more substantial. What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop?
I think most rap sucks. Not musically, because I think that’s subjective, but in terms of lyrical content, some rappers use a four minute song to say absolutely nothing.
A lot of rap is just sexism, racism, and homophobia accompanied by some drug references and shitty Lil Wayne laughs.
Even technically good rappers with sick flow still just front and spit bullshit. I’m not trying to sound like Mother Teresa or anything, but I think words are powerful, and people should use them wisely.
You’re currently located in the Bay Area and attending school there. Is there a strong hip-hop community in the school and where you live? Have you had any chances to perform live?
Yeah, I’m going to SFSU right now. I haven’t been there that long but it doesn’t seem to have a huge hip hop scene. The Bay Area has a pretty renowned scene though and I’m stoked to experience that and hopefully be a part of it.
In regards to performing, I’m focusing on putting out a project I’m working on right now before I play any shows.
With 2013 almost in the books, what are your goals for 2014? Are you planning on releasing new music or performing shows? Are there any milestones you’re hoping to reach?
I haven’t been looking at it in terms of years but I’m definitely going to be taking this to the next level in the near future. I’m set to record an EP in the next couple of months.
Timelines aren’t set, but we’ve decided to put the project together at Panda Studios in Fremont. The production quality is going to be miles above what I have put out before.
I haven’t really given any details about the EP, but I guess this would be as good of a time as any. The EP is going to have five tracks all produced by my good friend Ose which is really exciting.
I talked to him a couple of months ago and he really delivered on the kind of instrumentals I was looking for.
Instrumentally, the EP is very Indie Pop inspired. Like I said, I dig bands like Passion Pit and Washed Out a lot and that’s getting captured in the new music.
It’s the first body of music I’ve worked on and I’m beyond stoked to put it out. Shows will come after that.
In the time you’ve been involved in the music scene, what’s one of your favorite memories? It could be a performance or a recording session, anything that really stands out in your mind.
This might not be related at all, but my times in drum-line in high school were some of the best times I have ever had with some of the best friends I will ever have. So shout out to those guys. That’s still music right?
Thank you Oswald! Where can people go to find your music?
As of right now, all of my music is on https://soundcloud.com/oswaldca .