On his recent trip to London, Vanessa Laker caught up with American R&B star Omarion to discuss everything from his unfinished song with Tinie Tempah and why he’d love to work with Shakira, to his new Starworld record label and why he admires Pharrell Williams, all exclusively for The Wrap Up…
Omarion first burst onto the scene in 2001 as the lead singer of teen R&B boy band, B2K. Since leaving the group in 2004, the singer/songwriter gained critical acclaim for his breakaway solo LP ‘O’, which received a Grammy nomination and won a BET Award. Three albums later, the 25-year-old has firmly established himself as a solo artist and has a string of hit movies under his belt.
The Wrap Up: Omarion! How are finding London?
Omarion: It’s awesome, I love it. I love the people, the people love me. It’s like a great relationship.
TWU: You’re currently in the midst of a UK club tour, so how are you finding it so far?
Omarion: I’ve been in London many times, but you know, there’s something special going on right now. The people, they’re so alive! They love to party and when I get on the mic it’s something special. I find that the people here are really optimistic and they’re having a good time and they’re always smiling. Even the fella’s. There’s a lot of love here. Yesterday I was in Nottingham, which was great. But you know what? Birmingham was really up, all the way to the max. The club was huge and the crowd were wild.
TWU: I heard somewhere that you’re working with Tinie Tempah…
Omarion: Let me tell you a really funny, interesting story about Tinie Tempah. I haven’t spoken to him in a while, but the last time I came to London, a mutual friend connected us together. I heard his stuff and I was like, ‘Let’s go to the studio.’ So we started cutting a record and we were vibing. But mind you, it was literally four/five in the morning when we started. So we were kind of way out and I had to catch a flight the next day, but we still started on a concept. I don’t even remember how the track sounded; whether it was wack or dope, but I remember when we left the studio it was morning and bright outside. You know, when I came to the UK this time around, as soon as I landed, his video was the first thing I saw, so to see him successful and really doing his thing, that’s dope! I’m happy for him. So me and Tinie Tempah have kind of sketched in the sky, so to speak. It’s like inevitable. Now we have to a record a track.
TWU: I look forwards to hearing it! Now, even though you’re still young, you’ve been doing music for so many years. Is it still as exciting for you now, as it was, say ten years ago?
Omarion: I think it’s even more exciting now and the reason for that is because I have more tools. What I mean by that is the knowledge. I have more discipline. I have the focus of someone that is 25 (years old) and is actually capable of reaching their goals. There are no boundaries from this point on. When people ask me about music, ‘Yo, what kind of music are you gonna do?’ And I’m like, ‘Is there really boundaries anymore?’ There’s electro, tribal, everything, there’s just no boundaries anymore. Omarian, to infinity and beyond…
TWU: Speaking of musical boundaries, a few years ago R&B music was very soulful and swing inspired, but these days a lot of contemporary R&B is very dance and pop-influenced. Are you a fan on this new direction of R&B?
Omarion: Well, I think there are a lot of subcultures in R&B right now. I kind of stand with what I was saying before, there are really no boundaries. But you know, I really don’t look at R&B like it’s R&B, because the real R&B I would say, is like Luther Vandross. To me, that’s what R&B is. Nowadays I won’t necessarily call it R&B; I would just put it under the ‘soulful music’ category. I love it all. Anything that has a good melody and a catchy hook, I’ll play it.
TWU: At the moment there are quite a few young male solo artists out, such as Chris Brown, Jason Derulo, Taio Cruz, Jay Sean etc. Do you think it’s good to have competition?
Omarion: Oh, I love the competition! But it’s also interesting to watch, because I’ve been in the game for such a while now, when people call me a veteran; I’m just like, ‘WOW!’
TWU: Well you have been doing this for a decade…
Omarion: Well, I mean I understand it. I have so much knowledge now and I’m thinking beyond the music. I look at the Puffy’s and Jay-Z’s; these are the guys I look up to. We’ve seen Puffy create his empire. For me, Pharrell Williams is someone I really, really look up to, he’s given me information that is priceless, the type of information that you could never put a price tag on. He’s someone who’s really broken boundaries. Like, he has a Marc Jacobs jewellery line! He’s breaking through barriers that most people thought couldn’t be done. Bottom line, point blank, Pharrell is such an example for me; I’m almost excited to make someone like him proud, to show him that I paid attention and that I was a good student. These guys have inspired people like me to have dreams that go beyond the music. Dreams that may seem so unreachable, but are achievable. I’ve done a lot at 25, but at 30, there’s gonna be a problem.
TWU: You were only 14 years old when you burst into the scene. A lot of former child stars struggle to make the transition from child star to adult star and tend to go off the rails. How have you managed to stay grounded – and sane – while growing up in the limelight?
Omarion: Good foundation. An awesome mum – a single mum at that. My dad is very knowledgeable. He’s someone that I learned a lot from, even in a distance. A man that can tell his son, ‘I’m almost glad that when you were of age, I wasn’t a part of your life, because you have all my good traits and none of my bad traits.’ For a man to be able to voice his opinion like that, you gotta respect that. I have a lot of respect and love for my dad.
TWU: Throughout your career you’ve worked with quite a few cool artists, but who would you like to collaborate with next?
Omarion: Prince. A lot of people when they ask me that question, it’s always a blast from the past. But there are probably a few (contemporary) artists that I’d wanna work with. It would just have to be done in the right way. Like Shakira, I’d love to do a song with Shakira, the way she moves her body and the way she dances and performs, I’d like to do a song with her!
TWU: Now, tell us a bit about your record label, Starworld Entertainment…
Omarion: First of all, let me first tell you where I got the concept from. A lot of celebrities, if you haven’t noticed, they don’t like to have other stars around them, they wanna be the main person. I don’t really know how to be this way; you kinda just have to look at my background. First and foremost I’m a big brother. I had to learn at an early age how to be selfless, I don’t know how to have some information and not give it away. I don’t know how to not want to inspire people, I wanna help people. So with Starworld, I find untapped talent and help them hone their skills and become stars and a celebrity like myself. It’s a record company and a developing company, we develop artists. It’s a lifestyle. It’s Starworld!
Stay up to date with Omarion on Twitter – www.twitter.com/1omarion
This interview was originally posted on the MTV UK website.