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Touching Bass: Iman Omari

Before stringing together half an hour of mostly self-produced tracks, we caught up to chat about MTV Music Maker, the influence of his surroundings and whatever good music is.
November 22, 2013, 11:00am

L.A. singer/producer Iman Omari has been slow-cooking his spacey, mosaic textured R&B dreamscapes at the radar's edge for a couple of years now. The 23 year old embodies the carefree nature of his hometown with leftfield neo soul. His latest album(VIBE)rations develops on that with greater musical flamboyance and a set of collaborations with close friends. Before stringing together half an hour of mostly self-produced tracks, we caught up to chat about MTV Music Maker, the influence of his surroundings and whatever good music is.

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YNTHT: Hey Iman, how old were you when you made “Picture Book Memories”?

Iman: When I recorded that joint I was 17. Right now, I’m 23 years old.

So you’ve been making music for how long?

My whole life. I started professionally doing music when I was 11.

What were you using?

I used to use Fruity Loops and knew how to download and take software off of the internet when I was really young. Actually the very first production software was for the PlayStation One. You remember that shit? There was a video game by MTV and it was called MTV Music Maker. I’d seen it been used but they were selling in Blockbuster for about $10 so I asked my mum if I could buy it. We’re talking about making beats with a controller.

That was like the first console. So was around the time of “Picture Book Memories” that you started to form your own sound or was it earlier?

There was this production crew that I wasn’t necessarily a part of but affiliated with. This group called Wood Works out of Inglewood, California. In fact the guy that produced that track is actually a very good friend of mine called Tiffany Gouche. That was me just recording. It was like rehearsing.

When was the first time that you made something and was like, “yeah, this is my sound”?

Years and years ago man. This sound that everyone has suddenly got on, I’ve been doing this. Even with “Picture Book Memories”, that was a demo for somebody else but I just ended up putting it for myself. I would do a song like that and then do a song like “Outta Time”. Those songs were made around the same time except that I made “Outta Time” in its entirety. There’s definitely a vast difference between the two.

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How big of an influence is your home town?

It’s a big influence on me man. If you want to go and see some of the best producers, you go to the West Coast. Right now, I feel we’re the most melodic and innovative. When I talk about the East Coast, I feel like they are more lyrical. These cats can rap forever but I’m talking about compelling lyrics. We have those kinda cats like Kendrick Lamar, Ill Camille and Ab Soul but there’s a lot more dope MCs in NYC than there are in LA.

And that’s a direct bi-product of the surroundings?

Yeah, definitely.

I’ve been to NY, but not LA. Some of my friends that have gone there have said how free and liberating it is as a region.

Most definitely. A lot of artists come out to the west to create. A guy that you guys actually interviewed, Knxwledge, he’s from the East Coast but he lives in the west. That’s where he gets down and cultivates all that dope shit that he makes. I’m telling you, it’s a vibration in LA that cultivates creativity. When I want to make money and it’s time to capitalise on my intellectual property, I come to NY or anywhere on the East Coast.

How much does weed help with that.

WEED HELPS TREMENDOUSLY! I was living out in New Jersey for about a year and a half. I remember waking up every morning and being like “damn, I need to find some weed”. That’s the medication.

Ha, weed is good. Does it stimulate you to make music?

I’m a very high energy kind of guy. Weed gets me in a relaxed state. I can be like Mozart. He was a psychopath but if he’d had some weed to hone in on his music. I use it as a means to help me focus. A lot of people view it as the opposite but it helps me hone in on what I’m doing. It’s incredible.

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What drives you to create?

At this point it’s really just my love for music. I see so many cats being able to make money off of making bullshit. Forgive me, but I’m just a frank person. There’s a lot of cats that make dope music but they’re afraid to put it out because the mass majority of people, quote unquote, won’t like it. I’m a firm believer in ‘I’m the musician so I give the consumer what they need.’ I tell them what they want to hear which is the harder route. But every morning I wake up and know I’m making music that is relevant opposed to doing some selfish shit and making music that is consistent with whatever time we’re in presently.

Like a disciple of good music?

Respect.

Slowly, people are becoming more conscious of your sound. How does that feel?

It feels great because for many years I had a lot of opposition from people that were in my immediate vicinity. I was really a stickler for music that would just make me feel good. If it’s not fun to me then why am I doing it? It feels good because it’s coming from the right place.

Where were you when you were making “The Beach”?

When I was living out in New Jersey, I’d been out with Overdoz at this event called Bamboozle but I’d never been to a beach out in New Jersey. It was a really dope experience because there were 1000s of people that were obliterated and wasted. I saw Skrillex perform and it was crazy. Then I go back home and I still feel that way so I made that beat.

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Energy was a game changer for me, but how long were you working on it for?

I was working on it for about a year. Not consistently, but each song was at different time periods and with different feelings. I’m the type of artist that when I feel a certain way, that’s when I make music. So that was like a compilation of the way I was feeling over that year. It was funny because when I was making Energy, my whole idea was to make something for people to be able to relate to. I tend to be very left field, so I was trying to be in a happy medium between artistic music and right, commercial music.

What’s happening with Knxwledge?

Knxwledge is my brother, man. I talk to him all the time. There have been talks about doing a joint project. I know there’s a lot of people out there that want to see that but I need to push him because Knxwledge is kinda like a hermit. I have to go to his house to make music. That’s my boy though. He’s pretty much one of my favourite producers. If Knxwledge is Dilla then I’m like Madlib because when Jaylib came out, it was a game changer. With me and him we’re looking to change the game because he’s already pushing a million different projects that are all crazy.

15TB worth to be exact.

Yeah, he’s nuts. He has all types of shit.

Do you get influenced by movies?

Of course, I get influenced by everything. Sometimes it’s the dumbest things like watching my friend eat a burger.

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Onto the last project, how long did it take to put together (VIBE)rations?

About the same amount of time as Energy. It was the same thing, basically a timeline of everything that happened in music form.

What are you listening to at the moment?

I listen to a lot of beats. Knxwledge, Ohbliv, Jonwayne. A million people. As far as other music, I love jazz, R&B. I just like good music.

Good music is the genre. What kind of stuff did you go for with the Touching Bass?

Man, it’s mainly going to include stuff that I’ve produced but I’m gonna throw a couple of joints on there from cats that I really like.

Go to town with it; it’s your blank canvas.

I’m excited to do it. Especially because I’m out in Brooklyn. I’m gonna catch some of these vibes and put it into my mix.

Follow Errol on Twitter @Errol_And

Listen to more Touching Bass:

TOUCHING BASS: KNXWLEDGE

TOUCHING BASS: SYNKRO