Aural Reports

Beat of a Distant Drummer: Omid the Producer brings Middle Eastern heat to hip-hop

Omid the Producer took the fabled American dream and made a beat out of it.

How does one get started as a hip-hop producer?

In junior high, there was a show on KXLU that played '70s funk and soul. I started taping the show. I noticed samples that were used in hip-hop. Then I noticed stuff that was not used, and I started getting ideas for beats. In ninth grade, I borrowed a sampler from a friend in school. I started using it to make beats for fun. [It started as] a hobby in high school, [then] I just kept doing it. At the end of high school, I went to this open mic [night] called the Good Life. A lot of people came out of that open mic. It was at a time when hip-hop was changing into gangsta and G-funk, but at that open mic, it was creative and artistic, and it inspired me to take it seriously and make beats good enough to be a part of that movement and work with those artists. From there, I went up to the MCs that I liked and gave them a beat tape, and some of them started working with me.

You lived in Iran from when you were 1 year old to 7 years old?

Yeah. I came here, and I didn't speak a word of English. Luckily, I was young so I was able to adapt. I went to magnet schools, which are basically integrated schools. So, from a young age, I was exposed to every type of nationality, which I think was good. At that young age was when I started listening to hip-hop because of breakdancing. That helped me have something in common with fellow students. Music was a bonding thing, growing up.

Has the way you incorporate Persian music into hip-hop taken people by surprise?

Yeah. At the Good Life, I wanted my beats to stand out. One way I thought of was to go through my parents' records and have samples that no one else would use. At the time, it was about who had the rarest records. My only source of unknown music was my cultural music. Listening to those records, I ended up really liking it. Growing up listening to that style really created my tastes. I noticed certain tones and melodies I liked, and I started incorporating [them] into the music. I'm not the only producer who uses Middle Eastern sounds, but I try to go deeper than just finding a novelty sound that sounds cool.

What is it about hip-hop that it's able to absorb so many musical styles?

That's what I loved about hip-hop. I could get some jazz records, Persian records and Brazilian records and make a hip-hop song. It started with people just experimenting with sound.

Do you feel like your work is distinctly different from commercial hip-hop?

Yeah. It took me until 2000 to open my ears to commercial hip-hop. For 10 years, I would shut it off and refuse to listen to it. I was trying to focus on artistic and innovative hip-hop. But I realized that in my quest to be open-minded, I was being closed-minded.

You live in Long Beach now?

I've been living here for three years. I met my wife, who was living in Long Beach, and I started coming down here. I really liked the vibe—a lot of creative people and cool musicians. Long Beach is, like, the perfect place for me right now. It's not a huge scene, which is also cool, because you can grow, but there are a lot of cool artists to collaborate with.

You've made some international appearances recently?

Yeah, I did a tour all over Europe, [including] all over Italy with a troupe that choreographed experimental dances to my music, which was really interesting and different. The troupe is really into underground hip-hop. The main guy—his name is also Omid—one of his students showed him my CD, and he really got into it and started using it in their performances. One day, he contacted me, and he came out here, and we met. It just grew from there.

Do you have any local favorites?

My favorite place in Long Beach is El Dorado Park. You go there, and you think you're in the mountains. That's my favorite place to get away from everything.

FOR MORE INFO, GO TO WWW.MYSPACE.COM/OMIDHIPHOP AND WWW.OMIDPAGE.COM. VISIT WWW.ARTISTDRIVEN.COM AND SEARCH "OMID" FOR RARE MP3S.

Omid the Producer took the fabled American dream and made a beat out of it.

How does one get started as a hip-hop producer?

In junior high, there was a show on KXLU that played '70s funk and soul. I started taping the show. I noticed samples that were used in hip-hop. Then I noticed stuff that was not used, and I started getting ideas for beats. In ninth grade, I borrowed a sampler from a friend in school. I started using it to make beats for fun. [It started as] a hobby in high school, [then] I just kept doing it. At the end of high school, I went to this open mic [night] called the Good Life. A lot of people came out of that open mic. It was at a time when hip-hop was changing into gangsta and G-funk, but at that open mic, it was creative and artistic, and it inspired me to take it seriously and make beats good enough to be a part of that movement and work with those artists. From there, I went up to the MCs that I liked and gave them a beat tape, and some of them started working with me.

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