Om'Mas Keith Helped Make Frank Ocean's Album. He's Far Out
A native of Hollis, Queens, and current resident of Los Feliz, producer Om'Mas Keith broke through with Ice-T signees Raw Breed in 1997, and has since accumulated production and mixing credits on Jay Z's Kingdom Come, Erykah Badu's New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War and Rick Ross' Rise To Power.
He's also a member of Sa-Ra Creative Partners, a hip-hop trio that was Kanye West's first G.O.O.D Music signee. And, oh yeah -- he snagged a couple of Grammys nominations for his contributions to Frank Ocean's Channel Orange. We spoke with Om'Mas over lunch at Delphine's about that album and a whole bunch of other stuff.
How did you originally link with Frank Ocean for Channel Orange?
As is the case with almost all my clients, we started off with a friendly relationship. For a few weeks, there was no work. Michael Uzowuru brought Frank to my house one day. Frank would come over with the Odd Future crew and we'd all just be playing everything for each other. My first observation of Frank was that's a talented brother. I knew something was going on with him. He was very quiet and reserved. At the time, he was playing songs from nostalgia, Ultra before he put it out. So we had a couple listening sessions after our first meeting. And not too long after, he asked me to work on his album.
Did any song from nostalgia, Ultra immediately stand out to you as reason to work with him?
I really liked "American Wedding." It's so crazy how nostalgic energy can trigger you to remember things, you know? What a gutsy move.
That's a relatively unpopular choice in the critical world...
And that immediately makes it the most brilliant shit. That's how you flip it in this business.
You formed your own group Sa-Ra in 2000 with Taz Arnold and Shafiq Hussain. Five years later, you guys signed to G.O.O.D Music. What made you decide to do that?
To further the creativity. We didn't sit around, thinking, "Oh we're going to be so big." We just did us everyday. We would sit around and talk about peace and love all day and Ancient Nubia. That's what Sa-Ra really is, dude. "Ra" as a concept could be literal or ethereal. Instead of dealing with peoples' ideas of organized religion, that was our thing. How energy emits and has sources. What I'm talking about isn't "mystery spooky talk." We're talking about measurable frequencies. It's all science to me.
You speak of energy a lot and peace and justice. Did you discuss these notions with Frank?
We definitely dealt a lot with peace and love as concepts. And wanting to be happy.
Can you describe the day-to-day working with him?
Frank rented a mansion and the purpose of it was for Frank to have somewhere comfortable to record outside of the studio we had been in for a couple months already. The Odd Future kids were always running around. To make a great album, you need to be in different environments and I think Frank knew that. That was a very special time during the making of the album. I think the most memorable things that came out of that place were "Lost" and "Pyramids."