by Alex Shtaerman
While few can argue that Hip-Hop has undergone some drastic changes over the past decade and a generation gap has emerged within the culture, it is a rare event when someone actually tries to bridge the divide. In today’s world it seems like many of us are just waiting to indulge in the next celebrity outburst, which, of course, is neither healthy nor helpful. In 2008 many Hip-Hop artists from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s might tell you that they are feeling underappreciated, and in many cases they may have a very valid point to make. But while respect for our veterans and pioneers is essential, what can we say for the current generation of MCs? Well, how about we let them speak for themselves and see what they say? Recently RiotSound.com did just that as we caught up with up and coming Bay Area artist Oktayne. Born in 1987, Oktayne was not even alive when KRS One dropped his seminal classic Criminal Minded in 1986, yet what he has to say about Hip-Hop is insightful, interesting and shows that sometimes the best way to see where someone is coming from is to just listen to what they have to say. Set to release his debut album Self-Explanations later this year, Oktayne reflects on the current state of Hip-Hop and talks about what it’s like for a Hip-Hop artist coming up in 2008. Sometimes older folk need some perspective too, so if you’re over 30 make sure you read this.
RIOTSOUND.COM: Regardless of what people may say, it is clear that in 2008 Hip-Hop is a different animal than it was in the 80’s and the 90’s. Do you, as a young artist, see it that way? Or do you feel that a lot of the older folks might not fully understand what people from the younger generation are doing and that’s why we see some of the tensions these days between the older and younger generations in Hip-Hop?
OKTAYNE: Well, artists today are very different than before if you consider all the new trends and the stuff going on in the game right now. You can tell that everything is not the same way it used to be and that’s the reason why, you know, certain artists might think Hip-Hop is dead. And the reason for that may be because things are not the same. Things are changing and many artists is not used to change. But not all change is good change though. The younger generation – and talking about even people who are younger than me, who are listening to music – they’re only going to be used to what they hear, currently. In many cases the young generation is only going to listen to what they’re used to listening to.
RIOTSOUND.COM: When you were young you had two loves musically, Hip-Hop and R&B. You chose to really stick with Hip-Hop right before the passing of Tupac Shakur. What was it about Tupac and his music, as far as the effect it had on you growing up?
OKTAYNE: It’s like this, Tupac was, to me, the most creative artist of all time. The thing about Tupac is that he was never afraid to speak his mind. He didn’t bite his tongue for nobody and that’s what I really liked about him too. He always spoke his mind, whether it was in his music, in interviews, anything…
RIOTSOUND.COM: Looking back on it in retrospect, what do you feel was the ultimate effect of his death?
OKTAYNE: It was a big loss for music. With anybody that’s in the music game that sold well and the public accepts them the way [they did 2Pac]; overall that’s a very big loss.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You first started rhyming in the 8th grade; as far as your career in music, how did things progress from that point forward?
OKTAYNE: When I first started it was more like a hobby. I started with freestyling, I didn’t really write any rhymes till later on. I started off with just freestyling. I wrote my first rhyme in 2004, 2005, something around there and then I recorded my first song in 2005.
“young kids will look at it like Ice T is being
the hater. They’re not going to look at it like
Ice-T is this legend speaking out because he
knows what real music is, which is actually
true, but the younger generation is not
going to to look at it like that”
RIOTSOUND.COM: For fans that haven’t had a chance to hear your music, how would you describe your sound and also the subject matter of your lyrics and what you represent?
OKTAYNE: What I like to tell people who want to have an interest in my music – I tell ‘em like, I’m not an everyday artist but what I do is I talk about what I want to talk about. I have a vast area, I speak on a lot of things. There are times when I just want to have fun and then there are other times when I just want to let my heart out on the track. These days, for example, there are artists that speak about the type of problems they have with their parents and stuff like that; people do that all the time. A perfect example of that would be Beanie Sigel and Eminem. But what I’m trying to say is not a lot of people speak about what’s going on with the whole family – nobody’s talking about that aspect.
I mean, yea it’s cool to talk about having fun in the club. I’m not going to be hypocrite because I do have some of those type of songs too. What I’m trying to say is; artists need to just broaden their horizons and speak on more stuff. Don’t have a CD of just partying all the way through the whole CD. And that’s why in the Bay Area, where I stay, the Hyphy movement met its demise because it was overdid. A lot of Hyphy albums were just Hyphy.
RIOTSOUND.COM: So you’re saying it became a bit one dimensional…
OKTAYNE: Yea, a lot of rap music today is one dimensional. Like, look at new artists like Soulja Boy and whatnot. The biggest trend right now is if you create a dance step you got a hit.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You’ve already dropped several mixtapes and have been working for some time to build up your buzz. With the internet being at the center of everything nowadays, things in music have changed so rapidly. How does that affect an artist such as yourself, as far as what you do on a day to day basis in moving your career forward?
OKTAYNE: The internet has played such a big role in the sense that it has made it a lot easier for you to network with people. And that goes for networking with any people you need to talk to as far as press, collaborations, interviews or anything else. It makes it a lot easier. You could email somebody and they could email you back faster than they would return a phone call because they got calls pilling up on top of calls. And that’s the positive part about it. The negative part about the internet is that record sales are not the same no more. That’s the only difference. In the world of selling albums nobody really goes platinum anymore, except rarely here and there.
RIOTSOUND.COM: You are also presently working on your first full length album, Self-Explanations. How far along is the project at this point?
OKTAYNE: It’s actually almost done, I have to go into the studio and finish about five more songs. Then after that we’ll get the project mixed and mastered and get it ready for distribution. I’m looking to release it kinda soon but if things don’t go exactly according to plan I’m going to push it back just a little bit, it will still be this year though. What I’m trying to do with this album is basically keep my subject matter on a wide range, I have a range and I want to show people that. I got singles, I got songs that a dude could play for they woman, I got songs that would make people cry and also I got songs about actually dreaming of being a rapper; so it’s all different stuff. And I think that’s the way it should be. A lot of artists that I had listened to [and have been a fan of] had different sides. When I first heard Jay-Z, he had a lot of different sides and he’s like one of the biggest artists of these past two generations. Another [MC] who was an influence to me was Nas. The way his lyrics are set, he could make a song about anything but the lyrics would be perfect.
“people need to stop being lazy with lyrics.
even some of the people that’s been around
for a minute, not all of them, just like a few,
they starting to get lazy with lyrics just
because they’ve been around”
RIOTSOUND.COM: Since you are from a younger generation of artists, I have to ask you, what did you think about the whole war of words between Ice T and Soulja Boy?
OKTAYNE: Basically I was just watching the Soulja Boy YouTube video where he was [replying to Ice T] and I looked at it like dude was talking hella ignorant. I also looked at it as – since I am from a younger generation – that yes, [Soulja Boy’s] music is bad but he’s having success and the way young kids will look at it is like Ice T is being the hater. They’re not going to look at it like Ice T is this legend speaking out because he knows what real music is, which is actually true, but the younger generation is not going to look at it like that. If I was Ice T I would of said it in a different way. ‘Cause obviously Soulja Boy took it as a sign of disrespect, ‘cause of the way he was [talking back].
RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could snap you fingers and change any one aspect of Hip-Hop today, what would it be?
OKATYNE: Man, I think it would be lyrics, people need to stop being lazy with lyrics. Even some of the people that’s been around for a minute, not all of them, just like a few, they starting to get lazy with lyrics just because they’ve been around and they feel they can do that, ‘cause, you know, they got they name.
RIOTSOUND.COM: What should all the fans be looking for as far as Oktayne goes in the near future?
OKTAYNE: Well, what I’ve got coming up is a mixtape called Self Explanatory Volume 1. I’m going to be putting that out probably during August, and that’s to promote the album Self-Explanations. As far as the album I’m looking at October 14th [as a release date], but if that don’t work out I’ma push it back close to my birthday, which is in December. I’m probably also going to release a Self Explanatory Volume 2, also promoting the album. And that’s it for what I got coming right now until I get some artists on my roster.
RIOTSOUND.COM: If you could pick any three producers in the world to work with on your next album, who would they be?
OKTAYNE: Timbaland, number one is Timbaland. Number two, I would have to say Mannie Fresh. And [third], the most innovative producer/MC in my opinion, Kanye West.
For more news and info on Oktayne stay tuned to www.MySpace.com/TheRealOktaynePage