O-Slice: A Creative Spark for the DMV Region [Interview]

Bucking global trends and staying true to her DMV and Nigerian roots, O-Slice made waves in 2020 and is well-positioned to make 2021 a breakout year for herself and her team. She’s an uber-talented rapper with an All Star work ethic and clear vision for her future. There’s no telling how high she can reach. 

She sees herself in the same lane as Aminé and Tierra Whack, a pair of artists that center their creative vision over everything else. There’s no compromising with O-Slice; she gives everything her all and she isn’t afraid to experiment.

“Music is what most people know me for,” she said. “But I write poetry, I paint, I direct films, I’m really into fashion, so I wanna use music as a vehicle to get to all the other destinations that I really wanna excel at as well. Even acting low-key, I wanna try everything.”

Photo credit: Sanglui Azang-Njaah

“I’m a multidimensional individual. I just want people to get that. People initially want to see me as a conscious artist, and it’s like no, I’m a little ignorant too. I’m this super technical rapper, but I like to have fun too.”

While her Blue Room performance blew up on Twitter to the tune of several hundred thousand views, she was also able to produce another installment of her Inner Circle show, a concert dedicated to uplifting the art of her community. While the show had to be converted to a virtual format this year, it was still successful, with many of the region’s talented artists taking the stage.

O-Slice at Inner Circle 5 (credit: Eugene Maddy)

While 2020 challenged everyone, O-Slice was a beam of inspiration throughout the year, providing the blueprint for doing your best even in the most difficult times.

“This year has essentially been perseverance and just understanding how to analyze and pivot when necessary,” she said. “I had a lot of plans for this year, and the way that the world has gone both externally and internally for me personally, it has just shaken up everything that I wanted to do.”

One of those plans may have been her full-length debut. Before 2020, she’d only released a handful of singles, which tell a brief story of herself as an artist. This year, she’s looking to add to that with a debut album.

“It’s coming together well, we’re currently in the mixing stage,” she said. “Producing the music is … super important, so I’m just trying to make sure everything I have, all the intention it was made with, makes it to the audience.”

She made it clear that the product will be impressive, citing Solange and Frank Ocean as artists she’s been listening to lately.

“A lot of the music I’ve been holding on to touches so many genres,” she said. “I like to experiment. I like to be a chameleon and try different sounds, so I think with the project that I’m coming out with now it could be the first major introduction to that.”

A Nigerian-born, Maryland-raised artist, she’s excited to bring the sounds of her roots to a bigger stage. 

“My producer, VicGotEmBouncin, he’s also Nigerian, so now there’s a wave coming out of Nigeria that we really love,” she says. “I’m just really big on live instrumentation and really big on percussion and just how music makes you feel.”

The tenets of live instrumentation and percussion are compatible between Nigerian and go-go music, the soul of DMV music.

“There’s no way that you can grow up in this area and not have at least an appreciation for go-go — if not a deep, deep, deep love for go-go,” she says. “I highkey think that’s why the music from this area is as eclectic and wide-ranging as it is, because from the beginning our ears were trained to like stuff that was a little off-kilter.”

“When other people hear go-go, a big majority of them hear noise. When we hear go-go, we hear the pocket, the groove, we hear the sonics, we hear the instruments, we hear all of the different pieces that make it great. So we just carry that on, and our listeners and creators are more susceptible to do things on a more experimental level. I love go-go so much, I grew up on go-go. I want to see it continue to build and thrive, and it definitely influenced me.”

Go-go’s exciting intricacies have certainly rubbed off on the musicians of the region, creating a community of artists that sport distinctive, exciting perspectives on music-making.

“I think we’re criminally underrated. We as a community are starting to understand the things that we need to do to bring that to an end, so I’m very excited for people to hear me and say ‘woah where is she from?’ I wanna be a bridge to people’s introduction to the area, so they can understand the level of insane talent we have.”

Photo credit: Eugene Maddy

Being that bridge is important to her. She understands that for the DMV to shine on a national and global stage, the artists that make it out have to dedicate themselves to supporting newer generations of creators — something she’s proven she’s serious about through her annual Inner Circle show. 

“I don’t know exactly what that looks like because it looks different in every city,” she says. “[It’s] people of influence in the industry being from this area and being able to just bring the next generation outta here. I feel like we’re still building that.”

Another aspect to that is independence — she’s seeing a movement of artists that are deciding not to get signed so they can keep their creative freedom.

“The ones that really want to have creative control, that’s the route. I feel like from the major, you have to either come in being super, super, super crazy creative, and that’s a part of your brand for them to let you run with that. Or you have to become super, super successful and get creative control back. And it’s like ‘hmm yeah, I’d rather just be me.” 

That’s the best way to understand O-Slice is alongside her art. She’s relentlessly creative, loyal, and talented. All that combined with a strong work ethic, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see O-Slice’s name alongside artists like Aminé, and Tierra Whack within a year or two.

Photo courtesy of Sanglui Azang-Njaah

Many thanks to O-Slice and HYERlearnin for setting up this interview, and best of luck to O-Slice going forward! Catch up with her on IG and all streaming services.

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