Artist Spotlight: Big O (2013)
Hip Hop Dependency is designed to support artists that I believe in, and I can’t think of too many more artists that I support more than Big O. I am a fan of Big O because he brings that raw boom-bap unfiltered to headphones everywhere. He’s got a gritty flow and a hunger to rock these lines for the people which you just don’t hear anymore.
Today also marks the release of his new album Gravel Engravement which can be found online anywhere and everywhere they sell albums. And while I may have gotten the album title twisted in the interview below., I didn’t get this twisted: This album bangs!
So check the interview below and make sure you ride with the homie Big O and cop that album. If you like that head nod flavor, you are going to enjoy this.
HHD: As an artist you are rooted in that boom-bap mentality, so I am curious, when you were coming up, before you started rhyming, who were your musical influences?
Big O: My main musical influences are the same as I would feel any1 in theirs early 30’s (I’m 31 years old) should be, the Kool G. Rap, KRS-ONE’s, Big Daddy Kane’s, Rakim, Public Enemy of the worlds to begin with and then theres the influx of the 90’s influences which would range from your Mobb Deep, Wu Tang, Cella Dwellas, Cormega, Tragedy Khadafi, Nas, The Roots, I mean I can go on and on with the 90s era, but truthfully right now there are a lot of dope up and coming mcs that influence me now more than ever and 3 of them that come to mind are my homie Doc Remedy, who is a local mc here out of Cleveland Ohio and we have a crew together called Prhymal Rage, but 2 of the other mcs who currently influence me as well are Adlib and Godilla, who are also both personal friends of mines.
HHD: At what age did you yourself start rhyming? How did that evolve to the point you could be an emcee and make a profit off of your skills?
I started rhyming at the age of nine in 1994, and basically to paraphrase it when I moved to Cleveland Ohio on a permanent basis as a kid, I found a Cold Chillin vinyl of Kool G Rap’s “Ill Street Blues”, My mother had a record player so when I put that record on play, in a snap I became hooked and open to this Hip-Hop thing.Over those years I obviously kept honing my skills, around 17 I got serious to pursue Hip-Hop for profit purposes, to see how far I can take it but back then it was very difficult for someone to give me a chance, so I quickly got disillusioned so around 18 I quit pursuing the “Hip-Hop” dream as I call it, lived the “normal” life, whatever that is, but mines consisted of working & spending my paycheck on strippers at the time and getting drunk being a failure at life & didn’t come back to it until I turned 27 years old in 2009 because I got tired of listening to the garbage local rappers that would give me their “mixtapes” at random places like gas stations & corner stores, so I decided then to take it serious again & do it under my own terms and around here in Cleveland Ohio, barely a few people do BoomBap, straight in your face Hip-Hop. I feel I have that to provide, so I been doing it on a serious basis since then. I’ve yet to see a large sum of profit off it, I still work a regular job and I’m not ashamed to admit that and fund whatever I have to fund by saving up money on the side which isn’t much of a problem. I don’t have kids so that helps a lot, but at the end of it all, for someone just to say that I’m dope or that my stage show is dope or whatever, at the moment its all that matter to me. Anything profit-related I feel will set itself accordingly.
HHD: When people think of hip hop hotbeds, Ohio isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind. For those of us who don’t know, tell us from your vantage as an artist, what the hip hop scene is like in Ohio.
Big O: Well I cant speak for overall in Ohio but I can speak for Cleveland, I love where I’m from, let me first say that, but the scene is the same as it would be in another major city, from my experience, you got the good people, whether I feel they’re wack or dope, and then you got the egomaniacs. I honestly try not to get involved into the local scene as much because I’m already a misfit trying to do traditional boombap music in Cleveland, so I try to venture out to the East Coast (PA/NY) areas as often as I can or just venture out of the state in general for live shows. As far as Ohio overall, Salute guys like Copywrite, Blueprint, Stalley, G.Huff & his producer Vice Souletric,and my homie Caine who I feel represent the state of Ohio as a whole correctly and their catalogue speak for themselves. The talent is here in the state, but people have to sift through the bullshit to find it.
HHD: Gravel Engagement has been a long time coming. I think I have heard you mentioning it on social networks well over a year ago. In an era were people (artists) are dropping albums/mixtapes/EPs on a six month basis, did you purposefully take your time with Gravel Engagement or was that just how it happened to transpire?
Big O: Yo, gotta say real quick, the album is named “Gravel Engravement” not Gravel Engagement. But to answer the question, I recorded the 19 song album in about 3 weeks, I’m a very quick worker because I record myself at my home set up I have and I despise recording myself but don’t trust anyone else to record me because I’m neurotic like that. I honestly sat on the album for 2 years because, as a do-it-yourself independent artist, the personal can outweigh the musical aspect of things sometimes. It almost became shelved because I was that frustrated at one point but this past summer I was able to balance out some things and I started doing the saving up money thing because I absolutely refused to take financial shortcuts or panhandle on kickstarter because I find stuff like that repulsive and corny .It wasn’t anything I did on purpose, just a matter of stars had to be aligned.
HHD: Damn. Don’t know how I got that album title twisted. A lot of people will get their first listen to Big O when Gravel Engravement drops, but this is not your first project. Talk about your previous releases and how Gravel Engagement differs from those projects. How have you grown as an artist from your first project to now?
Big O: My very 1st project was in May 2010 which is called “Execution Seazon” and that album set off a lot of door opening for me. A lot of support I have from whatever little fanbase I do have, its because of that album, even tho I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and I just wanted to put together a self produced quality project, Most of the feedback I get, people seem to like that album. At that time I was really hungry to just put something out on the internet digitally for free and to pass out locally at shows in cd format. In January of 2012 I dropped my 2nd Free album entitled “The Delegation” and by that time I wanted to drop more introspective music and give a little more piece of myself as Orlando the man vs Big O aka “the guy who does boombap hardcore rap from Cleveland Ohio”. Again, from all the copies I’ve sold or passed out or whoever has downloaded that album, I got good feedback as well. Gravel Engravement really doesn’t differ or stray out of the formula I try to stay with other than I worked with just one producer in 4th Assassin. I feel the “Gangstarr aspect” of Hip-Hop is missing as well, just one MC and one producer, so I wanted to display an album like that. Gravel Engravement is a tough project in my own opinion from top to bottom, the features are solid, and if I’m not talking about punching you in the face, I have conceptual songs in there speaking from experiences I’ve faced as an independent artist trying to do Hip-Hop on a serious basis while trying to just contribute my piece to Hip-Hop correctly.
HHD: How did you link up with 4th Assassin to produce the entire album?
Big O: Twitter, haha. I think he was promoting his beats on there 1 day to somebody 2-3 years ago or so and I just decided to check them out, infiltrate myself into the conversation he was having with someone else, told him his beats were dope and we quickly clicked. We think alike on a lot of things, We knew what we wanted out of “Gravel Engravement” when it was time to record the album, so we knocked it out and ever since 2-3 years ago we became close friends, I’ve taken the 7-8 hour drives to do shows around the area he lives around PA/NJ so we have gotten the chance to link up personally as well, and we’re about this music when we arent b.s’ing about other subject matters.
HHD: Making the music is one thing but of course there is also the business and marketing aspect as well. Do you have management that takes care of that business aspect or do you handle that yourself as well? How much time do you dedicate to the business as compared to the time you can just dedicate to making the music you love?
Big O: I am my own management right now, marketing and all that for the most part is all me.My head is basically Hip-Hop 24/7 as far as creative process and the “whats next?” to elevate the “grind” if you want to call it that even tho I hate that word. My philosophy is do it yourself even if you fail, and Im not afraid to fail at all. Ive taken so many bumps in my life worse than failing at trying to keep a Hip-Hop/rap career going that if I fail, I just dust off and try again differently. Aside from my camera guy, Joey Junk, who shoots my videos like “For The Love Of The Game” and “Ticking Timebomb” which can be seen here at Hip Hop Dependency, I do everything myself. I know eventually if things get bigger for me I wont be able to keep up because I already sacrificed a lot of sleep at the moment for Hip-Hop, so when that time comes, there’s a few candidates in line who are more than qualified to help me, but Im good right now handling the extra stuff to get noticed out here as an independent up and coming Hip-Hop artist.
HHD: What kind of sacrifices have you had to make to pursue your career in music? What has been the most satisfying moment thus far in your career?
Big O: I cant really say I sacrificed anything for music other than money and a little bit of sleep, but money comes and goes and I think I’ve been catching up on sleep recently. As I stated early I have no kids, and I have a pretty good personal support system even tho I have no idea why my woman would put up with it but she does, If anything frustration used to be an issue with me because I feel strongly I’m nice on the mic and I feel I have something to contribute to Hip-Hop on a higher scale, but then I honestly stopped giving a fuck about that and began to just appreciate more of the support I have now, and things like this interview because I feel people like you and sites like this give hope to the little blue collar up and coming do it yourself Hip-Hop artist like myself, and I’m very grateful for that. As far as satisfying moment, finally releasing “Gravel Engravement” on October 22nd 2013 on amazon/google play/spotify/etc (sorry for the shameless plug), is a big sigh of relief for me, because after 2 years of ups and downs personally, I finally release a project that’s been my baby for a long time.
HHD: When it’s all said and done how are you going to define success for yourself, first as a man, then as an artist? (everyone gets this question along with the previous one)
Big O: As Orlando Cedeno the man, I’m the most no word mincing, honest, sincere,but chill and aloof individual you can meet, I do what I have to do to provide for my family and friends financially & emotionally if need be, without trying to be a grimy scumbag about things. As an artist, define my success by those who appreciate dope Hip-Hop and appreciate what I do musically as a Hip-Hop artist. No amount of money or false accolades & false brass rings will ever beat that.
HHD: I know you haven’t even been able to savor the release of Gravel Engravement, but as you look towards 2014, what do you have in store for the hip hop community? Any plans out that far?
Big O: For 2014 I plan to come out with 2 EP’s. One EP entirely produced by Level 13 out of Philly who have done production for Kool G Rap, Chino XL, and a lot of more dope mcs, and so far I have 4 of the 6-7 songs knocked out already. One song is gonna feature Jukstapose out of New Jersey and one other person who I’m working on getting but cant name because its one of those rapper things where Im not sure if it will come through, I encourage to insert a laugh after this. I’m also working on an EP with my homie and ILL ROC records label mate Lordwillin out of Providence R.I. that will be entirely produced by 4th Assassin and we just got started working on it so that’s 2-3 songs that will be knocked out this week and my next LP with 4th Assassin has 1 more song to do and that’s the intro for the album and Im gonna knock that out this week but wont be released until December 2014 so I’m sitting on a lot of stuff that hopefully doesn’t fall flat on my face and crumble in the process but we’ll see in 2014 what becomes of that year. For now my main focus is “Gravel Engravement” out October 22nd 2013 through all digital retailers and for cd copies/physicals people can order their copy thru my big cartel merch site at www.bigo216.bigcartel.com and also thank you very much Hip Hop Dependency for this time and this interview as well. I’m truly appreciative of it.