The lack of individuality is apparent in 2007. From music to fashion everybody seems to follow a trend. Not Sa-Ra. The group consisting of Om’Mas, Shafiq, and Taz march to beat of their own drum in every aspect of life. From their somewhat questionable fashion sense to their highly innovative and futuristic production, categorizing Sa-Ra has proved to be rather difficult. With an album ready and waiting, just waiting for the right time to the album that is in stores now, Sa-Ra continues to whatever they want. “The Hollywood Recordings” dropped on April 24th through the always progressive Babygrande Records. It helps with further the setup for their yet to be released major label debut as well as compliment as they call it their “friends and family”. I got a chance to chat with the very intelligent collective of Om’Mas and Shafiq, and what they had to say might surprise some do to their overwhelming sense of confidence. When you have the backing of Dr Dre, and Kanye West, confidence is well deserved.
HipHopSite: It’s been a bumpy ride for you guys, how have you have been doing?
Om’Mas: It has been bumpy, but it’s happening. Slowly but surely.
Most of the “eclectic” music fans know of Sa-Ra, but please take a moment to introduce yourselves.
Om’Mas: We are the Sa-Ra Creative Partners and my name is Om’Mas Keith and I’m from Hollis Queens. Shafiq Husayn is from the Bronx by way of Cleveland by way of LA and Taz Arnold is from South Central Los Angeles. That’s us, Sa-Ra.
What part of the group does each member play?
Om’Mas: As far as participating in the group Sa-Ra everyone plays the role as a vocalist. I’m the lead vocalist as far as the singing is concerned. We all rap, but Sa-Ra is very multi-faceted because we all sing, rap, produce and play instruments. To that extent we are all record producers. When people ask, my basic contribution to the group is a technical prowess and a real attention to detail. It’s my goal that we complete our projects when someone solicits are services, because this is a service based industry. I’m the classically trained musician of the group. Shafiq on the other hand is much more grounded in focusing on the creative aspect of how we get down. Here grounds us creatively and roots our sound in a traditional hip-hop sound. The boom-bap is where it all comes from. Taz is the creative visionary with someone who likes to think outside the box. It’s that focus and that creative thinking that makes Sa-Ra what it is. You mix those three different personalities together and you get the Sa-Ra sound. It’s something that is unique, semi-structured, semi-free and a sound that embodies all things.
Let’s chat about G.O.O.D. Music. We know the label is no longer a part of Sony but why did your album get shelved?
Om’Mas: There has never been a shelved G.O.O.D. Music album. We were never shelved. We are businessmen and that’s why people mess with us. If at any point we feel that we are threatened or our position is in jeopardy we immediately begin to look for new and better opportunities. On that note we were never confined or restrained in our abilities to record or make records. We could have made “The Hollywood Recordings” while signed to Kanye, but our focus was really on the group Sa-Ra. I want to clarify that “The Hollywood Recordings” is a producer driven record that focuses on the talents of Sa-Ra Creative Partners. When you take a record from a group like Sa-Ra you are getting a record from those 3 members that focus on the group Sa-Ra. The album we are doing on Babygrande compliments Sa-Ra Creative Partners but is not a Sa-Ra album. The album we did with Babygrande is a Sa-Ra Creative Partners Presents album. It’s a producer based record, it’s a compilation record with our friends and family. The album that we did with G.O.O.D. Music is still going to come out when we are comfortable enough and the time is right to put that album out. When the business parts of things are ready you will see that album. We own all the masters to that album.
The album “The Hollywood Recordings” came out April 24th on Babygrande Records, how did the deal with Babygrande come about?
Om’Mas: About 4 years ago the owners of Babygrande reached out to us and wanted to do business with us. But, the timing wasn’t right. Now a wonderful opportunity arose where it was time for Sa-Ra to put something out and the owner of Babygrande Chuck Wilson was still very interested in working with us. After 4 years he came to us and said he wanted another shot, and we decided it was the right time and we moved forward. So we structured a deal where we had the freedom to create and a deal that allowed us the freedom to move around without restraint. To that extent it was a no-brainer. We are in a great position, we already have a nice buzz with the reviews of the other album and so we decided to dig into the Sa-Ra vault, put out this album and continue the set-up for the Sa-Ra debut. Plus, Babygrande is definitely in the forefront of the music game, they are doing a record with Sa-Ra. Chuck made it clear to us that this was his biggest release to date. I feel that is a very true statement and we have really taken this opportunity very serious.
So to clarify, everything on this record is unreleased commercially.
Om’Mas: Yes everything on this album has not ever been commercially released. We have seen some people say they heard songs on mixtapes or whatever. But, we consider these recordings to be from the vaults and unreleased. Just because there is a tastemaker out there that follows trends and knows that some songs leaked out don’t mean the masses do. The masses get what they get and what is spoon fed to them. The definitive statement is that none of these songs have been commercially released.
You have a slew of guests on “The Hollywood Recordings” including the late J Dilla (R.I.P.) how did you come to work with Dilla?
Shafiq: The Jay Dee relationship came from working with Common.
Om’Mas: We did a show and Madlib and Dilla were at the show watching. Madlib had called Dilla and told him to come to the show. So, I guess it all really started with Madlib.
So what about the album, who else makes an appearance on the album?
Om’Mas: We have Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Capone-N-Noreaga, Kurupt, Ty and Kory, Lord Nez, Erika Rose.
Shafiq: Also George Ann Muldrow.
Om’Mas: Of course we have Pharoahe Monch and J Dilla. It’s an amazing line up.
Shafiq: Plus, you have Sa-Ra.
Sa-Ra has a very innovative sound, almost futuristic; who are your influences that help make up that sound?
Shafiq: Our influences are from Monk to Punk.
Om’Mas: That’s it.
So no names?
Om’Mas: We draw as much from David Byrne and Tom Tom Club as we do from Duke Ellington. This is what you have to understand, we are a repertoire based collective. You have to view Sa-Ra as a mother hard drive that sits in the capitol heavily guarded and full of secrets and wonders. We call upon the data and we release the knowledge as we see fit. There is so much information there and it all amalgamates to the sound of Sa-Ra. From Sly Stone to Billy Idol.
Shafiq: Take a song like “Nasty You”. The beat is nothing but a Ska drum beat, upbeat and then you might take the vocal performance of it and we draw from Rick James. Then sonically we might draw from say Steely Dan.
Om’Mas: Then you have some Kraftwerk overtones with the keyboard programming. All those things are involved.
You are currently still signed to a major for the debut album?
Om’Mas: We are in talks. They are coming again. We can’t tell you who is coming, but all these majors are coming back to Sa-Ra again. It’s amazing how cyclical in nature this industry is. One minute you are signed to a major and they are putting hundreds of thousands of dollars behind you and the next minute you have all your masters back and their all calling back again. People that have done business with us before and stopped doing business with us are calling back and asking how can we get back into business with Sa-Ra. When a call comes from high up in Sony it affects everybody not just Sa-Ra. It affects Kanye; it affects all the artists under Sony Urban because they now cease to exist. It’s not just a problem of Sa-Ra, it’s a problem within major labels as a whole and their inability to sift through the bullshit and pick out the gems.
That is a definite problem in this industry, the lack of good A&Rs and the lack vision among major labels to see talent when it stares them in the face.
Shafiq: That’s the reason why the 85 are making that kind of music because the business of the record industry dictates to the young artists and makes them feel they have to make music like that to get their shot. That’s where you get the over saturation and the lack of content.
That brings me to my next question. Because of your look and your style and your slightly off kilter music style, what do you do to “sell” Sa-Ra to the public.
Om’Mas: What we like to say is that we embody our essence. We are just ourselves and that is what sells Sa-Ra. That is what people see in us and what they want to be a part of. That is what the public latches onto that heir about us where Sa-Ra just does what the fuck they want to do. What people see when they first see us and hear us are some cats that are doing some different shit. We are breaking down barriers and we are non-conformists and that is what attracts people to us. Inside of everyone is that desire to not conform and to what they feel. People see in us that opportunity and live their lives through us. We know it takes a long time when you take this route, but we are taking the long route anyway.
Shafiq: You asked what is that thing that will attract us to the public eye. Fashion. Sa-Ra isn’t something that is put together behind the scenes this is just cats being themselves. The clothes you see in the photo shoots are our real clothes, that is how we dress in everyday life. So fashion is what connects us globally outside of music. No matter what race or ethnicity you are fashion. When you they see Sa-Ra, we look attractive.
Om’Mas: People want to not like us. They make it their mission to find a reason not to like us, but they always come back and realize that the music is good.
Shafiq: It takes a certain kind of mind to do the music that we do and to really believe it.
Om’Mas: It takes balls.
So fashion is where you are headed in the future?
Shafiq: Sa-Ra are always ready to exploit any avenue where we can make revenue for our company.
Om’Mas: We have a logo that is internationally recognized. They see that logo and they are associating the logo with the Sa-Ra brand.
What’s next for Sa-Ra?
Om’Mas: You will soon see a Sa-Ra E-Magazine: clothing is part of that multi-media world that we are venturing into. We are working on some lifestyle items and one thing we will definitely have are action figures and stuffed dolls very soon.
Shafiq: Love yourself and look for the album.
Om’Mas: Wow, that’s amazing, that’s it.
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