In the half-light of a humid afternoon in Shoreditch, hip-hop artist OTG reclines quietly in a chair at the Ace Hotel, surrounded by artist-archetypes, absorbed in their work, so perfectly placed it’s as if they are part of the décor itself. OTG, more familiarly known as Osiris, is a reserved but self-assured producer stroke DJ stroke emerging artist. Following his recently released debut EP ‘Garden of Osiris’ which is laden with relaxed, dark, yet purposeful hip-hop tracks that belong to their own category, Osiris sits down with me to discuss who he is as an artist, the backstory behind the record, and what he thinks of the new wave of Hip-Hop.
It’s difficult to get a clear picture of the personality behind the brutal beats online, and perhaps this mystery is simply part of Osiris’s charm: he knows who he is and doesn’t feel the need to validate this to his audience. Just being is enough. But there are some facts that can be extracted from him.
Where are you from originally?
Jamaica. I was born here but my Grandma is the one who was born in Jamaica. She came here and had my mum, who had me. Lots of British slang is based on Jamaican, so I’m constantly surrounded by that dialect.
How did you get into music?
It’s kind of just always been a thing in my life. My mum listens to good music – she has a whole array of references – she’ll sing in the house and she’ll music that can make someone inspired generally, so I think music has just always been around and I fell for it and realised ‘I should create this.’ I was just making it for fun and it got to a point when my friends and stuff started making it with me. My brother had a friend who had a PC, and he got something called SL Studio Five, which is software you can make music on, and I started creating from there. At college I did music, but I wish I had taken away more. Everything else has just come with experience. The last five or six years has been where I’ve developed the most, with the last three being very tour heavy, and I’ve really been like “I don’t want another job.”
With music so accessible right now, and advances in technology that means you really don’t need money or a studio on make music, it’s weird to think that there was a time when it wasn’t like that, and you needed a brothers’ friend to have a laptop, to have a shitty program, to make a sound on and record.
Yeah, I meet so many people who have just started making music, like a few years ago. I’ve been making music for twelve or thirteen years.
How did you establish your sound and genre?
I still haven’t found it. That’s a life journey. Experience isn’t age.
Even though your sound is still evolving, if someone was describing it, what would they say?
I would say, it’s a mixture. I don’t think I’ve released enough to give me a label. I would say its hip-hop driven but jazzy, sometimes electronic, sometimes alternative. The EP is a bit dark, which is what I was going for at the time.
If you were to make music in another genre, which one would it be?
I’d do Jazz. I listen to this pianist called John Chin from New York. I’ve made some Jazz before but it’s just for me.
We get talking about Osiris’s journey as an artist. He most notably works with Little Simz, the rising rapper from Islington who is renowned for doing things her own way and has been tipped by the likes of Kendrick and Jay Z.
I actually met Simz over email like five years ago. I was in college and I found her on YouTube. I ran to college and I told all my friends like ‘this girl is sick, I’m going to work with this girl.’ About nine months later she replied like ‘these beats are sick.’ So we worked on Planet Simz, that was the first thing we did together, and then we carried on making songs. We just became friends, figured out that we’re very alike. And then she asked me like ‘yo do you want to come on tour with me?’ and I said ‘you know what, that sounds sick.’ Six months later we went away together to Paris and yeah it just blossomed. I noticed her early as well and I knew that I liked her enough to work with her. AGE 101 is Simz label which I’m signed to.
How do you go about laying down a track?
Generally, ideas come to me when I’m showering, cooking or after a smoke. Those are the three where I’m just plugged in, and I don’t want to do what I was going to do, I just want to go and make music. I often go and lay down one thing and then go off and do something else.
But you recently had a project that was more than just writing about something that came to you while you were making rice and veg. The BT Sports project that dropped on Saturday, tell me about that.
The BT Sports thing was with Simz. We worked on it for two weeks, which is really short. Basically, BT sports wanted us to do a track that summarised the champions league. So, if you were a viewer but hadn’t kept up with the league you can listen to the track and it’ll tell you the story. It had to be classy and clean which isn’t really our style, and we did it while on tour so it was a good challenge.
As the dark café begins to empty around us, with our artistic peers leaving the solace of the Ace Hotel for their evening endeavours, our conversation turns to the new EP.
Talk to me about the name of the record, ‘Garden of Osiris.’ On Google there are all sorts of stuff linked to the name– it’s a location in the comic ‘Breakfast at Tyranny’ and it’s a symbol in Egyptian mythology.
Osiris is an Egyptian God, and obviously also my name. The Garden is just my thoughts. Like how a garden is something you look after and cherish, that’s my way of showing that my mind is something I nurture, which I kind of go into in the album. There’s an ‘Easter Egg’ on the cover. The artwork is by a guy called Mckay Felt, from LA. He does Simz’s artwork and he’s very talented. I sat down with him to come up with the name, but not intentionally. The name started out differently and then it became this. The music was also completely different, this is actually the second version.
What was the first version like?
It just wasn’t where I was at. I was touring and living life and it wasn’t a correct manifestation of where I was at. It was just a feeling that was different. It was cohesive, but I didn’t feel I was there anymore. I had to let that one go and slowly build a new piece.
You said earlier that the EP is darker. What is it influenced by?
It’s about how I feel when I’m making the music. I wasn’t necessarily in a bad place, but the sounds I was selecting were representing how I was getting through. It’s all reflecting what’s going on with me. I’m not the best talker so It’s my way of laying down my mind and communicating.
One of the stand out tracks is ‘The Book’ featuring Little Simz. It was released with a raw, compelling music video, shot in Cape Town. A lot of people who have had a hard time escaping the oppression of their early lives will align themselves with this piece. What was the process of making this track and then translating it into a film?
The Book came from an interesting place. I actually made that beat in like 2016. It went through a lot of stages. That song was a proper journey for me because I didn’t know where it was going to end up. I had previous versions where I’d worked on it with other artists. And then I got to a point where I realised ‘hold on, why don’t I get Simz on this and see what she interprets the beat as.’ And it worked perfectly. I went to Imran Christian for his flavour of the film. I’d experimented with making it locally, but no one got it, and Imran just captured the mood, so it was a mix of his flavour and my flavour. It became how you think visually when you hear the song. It’s about realising who you are and where your power comes from.
If you had to collaborate with any other artists, who would they be?
The main one that comes to mind is Michael Jackson: I’m just a big fan. ‘Wanna Be Starting Something’ is my favourite song in the whole world.
If you had to make a playlist for someone who didn’t really listen to Hip-Hop, as an introduction to the whole genre, who would it feature?
It depends because I don’t really know what hip hop is. It’s kind of pop right now. Obviously, I’d tell them to listen to Kendrick. That’s kinda cliché these days but that doesn’t make it uncool. Just listen to Kendrick. Soak that in for a long time and then listen to someone new like Gunna.
With’ Garden of Osiris’ there’s this vibe of old-school themes – a bit heavier, a bit darker – but with the new age style. What do you think of the new age of hip hop music which is a bit on the generic side and typically addresses ‘drugs, money, sex’ themes?
I like some of it. It’s a thing where it’s good for a time and a place and to get you into a certain thing. For what it is, it’s good. If I was comparing it to things it wouldn’t be good. It serves its purpose.
With that, we go our separate ways, Osiris back into his world of stylishly laid beats and evocative images, and me to ponder if I’ve just met one of the most unique minds in the music industry. Osiris’s calm and pensive nature has produced a range of dynamic and groundbreaking gentle hip-hop that is not to be missed out on.
Stream ‘The Garden of Osiris’ here