Camden born rapper, Ocean Wisdom, took the internet by storm when he released his first single, “Walkin’”, off his own back in 2014. This single amassed tens of thousands of views in a matter of days, and has more recently laid claims to have grabbed the Guinness world record from Eminem for ‘Most words in a hit single’, by delivering a crazy 4.45 words per second.
Following on from this success, Ocean signed with High Focus Records and released his debut album titled Chaos 93’ this February. Produced by Dirty Dike and featuring Foreign Beggars and The Four Owls, no doubt Ocean Wisdom will continue to dominate the scene with the outstanding album Chaos 93’.
Whilst travelling in Switzerland, we caught up with Ocean at Paléo festival to reveal what’s been going on behind the mic, and what’s in store for those eager to hear more.
So, you’ve been busy the past few months!
“Yeah man, been touring and s**t. Just got back from Les Ardentes Festival in Belgium”.
How do you feel that European festivals compare to the ones back home (U.K)?
“Depends on the festival – I played Reading, and they treat you like royalty, but then others were rubbish (not as good). Then here’s been awesome, France is normally quite good – I mean it just depends on where you are and which festival really”.
What about the crowds? Do you notice differences there?
“Yeah, I guess in the U.K the crowds really know the lyrics; they shout along, plus it’s in their first language so it’s like, not something they struggle to understand if you know? Whereas the European crowds tend to react more to the fast flows, as that’s something they can understand – a flow is like a universal language!”
Does that change anything for you as an artist?
“Not really, ‘cause I’ve got flows and I’ve got lyrics so there’s something for everyone. But nah I don’t change my set when I come to Europe. Actually, one thing I’ll do sometimes; I’ll play one or two of the slower songs off the album, and they tend to go down better ‘cause they can understand it a bit easier“.
In France you played on the same stage as Tyler, the creator and Future. That must be pretty surreal?
“Yeah, it was surreal! It’s because of the big names, but when you’re actually there you’re all kind of just doing your own thing, if you know what I mean? You just got to treat that day like any other; if I started remembering those guys were just round the corner during my set I’d just get distracted! So yeah we met Tyler but not on the stage, it was cool, experiencing what he sees“.
What’s Tyler, the creator like then?
“Put it this way, I think he’s a good musician *Laughs*. Yeah I rate his music, but he wasn’t in the good mood I was expecting him to be, so I just stayed out the way. It was one of those moments where I was quite tired, and I knew he must’ve been knackered too, so I just let him be really“.
The guy’s still banned from the U.K!
“Yeah that’s Theresa May right? Tell you what yeah, I think that’s disgraceful“.
So, you mentioned a lot of your work is ground in your lyrics and your writing. Apparently you write a lot, nearly constantly?
“Yeah, I definitely wrote a lot to get to a certain level. But once you’re on tour its difficult to dedicate that amount of time – like when you’re just working on the craft you can dedicate four-five hours a day. These days I don’t really have the time to do that”
Does that bother you?
“Yeah, it does. My perception towards creating music has changed quite a lot: It’s gone from like a hobby, with a hope of one day making money from it, to a kind of obligation – not only because other people have expectations, but also like financially, if that’s what you rely on to make all of your money, you can’t just not do it because you don’t feel like it“.
Do you enjoy it less as a result?
“Yeah, I enjoy it less because of the added pressure, not like the whole lifestyle, just the writing process. When I’m at home, my writing process is like – I enjoy it still, I love it, but it was cool when I had the ‘cloak’ of being unknown; it gave me this weird sort of open-mindedness towards music. When you have an audience, a fan-base, you have this sort of loyalty to them“.
So you find yourself thinking about your fans and record label when you’re writing now?
“Sometimes, you find moments where you don’t. And they’re the moments that remind you of why you love it. There’s also times where I’m like a bit, how can I put this – restricted? I’ll hear a beat and I know there’s a particular thing I’ll have to do to it, but what I love is the freedom of music – where it could just be like BOOM, anything could happen. But I feel like now, if I just let anything happen it might be a bit too crazy, you know what I mean?”
What sort of stuff are you influenced by when you write?
“That’s a tricky one, so what influences me is aspects of other rappers, so like take the best bits of this and the best bit of that and combine it all. But then there have been people that have been more influential than others: you know Dizzee Rascal, Kano, but it’s never one rapper or one genre, it’s little bits“.
When you’re writing lyrics, what gets you writing?
“Ohh that’s a hard question. I guess I’m in control but it’s like free reign to let my mind create, and let out emotion. It’s like how an artist would feel satisfied once he’d drawn his picture – with writing I can like let everything out and then I feel better. I’ll just be like ‘yeah I wanna write’ the same way I want food or something.
I can get to a point where I am sick of writing, and then stopping writing will be just as enjoyable as starting. That’s what makes me wanna do it, it’s not anyone else’s experiences or something, like it’s literally an outlet to voice my shit“.
What sort of genre would you say you fall into? Hip Hop? Grime?
“Of what I’ve chosen to show people, I’ve heard 200/300 tunes that I’ve made, everyone else has heard like 20. So they hear that 20 and they’re like oh that’s his style. I’m not actually hip hop, or any genre, I’m just Ocean Wisdom and I feel like I’ve got my own style. I worry about being boxed in with hip hop“.
As an outsider looking in, your career has seemed to have a vertical trajectory recently, with your video for ‘Walking’ being released two years ago and no-one knowing who you were, to where you are now. What’s it been like for you?
“I had so many years of people asking me what I was doing, just in general, and I was always like ‘just doing this music ting’, which had me indoors practicing all the time. So from an outside perspective I wasn’t doing anything, I was just perfecting the craft. It was a decision I made when I was like 16, that I really went for when I was about 18“.
Your recent album ‘Chaos ’93’ was all produced by Dirty Dike. What’s he like to work with?
“Well I get along with him really well…”
*Careful* murmurs the DJ
“Put it this way, he’s interesting to work with because what he brings to the table is of such a high quality. The best way I can describe it is like this. So if I was him, it’d be like this:
‘I’ve got the best crow yeah, no one else’s crow can compete. And I’ll sort you boys out with that crow, but I’m probably gunna be out at 1 o’clock tonight so you’re gunna have to wait for me a bit, and I might not be there ‘til 3 o’clock, or I might not even turn up, so I might just have to give it to you tomorrow instead. But then after all the struggles of getting it, you get the weed and it’s like ‘OOOH it’s loud’.
So basically what he brings is always worth the wait“.
The stuff he produces, how does it fit your flows and style?
“Those aren’t his standard beats, he says it himself he has to make a certain kind of beat for me, and I request different types. The other day I was at his house producing (for) (the) Doolaly (tune) on the album, the bass in that, originally it was just like a weird little bass loop, and I heard it and I was like ‘yo that’d be sick’.
He was all like ‘naah naah that’s a bit weird’ I just kept saying ‘trust me’, and then we added some shit to it, got the finished product, and we both 100% got it. A lot of the time I’ll send him an idea, or vice versa, it’ll go back and forth a few times and eventually, we’ll work things out. But it’s never like a straight forward ‘here’s a beat’“.
Looking back on the album release, and the album itself, are you happy with what you made? Where do you go from that?
“A small part of me thought it would be well funny just to retire, but it’s a passion of mine so I’m not gonna do that *laughs*. I was never really expecting the album to chart, that was quite mad, that sort of shit hasn’t happened before; I wasn’t expecting that and I hadn’t really made it with that in mind! But when it did, I was happy because it did everything it could and more“.
So what’s next?
“Well, I can tell you this exclusively, I’ve got a fire in the booth coming out in the next few weeks. After that, I’ll probably just release a couple of singles every few months. We’re trying to work with a big name, like a really fucking huge name too, but I don’t wanna bait it out“.
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Words by Tasha Fry and Jamie Brown