On the first Friday of every month, we put the spotlight on one up-and-coming artist doing great things; for September’s First Look Friday we take a close look at O-Slice, one of the most technically gifted MCs on the DMV underground music circuit
Loves Me Not, a cocktail lounge in Washington, DC, is humming with the sound of people having small talk. Those murmurs get interrupted by O-Slice, who takes the mic during Joint Theory, an intimate showcase of DMV area talent. O-Slice’s unbridled confidence shows in the way she commands the full attention of the room with her early 2000s look: a bright jersey, a pair of fly kicks, and a bob. But it’s her lyrical bombastic abilities that own the airwaves of the space. She’s a Prince George’s County girl, spitting Instagram caption-worthy lyrics that aren’t easily forgotten.
Most of her music centers around her creative process, relationships, and her high standards for them. The ambitious go-getter not only raps, but writes and directs videos to go along with her music. Although she claims to be an introvert, she’s a functioning extrovert in public. She maneuvers her way through social anxiety with lyrical competence.
She started rapping at the age of nine, and continued while attending Charles Herbert Flowers High School. She came up with a rap jingle as a way to introduce herself while playing for the basketball team. Her team eventually signed her up for the talent show in the 10th grade. She ended up winning.
As a 10th grader, she no longer had to introduce herself.
She is quickly becoming known as one of the most technically gifted MCs on the DMV underground music circuit. During this month’s First Look Friday we learn about one of the DMV’s best-kept secrets, O-Slice.
OkayPlayer: How did you come up with the name O-Slice?
O-Slice: So I was a super shy kid, but I knew I could rap. So the rap would be like, my name is O-Slice, flows nice. It was just like real cute, but the first line was like my name is O-Slice and all I was doing is spelling the first two letters of my name and I did that for my basketball team. They started calling me O-Slice. So I wanted to sign up for the talent show at my school, but couldn’t find the signup sheet so they signed me up. They didn’t know what my rap name was. I won the talent show under the name O-Slice and it just stuck.
How would you describe your sound?
Kendrick [Lamar], Goldlink, as far as like the instrumentals I tend to gravitate towards. And I would say Lauryn Hill when I try to get all introspective and stuff.
How have you been able to plug into the scattered, rich creative community in D.C.?
Oh, I think the area is super popping. I think that you aren’t going to find an area with more talented people and you have everything: you’ve got the street rappers, you got the boom bappers, you got just everybody with their own sound. I think that the support system is interesting. For a long time we had the reputation that nobody was linking up or that nobody was helping out, but when I actually started adventuring out into the city and putting myself out there more, it just started becoming like magnets. I would meet this artist, I would meet that artist, and everybody, for the most part, is cool, so I think that there is a real support system here. We could definitely have more overarching people who actually know how to navigate it. I think that would be crucial. But from artist to artist it’s love.
DC is being gentrified left and right. How do you think the gentrification impacts D.C.’s sound?
It reflects that we have so many different unique artists here. Yeah, I mean I be rapping hard often, but I have other talents that you all haven’t even heard yet. If I was going to represent this area, I wouldn’t even have one sound that I would represent this area with. We have so many various artists that are versatile that’s why we have so many different sounds. They are always talented, they are always super fly. They are always cooler than everybody around them. That’s what unifies us: the fashion, the lingo. That’s what ties us all together.
How would you describe D.C.?
I think in general we are the most fly. We are the coolest. We are trendsetters, even if we may not always get the credit for it. We are an area where we naturally know what looks good. We don’t need the internet to tell us, I mean we were wearing Nike Foamposites back in the day. Bright colors, bright jackets. During the Fall people typically wear dull colors. We were out here with the North Faces and with bright colors. We are just a fashion-forward area, but that’s not like just physical fashion, but like sound wise, we don’t really constrain ourselves to having just like one sound. I love being from out here. I think that we stand out when we go places. If a group of people from the DMV are going somewhere everyone is like, who is that? We are a confident people. We are loud, but we are cool.
It’s about to be the fourth quarter. Do you feel like you’ve accomplished what you wanted to this year?
Yeah, I set goals for myself every year and, oftentimes, during the year. I just learn so much. Some of the goals I set aren’t like important or I figure out other things that are more important to do. The goals that I set during the year are like dreams, things I’d like to accomplish, and sometimes they are just arbitrary. It’s like “oh I’ve performed at this venue.” For example, I’ve never performed at Howard Theater, so I think that Howard Theater was on the list for this year. Last year I put U Street Music Hall on the list and like in December, I did it. So I’m glad that I got to cross that off the list.
This year I wanted to get some major magazines to start paying attention. I want to try and get a placement on a television show, preferability on Insecure or Atlanta. I wanted to double my fanbase, so like at the beginning of the year I had like 2,500 followers and now we are like at 4,000 and something. I think we are going to meet that goal by the end of the year.
I wanted to drop more music this year, and I only dropped one thing. Hopefully, I’ll drop something else by the end of the year, but I wanted to do like four videos this year and I’ve done one, but that one was a splash. I didn’t expect it to do what it did, but I’m really happy about how things turned out.
What do you think is your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far?
I think the best thing is still “Get It Correct,” because I think it was the closest to showing people what I could actually do because I have so many different styles and so many different flavors. I often feel like, it’s rare that I feel like something I’ve done, represents everything that I can do.
“Get It Correct” did a really good job of highlighting how much of a spitter I actually am. It was the first time it was just a clean representation when people saw it, it was like damn she can really rap. And it was like yeah I can. So I like that it was a good show of my talent. And it was the first thing that I put out that really just grabbed the attention of like random people. So it was like my people my fans. It was the first thing that sort of left the stratosphere and was like “who is that girl?”
Are there any other creative mediums that you would like to explore outside of music?
I have so many ideas like sometimes I will be watching these music videos and be like why did you all do that. Sometimes I just feel like they are so generic, but luckily I feel like people are coming back to understanding the importance of a visual because Kendrick does amazing visuals. Beyoncé is doing amazing visuals. “Single Ladies” is one of the most iconic music videos of all time, because it was so simple, but yet it reached so far. She should have won that video, that’s why Kanye [West] was acting like that because she should have won. Childish Gambino has cool videos, I like how he transcends various mediums. He has done comedy, writing, rap, singing. He’s just putting his hands in stuff and I feel like that’s what I want to do.
Tell me about your fashion inspirations.
I like the big puffy jackets. I love colors. I’m a real colorful person. I want to say I have like 60 jerseys. I haven’t been wearing them as much lately, but I have a lot of jerseys and sneakers. I’m very much into street style. I can get all dolled up and stuff, but I’m more comfortable in a t-shirt and some jeans because I feel like there is just so much to explore there. I feel like I haven’t fully explored the other side.
You grew up in Nigerian household. Were there ever any expectations of you becoming a doctor or a lawyer?
My mom is still talking to me about my master’s degree. I’m going to get it because of her. I am trying to get so famous they just start dropping degrees at me. Education is very very important to my family. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if my grades were bad. I wouldn’t have been able to go to shows or do any of that stuff. My mom wanted me to go into medicine, but I had a negative 100 desire to be a doctor.
I went to school for government and politics, that always came really easily for me. But then it kind of just hit me law school isn’t something you just do because you feel like you should do it. That’s money. That’s time. That’s energy. I feel like I could have done it, but I wouldn’t have been happy as a lawyer. So I just had to be honest with them about it, when I was graduating college I just had to be straight up and at that point, they already saw what I was doing with the music.
So tell me about your team?
I have the toughest producers, they’ve made everything I’ve put out so far and we have so much heat coming. Their names are: Chisom, JeauxSmeaux, Bobby Cleave, Terracotta Blue. You know producers are always background sort of people, but no those are my guys. I think they actually pull the best out of me, because they like weird stuff. I think in our average beat we might have two regular instruments. Everything else is like how do you describe this sound? We challenge each other like he knows if they play me something boring I’m not even going to have an expression on my face.
Your music sort of has a lesson to it, were you ever in any previous relationships?
There was this one song that I did called “TV Guide” and it basically just talked about the TV that I grew up watching. This lady was like she can tell when I make music I kinda just sit back reflect on the world and then write down my thoughts. I think that is pretty accurate because I think about stuff a lot. Growing up I didn’t really talk a lot and I think that it just shows heavily in my music. Like I have songs where I am just talking my shit or whatever, but a lot of my music is just things that I sit down and think about. I think about the world. I think about politics. I think about relationships, what I have observed and what I’ve experienced. I talk about being from here, I’m just very proud. It just feels extra good right now. I’m from the DMV. I talk about my heritage. I talk about my family. A lot of music is about me making music ironically. I’m always talking about how I want to take care of my family when I make money, just a lot of different things. Loyalty is very important to me. I talk about that on “10Toes”, rap is very important to me that’s why I often talk about it.
Who are some D.C. artists you think we need to be paying attention to?
Zamba, Mannywellz, Bemi Soul, Zaamwe, Alex Vaughn, IkeySoDope, Deuce Caliber, Kassim, Odd Mojo, Sol, VicGotEmBouncin, Tobby Drillz, and LitteBrownBoys. Just to name a few.
Priscilla Ward is a celebrated writer whose work has been featured in Essence, Salon and is also the creator of #BLCKNLIT. You can find her tweeting about bell hooks, sandwiches and art shows @MacaroniFRO.