Home Team • Omen

Photo by Katrina Tarzian 

Words by Brent Butcher • Interview by Westley Parker

Growing up on Chicago's south side, Omen came up in time where music wasn't as hot a commodity as it is today, but then again, it wasn't his first choice either. Omen was born and raised in Hyde Park, a graduate of Kenwood Academy, and made his way to the University of Illinois for college, but still no raps. Hoop dreams filled Omen's head for most of his life while song writing remained a hobby most of his life. Once going making it to the NBA wasn't an option for Omen, he turned to music in his later college years. Once graduated from U of I, Omen returned to Chicago, but an opportunity to make a life in music just wasn't there. With sporadic show opportunities and an occasional open mic as Omen's only experience in the music world at the time, he had to keep several day jobs to cover necessities, furthering himself even more from his creative passions.

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Things weren't looking great, but all the while Omen's friend J. Cole was doing the same thing, but in new New York. After an interesting introduction to Cole when Omen was just 17, the two kept in contact and eventually began working with each other long before J. Cole became a household name. When Cole did pop, Omen's platform grew as well and put him in front of significant audiences for the first time outside of Chicago. Although Chicago still has a ways to go, I'm glad we at least have some infrastructure and market for music now. Prior to just a few years ago, stories like Omen's were common. Many artists had to leave to find a career in music.

How did you meet J. Cole?
So it’s a weird story. At the time when I was in college, maybe my senior year of high school, when I was just writing as a hobby, I was a huge fan of Canibus the rapper at the time. So I was like a real rap nerd, back pack, all that. I was on this website - it was like a fan site for Canibus.

Does it exist still? What’s it called?
Canibus Central. I ain’t been on there in years. So on this site, people would like - it was a bunch of fans of Canibus but it was like a bunch of rappers. People writing, battling through texts, without any audio, we would be battling and read it.

What year was this?
01 or 02. Eventually it was audio battles but anyway, Cole was on that site. We would just like, exchange music here or there. He was going to school in New York and I had a cousin in New York so I went to New York and we actually met up - okay we not like weirdos. Cool in real life actually. So we kinda was always working together, sending each other beats, ideas through the years. Then he obviously he became J. Cole but we just kept - we just continued working. It was weird how we met on that site ... shit was not really poppin for me at the time. He’d been telling me for years, you should come to New York, we can be working together, blah blah blah. So then I got fired from my job, my girl had left me, I’m like man, music ain’t working. I might as well just try to go to New York. So I go to New York - when I got to New York is basically when he got signed. So I would be in the studio with him - I was working like three jobs in New York. That was tough. I would have to be at work at like maybe 6 a.m. but I would have been in the studio til like 4 a.m. with him, and then repeat it the next day. It was like real grind. So then eventually he asked me to go on tour with him, like his first tour. The ball been rolling kinda since then.

With several major tours and albums under his belt currently, Omen is reaching a high point in his career and has returned to Chicago to make am imprint at home. His recently released Elephant Eyes has been well received since its debut last summer, and Omen plans to continue that album's campaign with several videos in the near future.