Osa's Positive Energy Through Versatile Ambitions

Photos by Julien Carr

The North Pole's versatile ambition.

As its wheels continue to spin, the Chicago music scene advances further into the national spotlight gathering new faces and sounds along the way. Perhaps the most excited person to witness these advancements is Osa, a Nigerian-American northside native with a musical range so wide the word “genre” seems unnecessary. He was fairly new to recording music back in the early days of Chicago’s burgeoning grip on the music industry in 2012. And just like Chicago in 2018, Osa’s been building a musical resume of styles from A to Z, with no signs of slowing down.

Whether it’s afrobeat, r&b, pop, or rap, chances are Osa’s found a way to make it work for his sound. Like the Windy City he cherishes so much, Osa’s music is a rich mixture of contemporary and future greatness. By way of his song Melody last year, we took our first step into the time warp known as Osa. Within producer WANI’s intoxicating atmosphere of drums, synths, and chords, Osa’s party filled dialogue of dancehall whines creates a song of love and attraction. “Afrotrap”, as he dubbed it, is a style that remains a tad more constant than some of Osa’s other styles of music.

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"I’m not talking about toting guns or scamming people with credit cards...I’m trying to change how we think and teach people..."

—Osa

The versatility is hard to miss, Osa can switch from r&b to rap in an instant (“If Only We Could Dance Forever”) and, just when you think you have him figured out, he tosses some boom bap (“FMLS”), or something of the trap variety (“Savage Shit”) at your feet to fool you. Each song feels like a compressed capsule of Osa’s perspective. Whether it’s through song titles like “AMERIKKKA”, or lighthearted dance tracks like "Not A Shaggy Story", every song resonates with different aspects of Osa's personality. Osa’s SoundCloud is like sifting through a bag of Halloween candy after hitting all your favorite houses, you may not remember what’s inside but you’re excited to jog your memory.  

Running through some memories of his own, Osa’s taste in music derives from a mixed bag of sorts as well. Although Osa was born in the "North Pole" of Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, his family’s home country of Nigeria became his place of residence from the ages of 11 to 16. “Back then, in Nigeria, I didn’t have access to a lot of artists that you guys had here. I would just stick to whatever they’d bring me on my ipod whenever my mom would come visit.” Artists like Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, Lil’ Wayne, and even Frank Sinatra were some of the American classics that Osa enjoyed during his time in Nigeria, all of which shaped his sonic diversity.

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"You just have to have tunnel vision, maybe be a little bit crazy, but just be respectful, be yourself, and keep going."

—Osa

Even without access to original music, Osa never let that prevent him from writing songs, “I would write over other records because I didn’t have a way to get the instrumentals. So I’d take like a Drake song and write my own lyrics while I was listening to it.” It wasn’t until 2012, when he came back to Chicago, that Osa began recording and, by that time, hip hop had changed dramatically. “I guess I left around the time Bow Wow was popping, everybody was wearing baggy clothes and by the time I came back Young Thug was dropping tracks. Hip hop had just changed so much.”

While adapting to the change in music proved to be a source of motivation for Osa, his pursuit of his passion did not sit well with his parents. Even now, “they haven’t accepted it fully but at that time they were not going at all.”  Somewhat jokingly, Osa considers himself the ideal “disgrace child”, but nonetheless, “this vision and message that I have of unity and being yourself is hard to push knowing that my parents don’t support me. You just have to have tunnel vision, maybe be a little bit crazy, but just be respectful, be yourself, and keep going.”

For Osa, striving to be a spokesperson of change and positivity are not steps taken lightly. Upon looking at Osa’s posts on social media, you’ll find quite a fair share of shoutouts and reposts supporting fellow artists. As we’ve seen from his work singing backup for Ajani Jones, Osa’s patronage looks to be just as diverse as the music he creates. In fact, it’s that very action of living up to his words that give Osa’s message behind the music more tangibility. “I’m not talking about toting guns or scamming people with credit cards, different strokes for different folks. But that’s not what I’m talking about because I’m trying to change how we think and teach people, and I’m still learning...It’s ok to fail, it’s ok to suck, just be yourself.” Osa understands there’s always room for improvement, and that looks to be an impactful aspect to his growth as a successful artist. What’s even better to look forward to, is the level of support and respect Osa aspires to give his fellow Chicago artists along the way.