Grand Aspirations: A Conversation with OG Maco

OG Maco is more than just the minimalist fury of “U Guessed It.” That’s the message the Atlanta

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OG Maco is more than just the minimalist fury of “U Guessed It.” That’s the message the Atlanta firebrand has been sending out in the past year, and it’s one that appears to be finally resonating with listeners. The OGG and QC lyricist has spent the better part of 2014 and all of the current year tackling subjects ranging from standard trap-rap fare to riotous, molotov-cocktail-music to Wiz Khalifa-esque slow-jams, all the while hitting city after city for packed shows. As OG Maco prepares to cook up a final draft of his final album and continues to trek across the country, we spoke to the rapper about a variety of subjects as diverse as the topics he covers in his bars. From Black Sabbath to cultural appropriation, OG Maco shed light on his opinions in manners both thoughtful and inquisitive.

It’s been almost a year since “U Guessed It” made the general public aware of you. Do you think people are finally starting to catch on to all the rest of the music you put out that pretty much sounds nothing like that song?

I think they’re getting better with it as time goes. Just because of the quality of it, you don’t really have much of a choice then say, “okay, let’s go see what’s on in there.” I feel like it’s picking up.

It’s apparent now that your initial hit was just a small part of who you are as an artist and rapper. What is your current mission with the music you’re putting out now and the music you plan to put out in the future?

I want it to be expansive. I feel like “U Guessed It” was just a minimal take on a human emotion — just “put-it-in-your-face, this-is-how-I’m-feeling, this-is-why-I’m-feeling-that-way.” Now, I want it to be way more grand, I want you to feel the levels of it, I want you to feel the experimentation the producers and I take to put into the song. I want people to realize I’m not really making rap music; I’m making good music, period. Some of it is rocking, some of it is alternative, but all of it is grand because that’s what I’m going for.

So you don’t want to be just boxed into being just a rapper?

I use the term “rapper” when it’s used with me. I’m a rockstar if anything, and when it comes to the basics of it I’m purely an artist. I rap in part of my songs, but there’s always more than my songs than just rapping in them.

Outside of rap, what music do you listen to?

It goes everywhere. I’ll read off just a couple albums on my iTunes right now: ‘Infinity on High’ by Fall Out Boy, ‘The Photo Album’ and ‘Plans’ from Death Cab for Cutie, U2, ‘Songs of Innocence,’ I got Black Sabbath on here, some La Roux. I’m not that person who stays on one thing or even one take on the same genre, I’m constantly moving with the music because that’s what it’s there for.

What drives you to listen to music like Black Sabbath?

When I was growing up my dad was a huge AC/DC fan and a huge Ozzy fan. So, before Ozzy was solo, I had never heard anything until 12 or 13 when I heard the ironman song in a movie. When I heard that and compared that to newer Ozzy I was like “holy shit,” and I really wondered what more of that sounds like and that’s how I got into Black Sabbath.

Since you’re affiliated with Migos, Quality Control and that whole crowd, have you ever been around them and had music like Black Sabbath playing and caught their attention?

We have our own studio, so at any given time you might walk in and some random rock music will hit. They fuck with it; they’re not one-dimensional themselves. Quavo, we call him Quavo Brown because he’s like the James Brown of hip-hop. We all got our little names for ourselves that we try to take it beyond that level.

Even on my album, me and Quavo have some songs that are far more rock or pop or just not in the rap realm – it’s way bigger, it’s cinematic. There’s even ballads on the album a la Michael Bolton. I know a lot a people don’t really remember Michael Bolton’s music, but he had amazing ballads and I lean toward that. The next album is really expansive.

I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard a rapper mention Michael Bolton.

Michael Bolton was that dude. If you really appreciate the craft you’re doing, you have to recognize that these people really crafted the things that inspired us to want to create music before we even knew it. We didn’t even know it, we were just hearing something in the background of a movie and wishing we could create something that was in a movie. But that was in a movie – it wasn’t Rakim and DMX and Ja Rule and 50 Cent in movies back then. Classic movies, cult classic movies, Steve McQueen movies, they all just had well-crafted music.

I want you to forget where you are when you turn on my record. Anyone can make a record that reminds you that you’re in a club, that reminds you you want to get money, but I always like to look into the “how” and the “why” versus, “this is what it is.”

Do you think that goes by peoples’ heads because of songs like “U Guessed It”?

It flies over the majority of peoples’ heads because of “U Guessed It,” and because people right now are hesitant towards this music that drawn more towards being an all-around artist. Like, if you listen to Young Thug and you listen to him back then and listen to him now, you can hear him grow as a rapper. Some might think he downgraded as a rapper because of the change of content and punchlines and all that, but as an artist he’s now making tonal, multi-cultural music. It’s just amazing music.

Even songs like “Shooting Star” were basically rap-ballads.

Exactly – even the songs he made with Gucci. When you hear him in the background singing and that’s not a rap tone. You don’t think, “this is hip-hop.” You don’t hear that from that sound. You don’t get that tone from rap these days.

People have to look at artists more like, “where is this stuff coming from? Why do this music sound so much more different than other music? Why do they dress the way they dress? Why are these so-called rappers developing so much with fashion?” We’re trying to be way more progressive than the past generation.

Look at A$AP, look at Kendrick — who on his album went back and grabbed the majority of musical styles that black people created. He went back and got George Clinton and did funk. He had the bluesy-type records, Howlin Wolf-type records. He even had poetry slam. He went back and combined all of the art-forms that evolved over time. It’s more of a resurgence than a complete recreation because we realize how important that it is to push the boundaries. Otherwise, people get lost and forget where we really came from.

Do you think a lot of rappers now are realizing that rap is just a continuation of the blues and R&B of past eras?

It is, and among artists of around the 22-26 range – and I say that because everyone older than that is a bigger star – we haven’t reached that star level yet, so before we do, we’re trying to hit as many bases from all our personal recollections of music.

With the ‘Breathe’ EP, you showcased a more politically-charged sound. Can we expect to hear more music like that from you?

The majority of my more “rap” music is more along those lines. I’ve always been that type of person. My mom always wanted me to be a speaker more than a rapper because of the way I say things. My rule is to say what should be more obvious to people but is not because of the jaded world we live in and the perception we have of everything, especially in America.
When I’m making music now especially, I’m extremely aware of my placement in this world. I’m extremely aware of the inspiration I give to little kids and older people who wish we had the opportunities we had when they were our age.

When I’m making these neo-soul, Anarchist songs, you have one version of it that’s like “Fuck Em,” which is more a derivative of rock, then you have “Riot,” which is pure black struggle when you get to the content. That’s where a lot of the actual respect behind the music comes from, because people are hearing that bigger things are going on. If you choose to talk about that first regardless of whatever backlash, people are going to tune in.

Especially with “Riot” and that Miley Cyrus line.

You go into culture and see the black girls who have been pushing the culture for the majority of women of all ethnicities just like black men are pushing the culture for most men of all ethnicities, yet the way things are perceived are so amazingly different. Black girls have been twerking strong since at least 2001, 2002, yet it takes 12 years and a white girl to twerk and now it’s everywhere and accepted and everyone’s twerking? Then, you go a few years before that and you hear the majority of media talking about the “sexualization” of our women. Until someone else gets on it, now it’s cool. People were like, “Miley Cyrus is bringing fun back. We have a new dance craze: twerking.” Even with this “woe” thing. “Woe” has been around in New Orleans for forever. Going back to 70’s, even late 60’s, “woe” has been the term in these places. And now, “woe” is the new term, but how? It’s like when The Beatles re-invented classic rock songs from Chuck Berry, and now it’s “rock’n’roll.” Now it’s rock’n’roll when the white guys came and did it, but what happened when the black guy made the original song? It was not rock’n’roll? It was “n*gger-yelling”? What was it? That’s the question that needs to be answered. What were these things before white people got ahold of them? What were they?

With this incident with Walter Scott. You see black people screaming out for years, “cops don’t treat us right, ya’ll don’t understand how it is to be black and interact with cops.” We’ve been saying it for years and years and years. And now, you have all of these shootings and these discrepancies and support for murderous cops, and you look at local news stories, and it’s completely different until the video comes. And, then when the video comes out, no one makes an apology and there aren’t any retractions. In the end, it’s always an “isolated incident.” It’s always an “isolated incident.”

So, it’s not like this is something that has happened in one form or another in culture, it’s in pop culture, it’s in our criminal justice system, it’s in fashion — it’s in everything. Someone needs to start asking the question: “why is it?”

Lastly, you’ve released a lot of music in recent months. What’s up next when it comes to new releases?

Next up is to complete this album. There’s little EP’s, for example the one with me and Rome, with me and other artists, but it wouldn’t really be me releasing it. The album is all I’ve been working on – we were working on version one in January and now we’re on version four or five. The LP is what we’re focused on over here at QC and what I’m personally focused on. We have the OGG tape coming out, but that’s not a personal tape, that’s my entire company and all of my artists and a collaborative effort to show that we’re the sh*t. Other than that, album.

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