Good evening party people. Hopefully everyone had a great weekend. I’ve been out of town since Friday, so I’m a little behind on returning emails, posts, and a bunch of other things. You’ll hear about my weekend probably a little later this weekend (think: used CD shopping trip). I will also have the newest “This Or That” up tomorrow night, I just don’t have the energy (or time for that matter) to type it up tonight, but be on the look out for the newest poll tomorrow morning. You’ll get the sneak peak of what the post will be about.
I wanted to introduce the producer of the hottest “free album” on the net last week, Omer Saar, the founder of UniverSOUL Productions and the creator of “The Green Album”, which got a lot of hype, not only this site but OkayPlayer and just about everywhere else in between. It caught a lot of us off guard, but his beautifully used Al Green samples, gave some certifiable dope songs a face lift and gave them a life of their own. I for one wanted to know more about the man behind the music, so this is what became of it……
WYDU: Before we jump right into the “Hot Album” of the week, you somewhat kind of came out of “nowhere”. Could you fill in the blanks for those that might not know of you before this week?
Omer Saar: I’m just a dude that loves good music. Music has always been a passion of mine. I was one of those people who always made mixtapes back when we actually dubbed from tape to tape. It’s even funny to me to say that, knowing that some of the people reading this never did that…haha.
I got my turntables when I was 16 or so. That was around ’95 I guess. Records opened up a whole new world of discovering music and I was all about it. It became a serious obsession of the healthiest kind. I mostly DJ’d house parties n’ shit for friends. I was never the greatest “turntablist,” but I loved playing music for people and being something of a taste-maker… putting people up on what’s good.
One day my homey Bill called me and played me a beat he had made. We were best friends, so I was like, what do you mean, YOU made a beat? I drove over there right away and we started playing around with a demo version of Pro Tools. To make this story short, we made a lot of music together and it was dope! I LOVED the idea of being creative and actually making my own beats. It become an obsession of mine as well, especially since it went so hand-in-hand with digging.
Although I’ve made a lot of beats in my day, I never released anything for a few major reasons. The main reason, was that I refused to put anything out that would add to the garbage, mediocre, or even decent music out there. Although I genuinely loved some of the beats I was making, it was gonna take a real special artist to do them justice and make them shine.
I never considered myself to be a super dope producer. There are SO many cats out there that are way more talented than I am, way more creative, and just flat-out make doper beats.
So, really, unless you know me from my many travels, from skating or snowboarding, from some business related stuff, or from the many great people I’ve met over the years, there would be no reason for you to know who I am.
W: This isn’t a knock on any of the beginning producers out there, but while we haven’t heard much of you before, you definitely don’t sound like any “new jack”, how long have you been producing and what kind of equipment do you use?
OS: Wow. That’s a huge compliment. Let me just marinate in that for a minute….
I started making beats with Bill on that demo version of Pro Tools around ’99?? I’m AWFUL with keeping track of time. That was before I even understood sampling. It’s almost embarrassing to say, but it’s the truth. I probably bought an Mbox with the official Pro Tools a year later or so. By then, I’d figured out sampling and that’s all I wanted to do…. dig for dope sounds.
I made beats for fun and for my own crew’s freestyle sessions for about 3-4 years. Then, my homey FINALE moved into the crib. I was and am still a big fan of his. He’s a real dope emcee that most of the world is just about to start hearing. We always talked about doing an album and that was the first time I was producing beats with a project in mind. Unfortunately, that never happened. Sucks. That shit would have been CLASSIC and I don’t use that term loosely.
Getting back to your question, I mostly use records to sample from, bring ‘em into Pro Tools, and do the entire beat-making process in Pro Tools. That’s it! I hated learning how to use new programs and I didn’t have an MPC or SP or any of that (wish I did!). I did eventually start using a midi keyboard, which opened up my sound a bit, but I didn’t do it long enuff.
I moved back to Cali (LBC) almost exactly two years ago and haven’t made a single beat other than a few new GREEN ALBUM beats in the last 2 weeks. 1) I need to get my money and business right first. I hustle extremely hard to pursue my dreams and not give in to a 9 to 5. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I just can’t do it. When I make music, I need to be 100% submerged in that state of mind and I can’t do that until my money’s right. 2) If I start making music again, it’s gotta be progressive. I gotta play it out more myself. I wanna fucks with an MPC, a KORG keyboard, and other instruments of all types. I can’t afford that right now, so it’ll have to wait.
I promise, I will never retire from making music. I love it and I just wanna do it right.
W: Let’s jump right into “The Green Album”. What made you want to take on a project like this?
OS: I described it a bit in my original post of THE GREEN ALBUM (http://universoulproductions.wordpress.com/2008/05/28/omer-saar-the-green-album-free-download/-album-free-download/)
I never thought of it as “taking on a project.” I was just laying there listening to Al Green’s greatest hits and I was like, I can probably make a beat out of almost every one of these songs. Al Green has always been one of, if not, my favorite artist. Willie Mitchell was always, if not, my favorite producer. I mean come on… Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson, George Jackson, and even for his own songs. Dude’s a beast.
Almost a year after thinking about doing that every time I heard Al Green’s music, I finally decided to do it.
W: How did you pick the tracks you wanted to remix for this project?
OS: That’s actually an interesting question. The short answer is that I just picked my favorite songs.
I have always had a thing about “staying true” to myself. i think it’s a quality too many people don’t live up to, to be blunt about it.
I actually REALLY wanted to remix MY favorite tracks from each of my favorite artists. Problem, was that I couldn’t find acapellas to any of those tracks. I was super psyched when I realized I co
uld remix “Communism.” That was one of my favorite songs from my long time favorite hip hop album Resurrection. I almost didn’t remix “Passin’ Me By” at all because it was too obvious. I didn’t like the fact that so many people had remixed some of the tracks before, but at the end of the day, I stuck with the artists and songs that were classics to me personally.
W: You messed with some certified classics for this, but you manged to give the tracks a life of their own, did you go about the tracks a certain way, ensuring that they did the original versions justice?
OS: Absolutely!! That was one of the most important things to me. There’s a quote in Finding Forester where Sean Connery reads what the kid wrote and said something to the effect of, “you took something that was mine and made it yours.” I think the “made it yours” is IMPERATIVE. There is WAY too much biting, copying, cookie cutter garbage out there and the Hip Hop police, who use to be the real heads, just don’t carry the weight they use to. Today, fans care more about what you’re wearing, how many albums you’ve sold, what your hair looks like, what jewelry you have etc. They don’t give a shit at all if you just jacked someone’s sound and sound just like ‘em. In fact, they love it.
W: You mention wanting a summer album, and you definitely have some summer vibes going on, was that the objective from the beginning?
OS: Actually, that did become the objective early on. I think that the Al Green sound in general was made for some Summer Lovin’. I obviously honed in on that to make it a motif in the album.
W: One of the aims for this album was to raise awareness and money for “Stay True“, could you go into what the organization is and what the money goes toward?
STAY TRUE is a non-profit organization my brother, NIr, started in Philly. STAY TRUE is dedicated to offering under-privileged, at-risk youth the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to become powerful agents of social/political change in their communities.
STAY TRUE offers school, extra-curricular, and weekend programs that combine academics and activism to give students an amazing service experience.
The money will be used to execute these programs. I know that my brother is currently fund raising to get a van that he can transport these kids from place to place. There is SO much he has planned for STAY TRUE. The website (http://www.stay-true.org/) isn’t officially finished, but doe to THE GREEN ALBUM’s release, he got enough together for people to get a solid idea of what it is he has planned. I strongly encourage everyone to check it out and get involved.
My brother is damn near (no pun intended) the coolest mutha-luva you’ll ever meet. He did a program called Teach For America (http://www.blogger.com/www.teachforamerica.org) after college. He taught inner-city, at-risk youth in a low-income area in Philly for two years for TFA and then decided he wanted to see his kids graduate, so he is now wrapping up his 3rd year teaching there.
The two of us have always been passionate about a more progressive education and upbringing in general. My brother had some different ideas of what he wanted to do, but this idea of starting a non-profit was very appealing. At the time, I had already started working closely with Hip Hop Leaders (http://www.universoulproductions.com/HHL.pdf). My brother came out to Cali to visit and literally as I was driving home from dropping him back off at the airport, I text him STAY TRUE (Strategically Teaching At-Risk Youth Through Responsibility, Understanding, and Education). You can also see the relevance in the name “STAY TRUE” and my general philosophies in life.
W: That is a great cause, I hope people reach out to this and try to make some sort of contribution. You make mention of some “bonus tracks” coming in the near future, any clue to what those might be?
OS: Hahaaaa!!!! Ummmm…. No.
Okay… maybe a little….
There has been some fairly recent discussions of doing some new exclusive joints with artists I am a fan of and friends with. That is far from a promise though.
There are some tracks that I already produced that just didn’t make it to the album. They’re no less good that the songs on the album, just didn’t fit as well into the cohesiveness of the album.
W: Did you expect the kind of reaction you are getting from this project? You have everyone from Okayplayer, to Illroots, to a lot of blogs like WYDU backing you, how does that play into future plans?
OS: First, I had no idea what to expect. 3 years ago, I had dreams of grander with the project. This time around, it REALLY happened largely because of Al Green’s new album with ?uestlove “Lay It Down” (which is great by the way). They were gonna release it on my freakin’ birthday. ON THAT DAY! When I found out, I couldn’t ignore the signs. At that point it was up to me to finish it in time. I worked on it the ENTIRE day of my birthday only to get it done and posted around 4am.
The love and support I’ve been getting has been INCREDIBLE. NOTHING makes me happier than knowing people are enjoying listening to that album. I love it!!
The way this realistically plays into the future right NOW, is 1) It’s making people aware of one of the dopest blogs on the internet (http://www.universoulproductions.wordpress.com/) (EDIT NOTE: It’s linked now…my bad) 2) It’s getting me in touch with a lot of other really dope people like yourself who are taste-makers and influencers. There is a lot of value in those relationships for future marketing opportunities (by that, I mean, helping quality goodness get it’s shine). 3) Hopefully it helps me get people involved with all the current projects I’m working on. I am personally putting together THE DOPEST PROGRESSIVE STREET-CULTURE TOUR of ALL TIME! Peep game (http://www.universoulproductions.com/BackToTheStreets.pdf). Right now, I need brands that know what’s REALLY GOOD to consider a long-term relationship and commitment to this tour and TRUE STREET-CULTURE. Other projects include Hip Hop Leaders, STAY TRUE, and a bunch of others.
Other than that, who knows. If a label was willing to give me enough dough to be financially free and focus on music, you can bet that some incredible stuff would come out of that.
W: You got a good start, that’s for sure. What does the future hold for you?
OS: Happiness, fun, a lot of struggle, hustlin’ and grindin’ to pursue my dreams. Hopefully financial freedom in the next 5-10 years (right now, I’d actually settle for being able to pay my bills). And of course a lot of really good music in one form or another.
W: Thanks, and best luck in the future.
OS: Thanks Trav. That was my first interview ever. Your blog is dope and I check it every day. Real talk. Keep up that quality control and let’s help keep GOOD MUSIC and other goodness alive!! Thanks a mil brotha. Peace.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT LAST WEEK:
Here it is world. My first release. I hope it becomes the soundtrack for your summer. That was always the intention. Nothing would make me happier than people listening to this 5, 10, 20 years down the line and remembering the Summer of ‘08.
There are AT LEAST 6 more tracks that will be leaked one by one over the next few months, so stay tuned!
THE GREEN ALBUM is a project I’ve had mostly finished for 3 years now. It’s a full-length Hip-Hop remix album over all Al Green sample-made beats. It will be the first official music project I have shared with the world. I truly love it and I want to share it with as many people as possible.
Most of the songs being remixed come from hip hop’s “golden era.” Artist such as De La Soul, Mos Def, Big L, Ghostface, Method Man, Notorious B.I.G., Pharcyde, Nas, AZ, Pharoahe Monch, Fugees, Jay-Z, Das Efx, Mobb Deep, and Busta Rhymes. I added a few other artists that I’m a fan of such as MF DOOM, Saukrates, and FINALE. I will almost definitely make a few more tracks in addition to those.
The profits from this project will be going to STAY TRUE, a non-profit founded in Philadelphia by my brother, Nir Saar. Check the link above for more info! It’s one of the coolest non-profits and I’m extremely proud to be part of it.
Their mission is to increase social awareness and engagement of those students that are most affected by the ailments of society. I STRONGLY encourage you to read more about it and get involved in any way you see fit!
Download the album here. All I ask is that if you like it, please post it on the blog. It would do wonders for the exposure of the album as well as the cause.
FREE DOWNLOAD: THE GREEN ALBUM (produced by Omer Saar).zip (sendspace)
PLEASE CHECK OUT OMER’s SITE