I did ten episodes on MTV’s Making the Band, which was Puff [Daddy]’s last TV show for MTV, which is a show that dealt with us judging and bringing up the musicians who would then go on tour with Puff for his Dirty Money tour, which, subsequently, I was working on the album [Last Train to Paris] as well. Then you still don’t know where your life is going. You’re trying to figure it out because it’s not with Sa-Ra [Creative Partners] right now. We did that already. What am I going to do now?
I was with my girlfriend during the filming of that television show. This is all after. Give me some help, universe. The interns stopped showing up, all these wonderful young brothers and sisters, but one day this young brother named Michael called me. He was like, “Yo, can I be your intern?” I was like, “Damn right. Come on.” Michael made his way up to the hill [in Silverlake] one day, a very positive, young Nigerian brother, great family. His mom’s rich. Perfect scenario. It wasn’t like he needed to do it. He genuinely just wanted to be in the music business. He could have worked for his mom and been in the healthcare scenario but he wanted to make music. I was more than willing to let him be around me. I talked with his mom real quick because he was 18, just like my mom had to talk to [Jam Master] Jay [about me]. It was so weird. It’s very cyclical.
There’s a connection with all Nigerians. They’re all cousins.
The first day, he brought me this wonderful gift. When you slaughter a cow during the ceremony in Nigeria, they take the femur. They make a chief’s scepter. Only the chief can even have one of these things. He smuggled one back from Nigeria. He brought me this wonderful bone scepter. An amazing young brother. I was like, “You’re ill. Come be with me every day.” Day three he was like, “Yo, there’s this guy named Tyler the Creator.” Now Tyler is half of my journey. There’s a connection with all Nigerians. They’re all cousins. They all have a way that they demonstrate. They’re very familial. They all believe that they’re related in some way on a spiritual level. They all demonstrate as family. All that to say Michael and Tyler, for all intents and purposes, are cousins.
They’re friends from Facebook, friends from MySpace. This is where Tyler started his movement. He was like, “Yo, there’s this audio clip of Tyler running off his top 100 albums of all time. [Sa-Ra’s] Hollywood Recordings is one of them.” I was like, “Wow. Somebody looked at my album.” Great. He was like, “Yeah. I think he wants to meet you.” I was like, “Please. I’ll meet anybody who’s young. This is just what I asked for. All you young, come meet me.” Tyler came over by himself. Then the next day he was like, “Let’s bring Hodgy Beats.” I’m like, “Let all these young brothers and sisters come over.”
Through embracing them, I embraced the future.
Then a week later, Matt, Syd and Annette came over. Then Frank [Ocean] was with them. I swear, within a week of meeting Michael, I met all of Odd Future. I knew immediately I love these young kids. I seen Earl [Sweatshirt]’s video. I was like, “Who is this kid pouring drugs into a blender, drinking it and puke? I’d never seen nothing like that. I want to meet all these kids.” Through embracing them, I embraced the future. No pun intended. I embraced my future, which is somebody who’s going to work with young creatives, primarily.
My focus then became someone who probably would not work with anyone over the age of 27, no shade at anybody that’s over age 27. That’s just what I started dealing with. Even to this day, I still continue to deal with young brothers and sisters in that age bracket. Through my demonstrations in peace, love and creativity, they saw that I was on-point with the music. The Sa-Ra shit was real. It wasn’t a joke. They saw what my contribution to Sa-Ra was. They all started hanging with me.
Me and Frank was hanging out, just sharing musical ideas. One day I played him my album that I released, City Pulse, for download for free. He heard it. He was like, “Yo, I want to play you Nostalgia Ultra before it drops.” That was the day that changed my life. I swear to God, within a couple days I got a phone call like, “Yo, I want you to produce my album. I’m about to do this Def Jam thing. I want you to come on and be my producer.” I was like, “Yes, dude. Let’s go. This is just what I’ve been looking for, an opportunity to demonstrate with someone who’s forward-thinking, in the know, in demand, unique and powerful.”
A couple days later, we were in the studio. We were in EastWest Studios cutting “Sweet Life” straight-up. Me and Frank looked at each other after that first day. I was like, “Are we good?” He was like, “We good.” Handshake. Let’s continue this. Here we are. We won a Grammy. I got a Grammy sitting on my desk, almost 20 years to the fricking day of my start in the music business. That’s how long it took.
Here I am working on Frank’s second record. I’ve been working with Vic Mensa. I’ve been working with Chance the Rapper. I’ve been working with all these wonderful, young creators who are at the forefront of music in their personal realms. Shit really happens when you put your mind to it, when you don’t look back.
For more about Om’mas Keith’s remarkable life in music, check out the documentary in the player below.