Late March saw the much-awaited launch of Pakistani rapper Adil Omar’s debut album, The Mushroom Cloud Effect. With it, the 21-year-old former child prodigy hopes to go from underground sensation to mainstream success.
Over the weekend, The Express Tribune sat down with Omar to discuss the new album, the future, YouTube bans, and life as ‘Paki Rambo’.
Omar was enthused by the experience of working with well-established acts from the rap genre, underscored by elation over the chance to work with Everlast.
“I worked with Everlast on Hand Over Your Guns, which was probably the most exciting collaboration on the album for me,” said Omar. “Everlast has been one of my favourite songwriter-vocalists, an artistic influence and somebody I’ve looked up to since I was about eight-years-old. Working with him was a great opportunity and the song seemed to unfold beautifully.”
Everlast was not the only big name on the collaboration list, as Omar quickly listed old school legends such as B-Real of Cypress Hill, Xzibit and Kool G Rap, along with newer talent and underground heavyweights such as Sick Jacken, Demrick, Hard Target, Greydon Square and Gravity among the other collaborators. He was disappointed that the track Sugar Low, which was supposed to be in collaboration with Pakistani musician-actor Meesha Shafi, was recorded without her because of scheduling issues. “But the song was written with her in mind as a feature, so I’ll say that her spirit is very much in it,” he added.
From the album, Omar feels strongly about all of his music, but some songs mean more than others.
“I feel most strongly about the title track, The Mushroom Cloud Effect, as well as Hand Over Your Guns,” he said. The latter, which features Everlast, “probably best represents me as an artist and songwriter”. It can be interpreted in many different ways — as a post apocalyptic sci-fi war song, a love story, or a universal peace anthem. It also crosses genres and can’t be pinned down that easily. “In general, my favourite songs would be the ones I experimented on a little more,” he added.
Omar has an upcoming tour with gigs lined up in Dubai, Europe and the US, and perhaps elsewhere. “Still adding to that list, we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
On the production front, a series of collaborative EPs is on the cards for 2013. “I’m doing one with co-VEN, one with Talal Qureshi and one with G Rocka of Soul Assassins,” Omar continued. “I’ve also been more open to side projects such as song writing or production for other artists, acting, and endorsing brands, as well.”
He is also shooting a video for the last single of the album, but as for a release date he said, “I’ll keep that a surprise for now.”
The NoTube situation
The usually optimistic artist has a bone to pick with the government, specifically over head-in-the-sand censorship policies.
“The YouTube ban has hurt all of us. Musicians don’t sell records in Pakistan, but they can still get some YouTube ad revenue and have the potential to go viral and reach an international audience,” he said regretfully. “We’ve been royally screwed and nobody seems to care.”
Meanwhile, when asked about local media helping fill the void, Omar could only say, “If local TV stopped shamelessly alienating local talent in favour of Bollywood, then it might help.”
With years of effort comes recognition, but Omar still doesn’t see himself as famous. “I live a fairly interesting, exciting and spontaneous life. Sure, I get recognised and people show love, but I’m not really out there and I don’t really put myself out there, either,” he said.
The young artist prefers to have his work, rather than his person, recognised. He quotes an anecdote, “I was recently in a room with a 100 people inside in Lahore, and ‘Paki Rambo’ came on. Nobody knew who I was, but everybody knew the song and the lyrics,” he said, adding with pride how good that felt. “I always want my work to be more famous than my face.”
On his love life he said, “What holds value to me, should remain hidden...for now.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2013.
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