Long Beach emcee O.T. Genasis is best known for captivating the world nearly two years ago with his massive single “Coco.” An emphatic homage to the cocaine trade, the song is an American narcocorrido with a hook catchier than curtains in a house fire. The Platinum-certified “CoCo” is an example of the power of a songwriter’s imagination with its use of tone, inflection, diction, accenting and dynamics to convey an unmistakably strong message.
O.T. would soon follow up with another drug-referenced smash, the Gold-certified single, “Cut It,” featuring Young Dolph. Since its release, the music video for “Cut It” has received nearly 100 million views on You Tube, and peaking at No. 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. O.T. is on track to garner a triumvirate of hit singles, on the heels of his latest effort, titled, “Push It.”
In the following interview, the Conglomerate Records and Sony/ATV signee talks to Music Industry Quarterly about his career, his approach to writing, his Madden 2k16 placement and how he overcame the pressure to follow up his massive hit.
You are pretty renowned for writing big hooks. Is there anything that you can share about how you approach hook writing?
It’s fairly simple. I don’t overthink it and I just let it come to me. I don’t think too hard. What did your street single “Jackie Chan” do for your career? It pretty much was the beginning of my career and stamped my name around L.A. and brought a lot of attention to me. Following that record, I was much more confident in my work.
What did you learn about music during your time with G Unit?
I knew a great deal about music before I signed to G-Unit. I would say that I learned more about the business being with G-Unit—having the opportunity to watch 50 [Cent] and seeing how he moved, how he handled things, his shows, his preparation. My learning was mostly things like that.
What was the response like in L.A. when you first released “Touchdown”?
Everyone went crazy. At that time, everyone in L.A. knew that I could make records. I hadn’t gone national yet but everyone in the city knew that I made records. People would sing “Touchdown” word for word. Every club was playing it and it would be played during peak hours, 12:30…1am. After that, I was booked for a lot of clubs. It made me hot in the city.
How did you meet Busta Rhymes?
I met Busta at a club in L.A. called Playhouse. We met there while I was performing. I performed “Touchdown” about three times. When he saw the response of the crowd and how everyone was going crazy and singing the song, he pulled me to the side asked me if I was signed and I told him no. He told me that he wanted to do business together and a few days later we met at the studio and made things happen.
What has your time working with Busta been like?
It’s been amazing working with Busta; an amazing and humbling experience. I get to see somebody that has been working for 20 plus years. Seeing how he is in the studio, you pick up so much. I don’t know everything. I’m still learning to this day. Working with him is just dope.
How did your Madden 2k16 placement come about?
I dropped my song “The Flyest” on the internet and it got picked up on a lot of blog sites. Eventually someone from EA Sports ended up calling my manager and asked if they could place it on Madden. Of course we said, yeah. I’m a big football fan and it turned out good.
How vital has your publisher [Sony/ATV] been to your success?
Mainly the Madden placement. There are a few other things but mainly Madden was dope. When I first did my publishing deal, the first thing I was thinking about was getting my music in video games and movies. For Madden to come about, especially after growing up wanting something like that to happen is really dope.
How much pressure did you feel to follow up “CoCo” before releasing “Cut It”?
Too much pressure. Enormous pressure. I was going around performing “Coco” everywhere. All across the world, and the only thing I kept hearing is people telling me that, “You have to come with something,” “The next one has to bigger than this one,” and things like that. I started thinking to myself that no one else has a record doing this well, not that I see, so why are they pressuring me like this?
I felt the pressure but after a while I cooled off and got back to being me. When I did “CoCo,” I wasn’t thinking too hard. I was just doing me. I wasn’t doing it for the whole world, it became a success that was very big but I wasn’t doing it for the world. I was doing it for me because I liked the song. Once I figured that out, I zoned in and did what I did. I did O.T.
Where is the most interesting place you have heard your music?
I’ve heard my music all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East. Everywhere outside of the U.S.
You are very popular internationally. How have your travels influenced your work?
I get to see new things when I travel, so of course I get to talk about a lot of stuff. Like I used to listen to Jay-Z and there were a lot of things that I didn’t understand that I understand now. You actually have to travel to understand the things that he talks about. From the cities, the fashion, everything. I find new things to talk about in my songs, just from traveling and watching.
How have you defied stereotypes about what West Coast artists should sound like?
It all starts by not picking West Coast beats; just choosing to be original, choosing not to go that route and being myself. That’s what has gotten me this far. I always saw myself bigger than just the West Coast. I always wanted to be bigger than that. A couple years ago, I would see artists and hear artists and it felt like everyone was in a box and I didn’t want to be that way. I wanted to be big, I wanted to see the world. I wanted my music to be played everywhere. I used to hear songs do well in L.A., but when I would go work in other cities such as Atlanta, Miami or Houston, I didn’t hear West Coast music when I went to the club. At one point, [DJ] Mustard and YG came out with a sound that was very big, but in the club you didn’t hear any other West Coast artists. So I didn’t want to be like that.
Who are your favorite producers to work with?
I don’t really have favorite producers to work with but I’ve had success with young, hungry producers. I don’t really have any favorite producers that are big, household names. I generally stick with young, hungry producers.
So, how would you describe the O.T. Genasis sound?
I don’t have one.
What’s next on your agenda: tour, new music?
I want to make sure I put out a project. People have heard singles from me but I definitely want to drop a mixtape and drop an album. My mixtape is 90% done and my album is 95% done, so there is a lot of new music that I’ll be bringing to the people.
What’s your favorite brand of baking soda?
Definitely Arm & Hammer.
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED BY DARRYL CREWS