Manitoba Music is launching Snack Sessions, a music video series streaming live via Facebook. In each session, a Manitoba act will be featured in a live performance plus a interview and profile. Read on and stay tuned for more Snack Sessions! Snack Sessions is made possible by the support of Corus Entertainment, with snacks provided by Old Dutch and Half Pints Brewing Company. WATCH THE VIDEO
By Graeme Houssin
Ahead of the release of his first single, “Not a Terrorist”, Osani Balkaran—aka The O.B.— can look back on a successful musical journey many local artists would be envy.
“It seems like people keep pushing me to go further even though I have nothing released, which is, I think, a miracle,” The O.B. said.
The O.B. credits Graffiti Art Programming’s Studio 393 program for inspiring him to pursue a music career, having joined the initiative when he was just 12 years old. Their week-long workshop, Freestyle, trained him in a variety of rap styles, culminating in a performance that lit the fuse for a long string of live performances to come.
“It just gave me a little bit of a push,” he said. “I guess the people there saw something in me that needed to be nurtured.”
Fast-forward seven years, and after attending Studio 393 nearly every day, The O.B. works there as a music instructor, paying forward the skills he learned to new generations of hip hop musicians.
“I try to help people make music as they helped me,” The O.B. said.
His high-energy performances and synth-inspired rap music caught the ear of many local hip hop heavy-hitting acts, including The Lytics, 3PEAT, and Leonard Sumner, opening for all three.
He’s also brought his rap stylings to a number of high-profile local music festivals and showcases, including Wall-to-Wall Mural + Culture Festival, OpenFest 2018, Live At CFUV in Victoria, Big Fun Festival, the City of Winnipeg’s Word In the Park showcase, and Manitoba Music’s own New Music Night in December 2016 (a collaboration with Studio 393 to spotlight emerging talent).
“Not a Terrorist” is the product of a collaborative art project between Studio 393 and Winnipeg police officers, designed to bring together inner city youth and the Winnipeg Police Service. While many participants, officers and youth alike, created visual art pieces, The O.B. opted to write his first single.
“[“Not a Terrorist” is about] not only my life, but the first part’s about my family and what our relationship’s been like with the law and cops and the penal system in general,” he said. “Part two of the song is about my own struggles with the police and growing up in the West End and going to high school in the south side and what my relationship with the police was like.”
The O.B.’s other music speaks to themes of overcoming addiction, something very personal to him.
“Right now I think my music’s always changing,” he said. “I feel like my music’s talking about what it’s like being addicted to drugs. During that time, there was moments when I would feel fearful and there were moments when I had hope.”