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Balancing Act: Omarion Opens Up About Fatherhood & Why 'Reasons' Will Be His Best Album To Date

Omarion balances fatherhood with his fifth studio LP

After an ugly run-in with New York City rush hour traffic, Omarion makes his 4:30 pm interview time, even after pushing it back an hour later. At an hour where most would be prepping the turn-up for happy hour, O is carrying his baby, Megaa, deep in slumber, followed by a six-person entourage comprised of his massive body guard, publicist, camera man and confidants.

For Omarion, daddy duty is just as much of a full-time gig and passion project as his unwavering career. But this isn't the same B2K frontman we've grown to love. His energy, while still high and cheery as ever, is now a bit more subdued as he carries the title of father.

Fresh off the One Hell of a Nite Tour's Connecticut stop, O stopped by the VIBE office to catch us up on what's been going in his world. While holding his sleeping bundle of joy, Omarion talks the unexpected success of "Post To Be," his fifth album Reasons and his love affair with fatherhood, all while pop-locking in true Maybach O fashion. –Ashley Monaé

VIBE: This past year, you've been killing it with "Post To Be." Million dollar question: Will we ever see you, Jhené  and Chris perform the record live?
Omarion: [Laughs.] I think it should be coming up soon. I think it would be dope. We're always in different places but hopefully soon. Chris and I are on tour so that's half of the battle. We're just waiting for Jhené now.

Were you expecting the record to become as big as it did?
Honestly, no. This is the biggest record that I've had to date. It was completely unexpected. I guess just showing up to work and always giving your best is really what it takes.

 

You got in the game in 1999 at just 14 years old. You've been resilient in your career, even when people doubted your future. What can you credit that to?
Truly understanding that being an artist is not just a job for me. This is my purpose. That's probably kept me in the game more than anything because there have definitely been times where I'm been like, "Man, I'm not doing this anymore," especially when I started to learn the politics [of the game]. When I started getting into that, I was like, "This is crazy." You know what I mean? It took the joy away from what it is that I do and I love so it's definitely been the drive–sheer drive, motivation, knowing I belong here, knowing I deserve to have a hit as big as "Post To Be." Just knowing that I'm on Earth to give music and help people create moments in their lives that's unforgettable with my music has kept me grounded.

As the summer closes, we're conjuring up a list of the best songs of this summer. What was one song you can't stop bumping? 
It's my new album. It ain't just the new song—it's the new album. It's titled Reasons and this is my fifth installment. This is just a different body of work. This is me in my transformation phase coming off of "Post To Be" and Sex Playlist. Sex Playlist was like the birth of creation. I really was happy to be motivated the way that I was by my son, that's a whole other thing. When you have a child, you really understand what it means to love, to have something to be selfless for. I think that elevates you. It elevates your consciousnesses, your level of thinking, your art and the way you approach it—everything. My son really, really leveled me out. I'm on my wave because of Megaa right here, who is sitting with his mouth open in his interview. My dude is [knocked out]! [Laughs.]

Speaking of fatherhood, you're on tour with Chris Brown. Have you given him any parenting pointers?
It's funny because he came to the bus the other day with Royalty, and her and Megs were playing around. Our whole conversation was about them. I mean to have a conversation like that as young fathers is crazy. He was like, "Yeah, so I have a designated play area for Royalty so if Megs wants to come and play," and I'm like, "Oh yeah, that's cool." It's super cool. I can tell that he's motivated differently these days by being a father now. It's probably the most selfless thing that can happen to anyone in our position. Growing up in the game, you are taught that you have to make certain harsh decisions and a lot of the time, they are selfish because you want to obtain a certain level [of success]. But when you have a child–well, for me–that all goes away. It's almost like it ain't even about you anymore. It's really about feeding your child.

Although you guys are proud fathers, any crazy or memorable moments from tour yet?
I'm going to be honest with you, it's been light. This is our second week of shows so we still have time for some crazy things to happen. But thus far, everyone has just been getting in the swing of everything. New city, new spot, trying new records, just figuring it out. The first week and a half has been awesome.

Has any of the other performers surprised you?
I haven't been able to watch everyone's shows just yet but for the most part, since I go on right after Fetty Wap and before Kid Ink, so it's a nice pass of the energy baton. Right after Fetty's done, the crowd is always amped and I'm like, "Woo!" and send them on their way and pass it off to Ink. It's been fun.

Back to the album, do you have a release date?
The release date is October 23. Besides it being my fifth installment, I think it's my most important albums because prior to "Post To Be" and its success, a lot of people were sleep. I always would hear people say, "Omarion is underrated," or "Omarion doesn't get the props he deserves," and I always thought that was interesting because I have had a certain level of success. It's so interesting now because there are so many reasons why and that's why I named my album that. Five is the common denominator of this whole thing. I have 15 songs on the album, three times five is 15. Three: that's me, my son, my lady. Five, 15, fifth installment—I'm just looking at numbers. It's 2015, things are just adding up and making sense right now and not because of me. I've been doing this all along. I've always pushed myself and wanted to be better and do different things. Even from the "Touch" Omarion to now, I'm still dancing but in a different way because I don't have backup dancers with me. I'm constantly challenging myself so it's cool to see people finally catch up. And then they're like, "Oh man, the Care Package was dope," and I'm like, "Um yeah, that's crazy because nobody downloaded that when it came out." And now, we're here so it's super cool to have another go at the music and it be exciting still. It still be a competition and something that I wake up yearning to do and I don't feel jaded. I don't feel like I'm putting records out because I have to. It's just my art and I love it.

What kind of sound can we expect from this album?
I worked with a small team this time around. Of course, James Fauntleroy, who I would consider a guru and young Yoda in his time because he's just amazing at what he does. He's so talented and a great friend of mine. Also, I worked with this producer named Knowledge and Anderson Park, who did six songs on the new Dre album. I also worked with this new young producer named Murder who's coming out of Toronto. I worked with Stereotypes on the my next single–I can't wait for people to hear that. Just good energy, great music.

Any dope features?
Well, yeah but they're sending in their verses right now so I don't want to say anything and I don't get the verse. [Laughs.] But expect nothing but the best.

Love & Hip Hop Hollywood's second season is premiering soon. You really did an awesome job at not embarrassing yourself like others have done time and time again. What can we expect from you and your family this season?
We got a little TV action, a little music action—we're all over the place. I want to say that I'm really in my music bag. I've got shows, I'm on the road, so you'll definitely see the challenges of that and being a new father. You see, I'm at the VIBE office with my sleeping son so this is not a game. I need him to know daddy is working hard.

Well, fatherhood suits you well. Are you up to sealing the deal with another newborn anytime soon? 
[Laughs.] That would be nice to have a child again.

In our vibbbeeeee. O x Megz.

A video posted by Mr O (@1omarion) on

What's the most important lesson that Megaa has taught you?
Everything that is supposed to happen [will happen], as far as timing goes. I think people get really wrapped up in time. That's where I'm starting to understand and figure out, especially with having a young man that I have to raise. It's all about the time you spend, the hours you spend, the focus, all of that. A lot of people wouldn't deem what I'm doing parental, especially when you're an artist and you're creating a perception and a concept for the type of music that you make. But it's like, "Why not?" Why not be the young swaggy father? Why can't I be the poster child for that? I think it's truly about being honest about who you are. People really gravitate towards that and I'm finding more and more that it's not about how people see you but knowing yourself. When you know yourself, you create your best work.

[Photos by Ian Reid]

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After guests dined, Graça Machel, stateswoman, activist and Mandela's widow spoke. Donning a small blonde Afro, a pink silk scarf and a navy blue knee-length dress, Machel expressed her appreciation to all those who continue to champion her late husband's work and even quipped about her love for leaders.

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Take Five: DJ Khaled Talks ‘Father of Asahd’ And #Summergram Partnership

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VIBE: What are your thoughts about your new partnership with Pepsi's Summergram? DJ Khaled: This seems like the perfect fit. I am excited to work with Pepsi – they are always spreading positive vibes and the Pepsi #Summergram collection is a lot of fun to play around with. You know I’m always posting to Instagram and these new AR filters help bring my content to the next level. Look out for more Pepsi #Summergram filters from me all summer long.

It seems like you’ve been intentional with this album rollout even more so than your past projects. What can you tell me about your strategy for this rollout? I decided we can’t do anything dinosaur anymore. For this album, everything had to be big. From the music to the rollout, everything had to be big! And watching it all come together is just beautiful. And I love to see the excitement from my fans! At the end of the day, it’s all for my fans.

What was the toughest song to create? To work with so many different artists and so many moving parts, I imagine it can be challenging. Every challenge is a blessing. The toughest ones to make are usually the biggest ones. I’m blessed to work with great artists and be able to create beautiful music together.

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How CJ Wallace Turned His Connection To Notorious B.I.G. Into A Cannabis Brand

Christopher Jordan “CJ” Wallace was exposed to the music industry at an early age. As the son of Notorious B.I.G. and Faith Evans, the 22-year-old recalls growing up with countless musicians stopping by his family’s home studio. “We had a studio in our house when we lived in Atlanta. This is around the time [of] Bad Boy South,” he tells VIBE during a visit to our Times Square office. “Any given Tuesday, Usher might come over. It would be crazy.”

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Right now, there is a common focus on the recreational use of cannabis; consumers are flooded with images of kids, middle-aged adults, and celebrities sparking up to escape their realities or “have fun.” Prior to the arrival of Psalm West, Kim Kardashian threw a CBD and meditation-themed baby shower for her fourth child in April 2019. In addition to lifting you off the ground, however, Wallace, Mack and Think BIG want to introduce society to the healing and creative benefits of cannabis. Mack learned about cannabis’ healing powers in a major way during his youth.

“As a kid, watching [how] the AIDS crisis ravaged the world and seeing the LGBT community fighting for cannabis to help them with nausea during AZT [antiretroviral medication used to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS] was my first indication of [thinking] cannabis was a drug, but people are actually using it to try to stay alive,” Mack said, noting that he had several family members who were dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Similarly, Wallace uncovered the alternative nature of the plant when his family experimented with it as a form of medication for his younger brother, who was diagnosed with autism. After testing various strains, Wallace confirms they found the right balance, but since cannabis isn’t an approved medication, his brother is unable to use it publicly. “This is helping my youngest brother every day,” he insists. “It’s unfair because we can’t give it to him and let him take it to school and have the school nurse actually prescribe it to him so he’s constantly getting that regular medication. You can’t take it to school, but the kids in his school are being given opioids, which has crazy after effects.”

Creatively speaking, Wallace and Mack consider cannabis to be the “ultimate ghostwriter.” It’s no secret B.I.G. was an advocate. From numerous consultations with his family members, he learned his dad often smoked while recording. (Mack also notes famous smokers like Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, and Bob Marley.) Just about every corner of the music industry has dabbled in recreational smoking, but no genre has been hit as hard as hip-hop. While fans love to watch Snoop Dogg smoke on Instagram Live or share a spliff with Kid Cudi during a concert set, the hip-hop community as a whole is met with backlash and often times targeted by police due to cannabis.

“I feel like anything associated with black men is just immediately going to be deemed bad or evil,” Wallace says, referencing the negative connotation rappers receive. It’s Wallace’s mission, however, to adjust that perspective. “I feel like it’s really up to us to change that narrative. That’s why I try so hard to stop saying words like ‘weed.’ Cannabis, it’s actually a plant," he continues. Both Wallace and Mack noted the terms "weed" and "marijuana" hold negative connotations and are commonly used in connection with minorities. "We were lied to for so long. If we were given proper knowledge from the start, I feel like the entire hip-hop community and the entire way we talked about it would’ve changed.”

Beyond educating consumers with their message and products, Think BIG also seeks to improve the criminal justice system as well as launch charitable projects. According to “The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” on average, a black person is 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person. Such racial disparities reportedly exist in all regions, states, and counties around the United States and largely contribute to today's mass incarceration crisis.

In recent years, the U.S. government has made significant strides to correct this injustice. California, Nevada, and Maine are among the first states to legalize cannabis; states such as New York have already begun the process of exonerating offenders convicted of nonviolent charges and marijuana possession. Despite the steps forward, Wallace and Mack say there is a long road ahead.

Not only is it difficult to eradicate a vicious cycle that has left many black and brown people behind bars, but it is also hard to forge spaces for them to succeed in a rapidly changing industry. “Being able to understand how to navigate the industry that’s constantly changing and to do it without a bank account or full funnel of money, makes it that much harder,” Mack says. “Then on top of that, you got people sitting in jail who should be out of jail for nonviolent possession of cannabis. So, we’re faced with having to work four times as hard to make half as much because of the color of our skin. It’s a constant fight and we look at it as how can we set an example, share our knowledge, [and] show more information?”

It takes a group effort, Mac says. While Think BIG is setting a place at the table for black businesses in the cannabis industry as well as shifting the conversation around the plant, Mack suggests other ways to get involved that ultimately uplift the black community. “It’s much easier to enter into the market based on something you already know,” Mack insists, pointing out the opportunities for design firms, packaging, and communication firms to join the movement.

Wallace and Mack know the journey ahead is going to be a roller-coaster ride fit with many twists and turns, but they’re ready. “You got to dream big, as your dad said, and think big,” Mack says. “Everyone else in this industry is thinking about global billion-dollar companies, why shouldn’t we?” As for Wallace, he understands how difficult the process is and will be, “but, it wasn’t more emotional than the first 21 years of my life.”

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