Xavier Omär, wasn’t supposed to be a singer. Let him tell it, spitting hot 16’s with ease were the cards to be dealt for him. But here we are, on a balmy Saturday night in Miami, sitting in a chilled nightclub-turned-green room. Tonight, Omär’s name is sandwiched between AlunaGeorge and Steven A. Clark’s for Red Bull Sound Select’s inaugural 3 Days in Miami showcase where he’ll take center stage for a serenading session.
In just a matter of years, Omär, who many may have known as SPZRKT once upon a time, has taken his rare breed of R&B talents from his San Antonio bedroom to the internet to hundreds of unsuspecting individuals who learn about his undeniable artistry with when he steps foot on a stage. “I didn’t have anything when I started,” Omär recalls. “My intention when I first made music was to just put it out in places and hope somebody would recognize and know it was me.”
Today, the singer-songwriter has caught the attention of not only Red Bull’s artist development program but indie label/creative crew Soulection with his sound that in one moment flips rhythm and blues on its head with elements of pop and jazz and breathes new life into an ever-evolving genre.
Here, Omär speaks with VIBE on his musically-inclined upbringing, the honesty and respect for women he’s bringing back to R&B, coming into his own as an artist and more.
VIBE: How’d you get into music?
Xavier Omär: My family actually sparked my interest in music – everyone is really, really talented. My dad and my brother, they both played bass guitar and piano was their main thing. They both produce. They both write. And they also play drums. My sister is this mega soprano. Matter fact, she’s on tour with one of the top gospel artists right now. And my mom, she did opera in college, like full out opera. So I was always around it. I played drums, but I didn’t really sing or write or anything like that. It wasn’t until I was 12. When my brother was in high school he had a three-man group, and he was producing. I just wanted to be like my brother. I decided to go just for it. Back then I was a rapper and did production for a little bit. I didn’t really focus in on singing until I was 21. I’m 26 now. But being in that family, there’s just no way you weren’t going to be musically talented. So I really took it upon myself to not be the oddball, the non-great musical person in the family.
So, having such a musically-inclined family, what kind of music was on repeat?
I was with my mom the most growing up so it was always gospel. I don’t think she plays anything but gospel still. It’s always some Fred Hammond, Kirk Franklin. So yeah, I didn’t hear a lot of diverse music growing up, which is weird because I’m extremely diverse now.
That’s really interesting since your sound is so diverse. I’m interested in what your first CD you bought with your own money was.
Bow Wow’s Doggy Bag. I can’t even remember how old I was but that was it. The first one I ever bought, my own money, tried to hide it from my mom and everything. I didn’t want her to find it so I hid the case and just put the CD in my pocket when I was trying to listen to it. Eventually it just broke because I forgot it was in my pocket [laughs].
I feel like we don’t give Bow Wow the credit he deserves.
He was a kid rapper and I was trying to be a kid rapper, too. So it was like, he was the dream that I wanted and it was the realization that it was possible, at least to me. Now, obviously people helping him write and all that. I didn’t know that. I was thinking my bars is fire. This is going to happen for me. I used to think I was going to be famous within two or three years of me starting my music. I was going to be a child star rapper. And there was nothing you could tell me because Bow Wow did it. And then there’s Romeo and then Corey. And Sammy was singing. I was like oh, it’s happening for me. So Bow Wow, he gave I think a lot of us who were starting music young, he gave us that confidence that we could do it.
Creating music is such a vulnerable thing so confidence is definitely a must. What made you give singing a try?
I mean, I would sing here and there because I could, but it just wasn’t something I loved. In middle school, I had been going around trying to make my name in the school as a rapper. I was producing at that time, too, and I would bring cassette tapes of my beats recorded and have people listen. I ended up hearing about this dude at school who was rapping and started making beats for him. He ended up doing the school’s talent show and the song he was going to perform had a chorus in it. I was like, ‘Yo, you should just sing that.’ He was like, ‘I can’t sing.’ So I did it. That was the first time I sang in front of a lot of people. From there, the chorus teacher tracked me down. I didn’t really want to sing but she was like, ‘You can sing. You need to be in chorus for us.’ Realizing that it was probably the easiest A of my life, I just did it. I had to do an audition, and I sang “Happy Birthday.” That kept me into singing. By the time I got to high school, I had a little group and would sing choruses on some songs, but I was fully dedicated to being a rapper. Once the group broke up, I did a solo song and people kept telling me how much they loved it. I figured I should try singing.
Let’s get into your sound. Earlier I mentioned how diverse your sound is, but can you explain it for those that may have yet received their blessing just yet.
Ah, man. The sound itself, it is completely difficult to describe, but just know that it’s always rooted in R&B. That’s always going to be the foundation. But you’re going to hear elements of almost anything after that from gospel to pop to soul. In the past, you may even hear elements of country here and there. You’ll hear elements of rock because of the powerful vocals. But R&B is always the root. I actually try not to push outside of what that genre allows, too. That genre to me, is one of the most expansive genres. Erykah Badu, her early beginnings, you could say that was soul or neo soul, but in a lot of ways, that was R&B too. You can also fast forward now to Beyoncé and all of what she’s doing, and that’s still R&B. Even Frank Ocean is doing R&B, and those are all completely different sounds, but it still works within the constructs of the genre. So I try to touch a lot of those areas. I think that’s just the best way to really describe it.
What do you think you bring to the genre that it may be void of right now?
I think there’s a lot of honesty and a lot of respect, respect for women number one [in my music]. A lot of our favorite songs, when you look at it, it’s really misogynistic. It’s difficult to play that around if I had a niece or if I had a daughter. It’s weird because it’s enjoyable music. But it’s also not what I would want them to grow up hearing. So I think my difference is very much respect that I have for women, really making that a focus point because it’s just something I believe. If I’m a woman or whatever the role or position may be, I just think that respect should be equal. But I also don’t want to listen to music that’s saying how all men are dogs. So from that standpoint, I shouldn’t be making music that has women being b***h and hoes and whatever it might be. So I’m just trying to make music that I wholeheartedly believe in and something that I know people can play for anyone. You could play for your kid, you could play for yourself, and everybody just be lifted.
So many people may actually know you as SPZRKT (Spazzy Rocket), which is the name you were going by for awhile Why the change to your actual name? Was it symbolic of anything?
Growth in my own self number one. A lot of people wouldn’t notice if you haven’t seen me live, but Spazzy was almost like a character. The message in my writing is the same, but the look and feel of Spazzy was drastically different. I was wearing heavy draped clothing. I’m really an introvert, so a lot of that was built around Spazzy as a character. The fact that you couldn’t just simply read the name and say it. I didn’t like taking pictures. I still don’t like them, but I didn’t take them a lot then. All those things were walls. So I’m just becoming my own self, Xavier Omar. Being my own full, free self, taking much more photos, having much more fun with people. And this allows me to be seen as myself instead of this character that I have to live up to for myself. And it works in business as well. Just the opportunity for people to look at a name and know how to say it. They know immediately. And we’ve seen a lot of great opportunity already. Like a month after we did the name change, we had a great opportunity. And I’m really glad it happened for this event. It was in time for this event because seeing Xavier Omar, seeing my name on some posters and stuff is really cool. And I just don’t know how I would’ve felt seeing Spazzy Rocket all downtown, people not being able to say it, and misspelling it online, and all this ridiculous stuff. So it made things a lot simpler and it made things better for the future of my career and I’m just able to be myself.
I know a lot of day one fans probably respect you for that because many artists today are shrouded in mystery to the point you can’t necessarily connect with them, no matter how much you like their music.
Yeah, it was one of those things where it was just kind of time to just do something different, something more. I knew if I wanted to go further in my career, if I wanted to connect with more people, I had to get out of this shell I created. I think letting go of the name was a big piece of that as well. I played Afropunk recently and that was probably the most photos I’ve ever taken in a day ever. I wouldn’t have done that in the past. It would’ve been like say thanks, leave, get some water, say what’s up to everybody in the back, and chill. But that was very different for me in a good way. It was very important that I took the time to go talk to people, to hear their stories if they had some, take some photos if they wanted one. And it’s not only for me but to just be hope, so they could know this is a person, this is somebody who cares, and this is the position that they can be in one day.
I got to catch your set at Afropunk where you played on the Soulection stage. How’d you build a relationship with them?
Soulection is definitely my family and my friends, just not officially signed the paper work and things like that. They helped me tremendously to come up online. I had my first L.A. show because of them. One of my first outdoor shows was because of them. And then Afropunk, my first big festival, I’m on the Soulection stage. Every step of the way of my career, they’ve been there, whether it’s Sango, Esta, Joe Kay. They’re always there for me.
That has to be really dope since their whole movement is catching momentum. I’m sure it also helps to have an influx of supportive, creative individuals around.
I didn’t have anything when I started. My intention when I first made music was to just put it out in places and hope somebody would recognize and know it was me. That was my sole intention for my first project. There were a couple of people who hit me up from that project, and the people that they knew started helping me. It just snowballed into where I am right now. The whole Soulection thing happened because Sango found my music online. On my second project, he found a song he really liked and just wanted to do one song with me. I had no idea who he was when he found me. From the song, he was like let’s do a project out of nowhere, and here we are now talking about it all. So I really just took a big risk and said I’m going to go online and put my music out and hope somebody finds it. The people that found me have really helped me to get this far.
A photo posted by Xavier Omär (@xvromar) on
That’s really dope how the internet has fostered such life-changing relationships for this generation. I know you were born in California and have lived everywhere from Japan to Maryland to Georgia, and San Antonio. You rep San Antonio the most. What’s the music scene like there?
Yeah, that’s where I started. Those are the people that have supported me when I was coming up. When I moved there is when a lot of stuff started happening for me so I can’t abandon them. At the time though, there wasn’t a scene. Matter of fact, I think recently got rid of one of the only up and coming local venues, White Rabbit. So the environment didn’t allow for us to consistently build a fan base and make a real community together, which is unfortunate. I don’t know if there’s many singers as far as the R&B community. Obviously, when you want to go into other genres like country and tejano, it’s a place you really want to be. But people are there, they’re doing their thing. They’re trying to work hard. It’s just a matter of time. I think the area needs somebody to really go and represent it and then pull people up. It’s just like how Drake really started repping Toronto and helped The Weeknd, Majid Jordan, PARTYNEXTDOOR and DVSN get into the positions they are today. It’s not about the area not having talent, but the lack of a platform. I think San Antonio is the same way, and I want to be able to do that [for them].
So, now you’ve got yet another awesome support system in the artist development program that is Red Bull Sound Select. What’s your experience with them been like so far?
It’s amazing to be a part of Red Bull. And that’s all because of Amir Abbassy; he made that connect for us. They gave me an opportunity earlier this year to work with Hit Boy and do all this cool stuff with him. From there they started putting me on shows. The first one was actually with Sango and from there it’s been D.R.A.M., Noname, Basecamp, just all these people. Overall, it really affirmed where I am and what I’m doing.
Aside from live shows, is there anything we can except from you before the year comes to a close? Maybe something we should keep our eyes peeled for or mark off on our calendars?
Yeah, my EP is going to come out extremely soon. [I] don’t want to give an aim date because I don’t want people to start getting mad at me like they did Frank. But before the end of the year is definitely the plan, just not going to say the month. Sango and I are also working on our second project, which is going to come out early next year. So I’m excited to work with him on that. I don’t stop. I don’t sleep; I just keep going.