In the world of hip-hop Omega Red faces an uphill battle: He represents Boston. Historically, Beantown has had a shaky time breaking into the national rap scene. Sure Ed O.G. & The Bulldogs is often name-checked as the one rap act that managed to make respectable noise. But the city has struggled mightily coping with the mammoth albatross known as Ray Benzino and his notorious Made Men outfit. Thankfully, Omega Red wants to change this. The up-and-coming rhymer and label head is genuinely obsessed with placing his beloved hometown back on the hip-hop map with his debut release Red October (due out Oct. 30). VIBE goes one on one with the newcomer who has worked with everyone from MC God KRS-One to Akon’s hit making Konvict Muzik production team, to find out if he has what it takes to carry an entire city on his back.—Keith Murphy
VIBE: First thing’s first… let’s get it out of the way. Being a closet comic book nerd, I know the name Omega Red also happens to be a character from the X-Men. Were you aware of this?
Omega Red: [Laughs] I do love the X-Men. But I don’t consider myself a comic book cat. Actually, my name did not originate from that character. It was just ironic because the way I got the Red nickname was that everyone around my way in Boston called me Red. I’m Black, Irish, and Native American, so I have a reddish Indian/Irish tone. Now Omega came from the time when I was incarcerated.
Can you open up about your time in prison?
I don’t mind talking about it. I was incarcerated for three and a half years. I got really big so dudes started calling me Omega Red. But being in prison had a huge impact on my life. I was charged with home invasion, kidnapping and possession of a firearm [among other things]. That was a good chunk of my young life… I was 20 going on 21. I can’t even tell you how I came back from that. I guess I’m a strong-willed dude. I had a lot of people praying for me. I believe God knows my intentions, so even though I dabbled in stuff, I had good intentions.
KRS-One is featured on your upcoming album Red October. Being a much younger artist, how important was it to connect with such a legendary act?
It was really important to me. I was fortunate enough to be raised to witness both the old and new school. I grew up listening to KRS. That was the first time I got star struck while meeting an artist; Big Daddy Kane was another artist that made me nervous. But I found KRS-One to be very humble and down to earth. It was a rite of passage. A lot of new artists don’t have a respect for the oldschool. They don’t know about the origins of the music. I’d rather do records with the legends in the game than to do them with new cats because the legends set the foundation. That goes beyond hip-hop. I did a remix for Donna Summers, who is the queen of disco.
Now that’s an odd pairing, huh?
Well, she’s my aunt. And she respected me enough to reach out to me because she saw my movement. She asked me to remix one of her songs. And actually, it came out pretty good.
You worked with Akon’s Convict Muzik production crew for your current single “Endz.” Did you have any reservations about hooking up with an overtly commercial outfit?
A lot of the hardcore hip-hop artists want to be diverse but they can’t because they are stuck in a box. A lot of them are going to hate the fact that I’m working with [Akon’s team]. But I don’t care what anyone thinks. They want to come test me, come test me [laughs]. I met Detail from Konvict Muzik through Ray J. Detail produced the ‘Sexy Can I’ record.” He is a very eccentric dude; he was real arrogant and cocky when I first met him [laughs]. I laid the “Endz” record down in 15 minutes. After Detail heard it he was like, ‘I have to do three more records with this dude…he’s a superstar!’” He didn’t think I was that versatile in the beginning. I sponge up different styles.
What do you want fans to get out of Red October?