Omniscence: The Raw Factor

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Photo courtesy of Below System Records

In the mid-90s an emcee out of North Carolina named Omniscence was on the rise. He had released a couple of singles and one of which, “Amazin’” was awarded the coveted Hip Hop quoatable in the Source Magazine, an honored bestowed to the best rhyme of the month. Despite what appeared to be an ascension to Hip-Hop’s elite, Omniscence’s rise was halted when his forthcoming album, The Raw Factor, was shelved.

Omniscence has partnered with Below System Records to give The Raw Factor a proper release digitally, in addition to on CD and Vinyl. The Raw Factor is produced by Fanatic and Rheji Burrell and features appearances by Sadat X, Toz Torcha, Big Kap, Lil Kalef, and Rock of Brick Flava. The Below System release of The Raw Factor features four bonus tracks recorded during the making of the album.

Omniscence spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about properly releasing The Raw Factor, laying the foundation for emcees from North Carolina, and his plans to drop new music.

TRHH: How did you hook up with Below System Records to release The Raw Factor digitally?

Omniscence: Brother Deniz Oztas from Below Systems contacted me and he just asked would I be interested in doing a re-release of The Raw Factor. First, obviously I had to do my homework on who Below Systems Records was and I noticed that they had done some prior releases with some pretty established and official artists. So, after doing that homework and asking him a few questions about how they wanted to do things we decided to go move forward and do it.

TRHH: Why was The Raw Factor originally shelved by Elektra Records?

Omniscence: Ohh, man, that’s a good question. I think it was a series of things, but the way I would sum it up is by saying we signed a deal with 3 Boyz From Newark, which is a production deal and a label that Vincent Herbert, a producer from Newark, ran. He signed a deal with Elektra Records with Sylvia Rhone to put his imprint out, which was 3 Boyz From Newark and then from there he started signing artists. The reason we got shelved, just to sum it all up is we signed with Vincent in the middle of ’94, and by ‘96 the album still was not truly complete. It was a lot of things that needed tying up like sample clearances.

There was a few things that was holding the album up and I think personally East West/Elektra/3 Boyz From Newark, so a lot of hands in the pot there, Elektra which was the parent company, I think they felt like enough money had been spent but yet the project was not done. I don’t want to say there was any mishandling of the money by Vincent, but I will just say that I think whatever had went on Elektra was at that point where they felt that the project should have been ready to go and it wasn’t. I attribute that also to us going in doing records and then deciding that collectively we wanted to go another direction with the sound of the album, which took more time. A lot of different factors, but that’s why they shelved it because it wasn’t ready to go after two years of spending money on recording.

TRHH: So, do you 100% own The Raw Factor?

Omniscence: That’s another great question, man. I mean, publishing wise, yes. But as far as the masters of that album me and my peoples are in the process of getting total control over the masters of that album. After a certain amount of years, the masters are supposed to go back to the artist, but it doesn’t happen like they just automatically come back. You have to pursue that and put that into motion. They don’t just give them back to you. So, we are working on that right now.

TRHH: “Stage Presence” is a song from that era, but it’s new to us. Why wasn’t this song included on the Raw Factor album?

Omniscence: So, as I’ve mentioned before, we were always recording songs all the way up until everything went left with the label. The Stage Presence song was a song recorded in ‘96 at really right towards the end of the album. We had actually completed The Raw Factor, but we were playing around with some songs that we were hoping to add on to, maybe even use as a B-side for maybe one of the singles. It just narrowly missed it. That’s the only thing I can really say because The Raw Factor actually ended up getting mixed and mastered, and so once the mastering is complete you can’t really add on anything to it. It just missed it, I would say by maybe a week or two, but we continued to record even after that point.

If the album came out Stage Presence was going to be a joint that was going to go on the B-side of maybe one of the first two singles, which would have been “Amazin’” or “Touch Y’all.” We ended up going obviously with the Sadat X version that we did on Touch Y’all, but that was the intention of these songs that you’re going to hear on the re-release of The Raw Factor with Below System. You’re going to hear two songs I believe they’re going to release, which I think we have a total of four, but I think they’re going to release two of them, and those are two songs that just narrowly missed the album.

TRHH: The second verse from “Amazin’” was rhyme of the month in The Source in October 1995. This was such a pivotal time in Hip-Hop and 1996 would go on to be one of the best years ever in rap. How much did getting the shout out from The Source help you and your single at that stage for your career?

Omniscence: Wow. I’ve heard artists such as Biggie — Notorious B.I.G. mention “Hey man, I want one of those joints,” but he eventually got one. It’s just an honor, man. It’s like a trophy that can always hang on the wall. It’s one of the most honorable things as an emcee at that time. We know The Source was the Bible of Hip-Hop and to get that look it helped me a lot. It just brought a lot of spotlight to who I was as an emcee. It’s really unfortunate that The Raw Factor was not released, because it was almost like that helped build up the hype for the album and then there’s no album that actually came out at that time.

I would say that I had a little buzz, I was making a name for myself, I had entered into a few competitions and showcases and things of that nature — The New Music Seminar’s, the Jack the Rapper’s, I was present at all those things. I was making a name, but when I got that look I think that set the stage for what should have been a very big moment for me.

TRHH: You’re a pioneer for North Carolina Hip-Hop; how does it feel to see so many great emcees from North Carolina over the years?

Omniscence: Ohh, man, lovely question. I look at everybody that came after me, and not to say I was the first, but I was probably the first to take it to a certain level, and to have done that and see what transpired after with no disrespect to anybody, but it’s like looking at your children. Looking at your younger cousin, your little brother [laughs], no pun intended. You’re proud of them because you knew that where you come from we always had it.

I’ve told this story before, I met Charlie Brown from the Leaders of the New School at the New Music Seminar. This was before the Leaders of the New School had released their first album, so, this is like 89-90. We had a brief conversation where I was just letting him know North Carolina — we real with this Hip-Hop thing. I ended up performing that same night on that same stage at Webster Hall, if I’m not mistaken, at a car wash showcase at the New Music Seminar. I don’t know if he peeped that that night or what, but what I’m getting at is on his famous verse where he said “New York, North Cackalacka and Compton.”

If you think about New York who is the father — they’re the king, then you got the West Coast, but it ain’t just really L.A. If you look at Compton that’s really the hot spot for super classic emcees, which L.A. has theirs this, too, but if you think about it, just really put your mind on it, Compton is the hot spot. When you look at The Game, Kendrick Lamar, Dr. Dre, N.W.A., that’s a hot spot. But why did he say North Cackalacka? Why didn’t he say Atlanta?

No disrespect to any of the southern states, but I feel like North Carolina – we are like the grand-babies of New York Hip-Hop. We got a lot of dope emcees that have come out of here because of that foundation. We just always respected the foundation of Hip-Hop. When I see the likes of a J. Cole, a Rapsody, a Phonte from Little Brother, a Supastition and many, many more, I’m very proud and feel like hopefully I might have laid a foundation to let people know, hey, you can do it from here.

TRHH: Why haven’t your released music since The God Hour?

Omniscence: Ohh, man, well, The God Hour which I do believe was about 2013, that’s 11 years, that’s a long time. To be honest, I’m always recording music and stuff like that, but the passion to release something for me has to be right. New music, I’m always trying to figure that out and get that out there right. I don’t want to come back with something just to say, “Hey, I got something new out and check it out,” because as we know the market is over-flooded — over saturated.

I assure you though, new music is on the way. I got a lot of other stuff going on. After The God Hour I really wanted that project to settle in on people, and I wanted the true fans of Omniscience, I wanted to give them enough time to really grasp that, too. A lot of people want to go back to The Raw Factor and that’s it. A lot of people don’t ask me questions about Sharp Objects, which was an EP that came before The God Hour, and then The God Hour itself.

I really would love people to really get an ear on those projects, because it’s a such a vast difference between that and The Raw Factor. The Raw Factor is me as a young kid saying, “Hey, I don’t care what I’m talking about or who I’m talking about, I’m spitting for the love of it.” I might be saying some ignorant shit, whereas The God Hour is me as a more matured man and a more righteous man, but still who I am — just more refined.

To answer your question, I feel like the next time I step to the mic it needs to really be the combination of both –The Raw Factor and The God Hour. Because a lot of people felt The God Hour may have been lacking that rawness from the early days and that sound. I know that The Raw Factor is lacking the maturity and we get better with time as emcees. So, what I want to do is put those two together and then I could actually skate out on that and say, “Hey, that’s it for me.” That’s what’s taking a long time — really production wise, lyric wise, just putting it together, man. It’s been in the making for a while.

TRHH: What would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in over 30 years in the music business?

Omniscence: Biggest lesson that I’ve learned is to always bet on yourself, always go with what you feel on the inside. If you know a certain move you’re about to make is not the right move, don’t do it. Or if you need to make a certain move, don’t let nobody tell you not to make that move. Trust your vision, trust your intuition. On the flip side of that, put everything business wise in your hands. Make sure that you have everything together on the business side of things, because we’re in a new day now where you can truly control everything. There’s no need for the middleman.

So, that’s what I learned. It may take you a little longer to do it yourself, but it’s more rewarding. Sometimes that can be okay if you’re cutting in somebody and it’s a good partnership, but it needs to be a partnership. It all has to be driven from your vision, your intuition. That’s number one, trust that first that’s what I would say. Make music first with the intention not of making money and that kind of thing, say what you really want to say. Get out everything that you want to get out that’s within. That’s what I would say.

Purchase: Omniscence – The Raw Factor

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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