Little Rock, Arkansas’ OG Ira J got his start in music as a freshman in college, rapping over nice beats in the dorm room with friends, but quickly found it to be recreational. At the start of 2019, he honed in on his skills, recognizing his capabilities and from there, set on a path to becoming an artist.
Learning from his peers behind the scenes equipped him with a better understanding of music from a producing, touring, and performing standpoint. When speaking on content he says, “I rap about my life, things that go on in my life. Everything that goes on is a part of my environment. Little Rock in itself has played a major role. I’m telling Little Rock stories.”
As a student and active participant of hip-hop, OG Ira J is keen on educating himself on the industry and hopes that his music reflects his authenticity and good energy, while still being relevant in today’s dynamic musical landscape.
I’ve been anticipating this interview, so I’m glad that you could connect with me.
‘Preciate it, I’ve been anticipating it too.
Let’s jump right into it! I’m interested in knowing about your background, so where you’re from, and a little bit about your childhood and your family life.
I’m from Little Rock, Arkansas. My childhood: I grew up in Little Rock, grew up on John Barrow, went to school at Parkview, played basketball, went to Arkansas Tech for a year. And that’s— yeah, it’s simple. You know what I’m saying, nothing too extravagant. My Pops stayed in California, so I done been down there when I was young, back and forth. But I didn’t stay for a long amount of time. I been back and forth through there a little bit.
I didn’t know that you made music until maybe a year ago. I was like, oh snap, I went to the same college as him and I did not know he made music. When did you get your start in music?
My start really was going into my freshman year in 2015, since a friend of mine had gotten some music equipment. He got a mic and a MacBook and we put out maybe two or three songs. We were just playing around with it, but I kind of knew I could do music. But I left it alone though. That was my start. Nothing serious though. I picked it back up last year .
Oh, okay! So now that you’ve tested the waters, have taken it seriously, and realized your talents: who is OG Ira J the artist?
The artist… just a cool wavy guy, you know what I’m saying? The guy you go to for the vibes. Trying to chill, he’s trying to roll up, you know what I’m saying— chilling. That’s OG Ira J, that’s who that is. The cool guy.
Do you feel like you being the cool guy reflects in your music?
Yeah, it’s me. It’s not a facade. I’m not trying to be somebody I’m not, or putting something on, it’s me. It’s Ira, like if you know me before this, you’ll know exactly that it’s just me depicting my life basically, what I go through on a daily basis over the beats that I like.
You said that freshman year was when you experimented with music, but prior to that, what did you see yourself doing?
Prior to that I thought I was going to be a coach, doing something with basketball. I didn’t see myself doing something without a basketball, to be honest.
Well, music is completely different from basketball [laughing].
Right, but hoopers want to be rappers and rappers want to be hoopers, so you know.
It’s not like I’m trying to be something that I’m not, or rap about something that I’m not going through. I rap about my life and the things that go on in my life.
What role, if any growing up in Little Rock played in your music career?
It’s played a significant role. Like I said, it’s not like I’m trying to be something that I’m not, or rap about something that I’m not going through. I rap about my life and the things that go on in my life. Everything that goes on is a part of my environment. Little Rock in itself has played a major role. I’m telling Little Rock stories.
That’s good though because I feel like that— I mean, you just being you is all you know, but it makes your music relatable. Like you said, you’re not putting on a facade. How would you describe your sound and the type of music that you make?
It’s chill, it’s wavy. It’s not hella turned up, it’s not moody. It’s chill, it’s the vibes, like you’re kicking it and having fun.
Based on the music I’ve heard from you, I agree. Your music includes a lot of old school sounds and your flow is different from the trap style that we’re used to hearing on the radio, so I do get that sense of chill, real-life, and just enjoying good music. Tell me about your creative process. What is the process like for you when it comes to making songs, hopping on a project, or creating your own project?
You want me to give you the sauce! Nah, I’m playing [laughing]. Really, [the creative process] ain’t too much, nothing too crazy. It just when I feel inspired, so say it’s just like when I’m having a good time, when we’re just out kicking it or things are upbeat I might feel the inspiration to write. Yeah, so that’s really what it is, after a good time in my personal life I put that down. I’m not a person that has to write all the time or make a song every day. It just, when I feel it that’s what is and it’s normally off of good vibes.
How involved are you in the creation of the music—from the writing to the production aspect?
I don’t rap over beats that I don’t like. I don’t really make beats, but if I don’t like it I ain’t going to rap on it, so I’d say I’m pretty hands on. I have to feel it myself before I rap on it or the beat has to say something to me. I’m pretty hands on with it and if I’m not feeling it, then it ain’t going to fly.
Who are your biggest influences?
Musically, I’ll say n*ggas like Dom Kennedy, Nipsey Hussle, Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, Big Snoop.
You’ve got some good ones in there. What are your thoughts on the current state of hip-hop and what role do you see yourself playing in it?
My thoughts on the current state of hip-hop…that’s a serious question. I think the current state of hip-hop is new, it’s like uncharted waters. It’s pretty cool, it’s wide open and you can make yourself what you want. It’s different, and I think it’s cool because we’re doing something that really hasn’t been done before. Jumping with streaming and putting it all digitally is new. What I’m doing is for those kids that grew up around that Wiz Khalifa how high era, stuff like that. So, I’m kind of keeping it true to that. I’m still young and I know it’s a lot of people who listened to that when they were young that don’t listen to that now and I’m sticking to it, so if you like those types of beats, nothing that’s off of the wall crazy 808’s. Not that anything is wrong with that, but I kind of like try to keep in that— where we grew up, that era I grew up in listening to music, who I felt was tight and trying to carry on the torch.
We’re so used to hearing trap 808 beats, which is fine, but sometimes you need some variety. I feel that going back to what you’re familiar with and the type of music that we grew up listening to, and keeping that wave alive in this current state adds in some flare and a bit of nostalgia for those of us who are used to that sound. How would you describe Arkansas’ music scene?
It’s growing. If you can put it in one word, I’d say it’s growing. It’s cool, it’s at a point where it’s starting to pick up steam, not trying to discredit anybody that was doing anything before what’s going on now, but it’s n*ggas now that’s doing sh*t like— you see guys signing with QC and people doing other things like HD and them doing sh*t. You know what I’m saying, personally I hadn’t known anybody from my city to be doing it that crazy or doing anything that big like that. It’s getting bigger. Getting a light and pushing the envelope. It’s growing as a whole.
We’re one of those states where people don’t think that anything good comes out of Arkansas, but we have a lot of talent in the state.
And it’s really bubbling now, too!
What are three things that you’ve been doing to make sure that you’re growing as an artist?
Trying to stay hip as much as I can and keeping my ear to what’s tight and what people are listening to nowadays. And then staying true, with me being hip, staying true to what I like and trying to find where I can fit in that groove. I can catch the ear of this over here and still be me. Another thing I’d say is just grinding and educating myself on hip-hop, knowing a lot about that sh*t. I want to stay hip on that as much as I can. I watch Everyday Struggle every day. Just trying to stay hip and know what’s going on.
I think those three things will definitely keep you growing. What moment throughout your musical journey has had a major impact on you?
To be honest, the process that I took last year starting out in 2019 I’d say the biggest thing that I did that made the most impact was going on tour with a friend of mine, Q Hefner. I’d say that’s the biggest for me because I knew I wanted to rap— I’m on a label, so I got a friend of mine that’s rapping that’s been going hard at this. I’m experiencing everything without having to go out in the fire with it, so I kind of like got a backseat to how sh*t works on tour and see that it can really be done, you know what I’m saying, from the people that I’m around from the city showing that it can really be done. I’d say that left the biggest impact on me because there’s no excuse for me at this point. If n*ggas want to do a tour, we can do a tour.
It’s good that you were able to get a backseat to it, soak everything in, and be shown the ropes so that now it won’t be as alarming to you or overwhelming—you know how to navigate.
Right. I’m already comfortable getting on the stage and doing anything at this point because it’s like I’ve already done this. I already know how this goes. All we have to do is sign those papers, you know what I’m saying [laughing]?
[laughing] Definitely! So, now let’s move on to your projects. You recently released a joint project called The Vincent And Jules Tape and it’s a quick listen. It’s an EP. Tell me more about this EP.
Yeah, like you said, it’s a quick listen. It’s a good four songs with me and a producer friend of mine—a good friend of mine. We sat down and really just brainstormed with what’s going on in America, you know with quarantine and all that it just gave everybody that’s doing anything time to think and work on something. We just huddled up and got some work done, basically. That’s what we came out with while being shut down.
Now, I want to do a track play-by-play. This is the part that I really love—just to see where your mind was when you were creating this.
Let’s do it! So, the first song we did was “Royal With Cheese” and honestly the first song on the tape was the last song recorded. We basically knew how many songs we wanted to do, and we had one more to do. To be honest, I got the ending process of it. My guy Mouton, he made the beat and made the hook and everything. He was just like, “yo I got the last of it, pull up I just need a verse.” Sh*t like that is what you love. That’s like a basketball player coming off a pick and you’re wide open. The team done did everything for you, now just go lay the ball up. That’s how that was, you know what I’m saying. Smelling myself on it.
So with the second one, “The Lake Show”, I can say that this one was really like my little vibe; the west coast vibe like I said with my Pops being in California. That’s kind of like my comfort zone, if anything. When we first came together I was like, man I need a west coast beat. I need something I can get with. I think “The Lake Show” was the first song we recorded and it kind of set the tone for what we were doing and if you haven’t heard it, you’ll see that it’s more like okay, we’re playing this in the kickback. This is like some skating rink hits, like how it was back in the gap when we used to kick it like that.
Next, we got “Green”. This was a chill vibe. That mellow vibe. You turn this on on a Saturday morning, like you just woke up and let’s clean the house now vibe. Let’s just get in that vibe and get to feeling good. That’s what “Green” was. I got on my little singing flow on that one just to match the beat. And for “Jules Vs Vincent”, we kind of like got off on that one. That was like some rap sh*t. I heard the beat; it was like more boom bap east coast and I knew how I wanted to approach it. Like, say something that they was going to hear. I was going to catch some attention. That’s what that was and that’s the tape.
I shared with you the tracks that I really like. “Green” is one that really stood out to me because of the old school sound and also “Jules Vs Vincent”. I think it was a creative and cohesive EP. I’ve noticed that you’ve been featured on many songs, and I’ve been wondering when you’re going to drop a solo project.
Yeah, if I had a dollar for every time I heard that! But right now, it’s going to be this summer, I know for sure. We can’t put a date on it, but sometime this summer, for sure. It’s done. I’ll say that. We’re trying to get it packaged for y’all. We’re trying to get it sounding good, you know what I’m saying? Like something you can really vibe to. It’s going to come while it’s still hot outside, for sure.
Well, I’m anticipating that. How can we stay connected with you, OG Ira J?
Stay connected with me on all social media, all music platforms, and wherever you prefer to listen to music.
Is there anything that you want to add that we didn’t touch on?
Shout-out to you! Thank you, you know what I’m saying. You’re the first interviewer, you got to put this one in the books and archive this because this is going to be worth some money one day for sure [laughing].
I’m glad that we could connect though. But definitely stay connected because even though I can’t rap or sing, I just appreciate music and I love supporting creatives like you, so it’s all love.
I definitely appreciate you for being who you are to this culture and keeping everybody else connected.