As a resident of the city, the name Obi Rudo is synonymous with the Hip Hop / Rap scene.
Despite his endless travels and adventures, including a European ’30 cities in 30 days’ tour, trips to Africa and Belgium, as well as the continuous performing around the UK, Obi has managed to establish himself a strong foothold in the Birmingham scene, recognised and always ready.
“That tour was crazy”, he began talking on his recent European tour, as we took our seats inside the infamous creatively inspired Custard Factory hallways.
“We went with a single coach ticket to Belgium, no money. We got there, made some money from busking, and moved onto the next city.That was how we paid our way around.
City to city. Belgium to Holland, to Germany, to France, to Switzerland and so on. Some days we couldn’t keep up, so we found ourselves sleeping on trains, in stations, we did what we had to.”
Whilst on tour and prior to this, the next project was already in the works with Obi, a 17-tracks mixtape titled “Who I Am”. Similar to the length of his previous mixtape, Obi explained his reasoning behind the necessity for so many tracks.
“I planned to do that, I found that listeners always find 2 or 3 tracks they love in a whole project, so why not put more on and let them take their pick? A bigger range will allow my music to reach out to more people. That was the basic idea.”
Upon talking more about the project, it became evident that Who I Am is less of a concept collection of music, and more of a gathering of tracks that the artist has been building for several years, visible in the amount of producers present.
“Yeah, perhaps the sound may not be consistent due to the amount of producers and the time that this project has been coming, but this I had to let go, it has allowed me to get my mind in order, and focus on the next EP, something that will be really special” addressing the topic.
These varying sounds do not, however, detract from the mixtape as far as a listener will be concerned, given the consistent themes present throughout each of the tracks. Even from the very off-sett, “Surviving The Times” sets the tone, telling stories of struggle and necessity.
“That track was written a while back when I first started busking” he recalled. “It was what was going on with me at the time, leaving Nottingham for a bigger city, using university as the tool to do so, finding my way.”
Q – Why not London?
“I chose Birmingham over London because I had done capitals before”, he explained after we asked about his choice of city.
“Kinshasa in Congo and Brussels in Belgium. But I found the level of attention to be different in smaller cities. I can take my time here, concentrate of making noise. Everyone in the capital is so loud, there’s pressure, it’s so fast, and in some cases artificial, you have to be careful.” Another theme present throughout the project is that of society and the daily hurdles faced. “When I started making music, I created the character Obi Rudo, my mind talking to myself. You can see it in the first project I released, in the third person, telling myself what to do,” he expanded.
“This project we’re about to release however, here I’ve started to become that character. Now I’m thinking how other think, I’ve always been fascinated with psychology.”
“The struggle is constant, that won’t go until I’m fully stable.”
Obi addressed the challenges for so many artists, avoiding the 9-5 role and mentality that society forces us into.
A third and arguably most prominent theme throughout the mixtape is that of the relationship with your mother. Can you talk about that?
He let off a slight grin. “Putting in the track In Limbo and a couple of others, I knew they would stand out a lot. The relationship is very complex, and honestly not a great one…” he began.“This was one of the main reasons I started making music. My mother was a single mother, and we moved around to so many places, so many schools, so many bedrooms. There’s been a lot of resentment for a long time, and it’s just recently I’m starting to address it directly in my content.
However, metaphorically it has been done in my previous work. Under that, there is just…mountains and mountains of trouble, unspoken thoughts…it’s probably what fuels my art. I understand the connection between sadness and art.”
After delving so deep into the content of the project and it’s conception, it became clear the Who I Am is the therapeutic, collective mixtape that bundles his good and bad energies into one, over the last 3-5 years, and releases it free, letting go, before his clear rise.
“The project after this will be lighter, a lot lighter. It feels right and I’m ready to get it out there.”
One piece that really stood out on the upcoming mixtape was the opening lines to the track Regular Joe. “The frequency I resonate from…” it begins. “That’s a very photogenic verse” Obi explained after we had reminded him these bars were the ones he blessed us with nearly 4 years ago in one of our first video sessions.
“You need to imagine it. That track is crafted so that one-half of the verse portrays my complex persona, and the other half is simplified, showing my layers. That particular bar introduces myself with depth.”
We rounded up our first conversation after a couple of years addressing the current scene in Birmingham itself, a topic that a lot of artists and music-people have had a strong opinion on, Obi Rudo adding fuel to the fire.
“From what I see, maybe the artists are expecting too much of others. There are creative ways of doing things that some, not all, artists aren’t interested in trying. Artists need to look at themselves, and ask, how much are you really doing? Are you travelling?
Networking and putting in work? Not enough artists are really honest with themselves.“
A refreshing and direct voice upon the situation to say the least. Obi’s new project, Who I Am, will be released very soon, so keep your eyes and ears open.
Follow his journey; https://www.facebook.com/obirudo
Photography by Valdez The Photographer.