On April 15, O-Slice posted her first “Blue Room” video on social media. The two-minute clip features the rapper standing center, flanked by a musician behind a keyboard and another with a shining brass trumpet. The song she performs is titled “Ahri’s Reprise,” and though it’s technically a “No Scrubs” cover, it’s not. There’s an elongated verse before you ever hear the chorus TLC made famous in 1999, but the words beckon thoughts of poetry and could easily be spoken onstage in a dark coffee shop. When you do finally arrive at lines you’d normally sing aloud, you don’t. You can’t. Instead you hear O-Slice. For these two minutes, they belong to her.
O-Slice is in the midst of change. The song is an exception to her online presence. Instead of melodies and spoken word, you’ll likely discover ferocious raps marrying the lyricism of Eminem with the unrelenting energy of Busta Rhymes. This is a calculated move, she wants to reach out, grab you, shake you and leave you with no thoughts beyond, “Holy shit, she can really rap.”
“I think my new music is right in between the two personas,” she says. “I think the ‘No Scrubs’ song is super soft and sweet and has strength. But I think the music itself is softer than what I want my overall feeling to be. I want to be in the middle where it’s not as hard as [2020’s] Energy and not as soft as ‘Scrubs.’’’
Instead of honing this new sonic direction in a studio, Slice is holed up with her family in Prince George’s County. Yes, she’s still working and reworking both new and unreleased music (she describes herself as a hoarder when it comes to her catalog), but she’s also taking on all comers in Madden (she runs with the Chiefs), tweeting through Insecure and guarding her extremely, very secret seven names. Between it all, we caught up with her to talk about the aforementioned change and all things quarantine.
District Fray: Is the Blue Room a series we’ll see going forward?
O-Slice: Oh yeah, the day I did that I also did two other songs. I’ll roll those out. Other than “No Scrubs,” I did my song “Two Hands,” and a mashup of others I’ve done over the years.
Did you record these during quarantine?
So funny enough, I actually recorded those a year ago. I initially wanted to release them during Women’s History Month, but now every moment is the right moment.
That makes sense, because you’ve posted about being a perfectionist on social media. What part of the process sort of holds you up? Is it the lyrics, the beats, the videos?
It’s the entire thing, because I’m so hands on. I’m there – move this, move that – I touch every single part. The vision is so precise that it can be a hindrance. There’s a science, [but] I’m trying not to be as particular. I’m trying to work on getting it right and letting it go.
Does quarantine help or hurt your quest for perfection?
It’s doing both. Working digitally really sucks for me, but it’s forcing me to be creative about content I already have. Sometimes you have to put things out there and see what happens. It’s forcing me to look at what I already have and make something of anything.
You released an EP titled Energy in January. The lyrics in the song “20/20” call for more of everything, whether it be freedom, money, etc. Was the release date purposeful?
I wrote that song in Nigeria, while seeing the places I came from and knowing I could be the person to give myself and my family more. That’s where that energy came from. When I wrote it, it was 20/20 vision in mind, but I released it in 2020, so it worked out.
Ah, so that was another you had stashed away.
When I did “20/20,” once again it was one of those things where I have a crazy backlog. I want to flesh that out before I start this new phase of my career. I have all these older works I started, finished or just stopped working on, so if I don’t release them now, it won’t make sense going forward.
Whoa, that sounds major. What’s changing?
Okay, so I think I have this thing: I am almost two people. There’s the Slice you see online prior to the Blue Room, these super hard raps – not street, not gangster, but ferocious and fast. At my shows, you get to see the rappity raps, but at the same time you see me do more melodic stuff. It’s a more well-rounded artist experience.
You started rhyming when you were 9 in school bus rap battles, what made you want to do that?
I was super shy and had terrible social anxiety and didn’t do the best in social situations. When I did the rap battle, that was the first time some people actually heard me talk. With rapping and being good at it, that built up my confidence.
What was the moment you knew you wanted to make a career out of it?
I always knew I could do whatever I put my mind to. I always knew I loved rap and loved doing it. I performed at an Apollo-style talent show when I was a sophomore in high school. When I came up on stage the boos started immediately [laughs]. The audience didn’t give a damn, they were ready to chew me up, but I started to rap and they went crazy. It was such a wild experience. I’m looking at a full theater of people who honestly wanted me to fail and now they’re blown away.
One thing that’s constantly coming up here is your live performance. What about it is so dynamic?
I command an audience. I have them engaged from start to finish, have them try and sing along to songs they’ve never heard. As fun as it is to perform in front of someone who knows me, I enjoy it more when someone doesn’t know me. They might not be expecting anything. I love that feeling. I made you pay attention to me, and now you want to know everything about me.
Is it frustrating to be referred to as a best kept secret? No artist wants to be a secret, right?
I wear it like a badge of honor. Before, I felt like I was good and was being left off of lists or wasn’t getting what I deserved. I realized if people don’t know me, I need to let them know me. I can’t say people are sleeping on me when they can’t find my stuff. The best kept secret is that people will find out eventually, it’s my job to get the secret out.
Hear her music at linktr.ee/flowsnice.
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