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Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Boston, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Hip Hop


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"Dorm Room Hip Hop"

Out of context, Oumar Sow's room wouldn't raise an eyebrow.
It's a standard-issue Northeastern dormitory on Hemenway Street, with a flickering light bulb, plastic chairs, exposed piping, and a meditative view of the neighbor's brick wall. It's an oversize sardine can, but he gets it to himself, at least.

Which is perhaps why no one complained when the 21-year-old, who raps under the moniker G. Riot, parlayed Room 141 into the sole recording space for his debut full-length album, "Out the Bag," which he unveiled April 14 and can be streamed at www.myspace.com/youngyetready. Nearly half a year ago, he planted a microphone between his bed and desk, assembled a small team of musical peers, including local producer Eti Enyong, and, in a matter of months churned out a 10-track record that sounds as pristine as if he paid top dollar for studio time.

"It really wasn't that different, in the grand scheme of things," he said, having recently used on-campus studio space to record tracks for a mixtape. The modest size of his room even helped keep his vocal reverb in check, he says. "I like being in my room more," he adds. "That's where everything is made - everything feels fresh here."

Sow, who is studying business administration, makes the process sound easy: He made beats using digital audio workstation Fruity Loops, penned lyrics during classes, then went to work. "We put the mike in the middle of the room and basically recorded six songs a day. It was crazy."

From there, Enyong, 22, mixed the tracks into their final state in the same room.

That Sow could almost single-handedly create a glistening, radio-ready album in the privacy of his own dorm testifies to his artistry, and the music industry's character arc.

The advent of digital technology and accessibility of high-quality equipment means more albums are being produced, at least in part, in modest facilities such as artists' homes, says Daniel Thompson, assistant chair of the music production and engineering program at Berklee College of Music. "A dorm setting presents a number of interesting [acoustic] challenges," he acknowledges, "and so it's probably slightly more unique to produce and record in a dorm room alone."

Sow's homegrown approach allowed a degree of artistic autonomy that would probably be impossible with a major record label, Thompson says. Aside from a couple of vocal collaborators and Enyong, Sow takes responsibility for every detail. He mined for samples, made the beats, penned the lyrics, and, like the perfectionist he is, rapped and re-rapped relentlessly.

One disadvantage for uber-indie artists, however, is the loss of additional in-studio ears that could help shape tracks to their fullest potential, Thompson says.

For "Out the Bag" (Sow will create physical CDs on request), he culled sample tracks from the realms of psych rock, Arabian pop, Motown, and ambient easy-listening, to name a few. And barring a couple of freestyles, Sow's cuts find their niche in the hip-pop stable, with infectiously manipulated samples, catchy hooks, and Sow's swagger, equal parts Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.

He ranks the Chicago luminaries among his major influences, along with Jay-Z, Eminem, and Mos Def. But when he jokes about one influence - "the Roots, the Roots, the Roots" - it's pure innuendo. Just like his process, his content - and his persona - are proudly homegrown.

Born in Ivory Coast, Sow moved to Providence with his parents in 1993 and continues to pay homage to his West African heritage. His stage name is a manipulation of the word "griot."

"They were a West African tribe, and they're basically known as the pioneers of hip-hop because they would narrate family stories - histories - and orally keep the traditions alive of their families and their ancestors," he said. "You got to get to the root-root of everything."

© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company. - The Boston Globe


"Moony" - Single
"Once Upon a Rhyme" - Mixtape
Various other singles that can be heard on listed websites



This is an interview that pretty much covers everything from


G-Riot is an up and coming hip hop artist out of the Boston area who is as lyrically talented as he is clever. It is a difficult thing to stand out in the hip hop game while rising through the ranks, but we believe G-Riot has been able to do this through his genuine passion for music as well as having a very hard work ethic. Boston is still under the radar as far as the hip hop game is concerned, but hopefully G-Riot can put this city on the map.

I started rapping at the age of 7 while learning how to speak English. I was obsessed with Doctor Suess and thus developed a passion for the art of rhyming. I appreciated the art form once I noticed that it transcended children’s literature and was incorporated as the backbone of multiple genres of music. I got into the hip-hop game at the age of 13. During middle school, I was a member of a rap group called “ The Grand Pri”. We would meet everyday at a near by friend’s house and record freestyles for hours on end.

How does living in a city like Boston influence your lyrical content and sound (if at all)?

Living in Boston has definitely broadened my perspective on music. Northeastern is minutes away from Berklee School of Music so I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some extremely talented musicians. Boston in it of itself is a college city, so there are a lot of lively music scenes within that category alone. Overall, Boston has added more to my foundation of music.

How would you describe your style/sound to someone who hasn’t heard you before?

I would say that my style is a mixture of a lot of different elements that define me. As far as content goes, I write a lot about prior experiences as well as current event and issues that are prevalent in either my personal life or society as a whole. I also enjoy the wittiness that exists within Hip Hop, so I often make use of similes/extended metaphors and utilize mix tapes as an outlet to really have fun with that aspect of Hip Hop. As far as my sound, I’ve been told that I sound like “Q-tip, Lupe, Ghostface Killah, Lil Wayne, and a young Drake”. All of those following artists have left an everlasting mark on the rap game, so I can only take it as a compliment and hope to do the same. I noticed that new artists are often categorized and compared to other know artists within the game, and that only truly talented artists are able to crawl out of that box and establish a name for themselves. I plan on being on the truly talented list. Haha.

What separates you from a lot of other up and coming artists out there?

I hate to sound cliché, but I think it’s my genuine passion for music. A lot of artists aspire to be in the hip hop game for the wrong reasons. From a young age, I recognized that I had a talent and worked tirelessly to cultivate it into what it is today. Although I’m twenty two years in age, I’ve been mastering my sound since 13. It took nearly a decade to get to where I am, so the last thing I want people to do is think that music is just a hobby for me or a “side hustle”. It has served as one of the most therapeutic aspects of my life, and as a result of that I feel as though I owe it to the art form as whole to really put my best foot forward with every song I make.

What has been your most exciting moment of your career thus far?

Despite the fact that I have recently been opportune enough to freestyle with Big Sean, and open for Wale… the most exciting moment of my career was last year when I opened up for Akrobatik. I received a 50 minute set to open for the Boston MC. The concert was held on Northeastern’s campus, and was one of the biggest venues I had performed for. The Boston Globe was snapping shots of me in a tank top while the audience cheered enthusiastically. The performance itself isn’t what made the moment so epic. It was the simple fact that upon completion of my opening set, 97% of the crowd left. This meant to that they were there strictly in attendance to see my performance. I have no beef with Akrobatik at all, but it was nice to see the underdog opening act outshine the headliner for a change. Afterwards, I went to a near by after party on Mission Hill in which a good amount of the people there witnessed my performance. I was asked to sign an autograph and pose for pictures. It was my first glimpse of what some would call “groupie love”. I prefer the term “appreciators of fine art.” Haha.

Do you prefer writing/recording or performing live shows?

There is nothing better than a live performance. I am the type of person to feed of off energy, so when I record and write I don’t really get the opportunity to do so. Performing surpasses everything because you receive live feedback. Performing also leaves a lasting impression because its more personable and the audience appreciates the connection they make with the performer.

Where do you