Ocel hasn’t forgotten the words Master P. uttered almost seven years ago: “You’re the future.”
He had just finished opening for the No Limit Records CEO, and he left the crowd — and Master P. himself — floored.
“I was never worried about recording an album … I had never even recorded a track, but that was when I was like, ‘Hold on,’” Ocel recalls. It’s a sunny afternoon in West Louisville, and he’s sitting on his front porch. After that experience, the rapper says he totally reevaluated his lifestyle, which at the time included drug dealing. He took a more serious approach to his music.
As a teenager, Ocel dreamt of being a professional basketball player. He may have had a chance at it, too. “I was an All-American point guard and had offers from Memphis and Louisville,” the 31-year-old rapper says. “But that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Now, more than a decade later, he’s stirring up buzz in Louisville and throughout the Southern rap scene. His first album, the self-released A Star Is Born, sold about 30,000 units and earned him opening slots for Li’l Wayne and Goodie Mob.
With the hype came offers from labels, of which Ocel has remained skeptical — not out of the ordinary given the current state of the business.
“When I sign a deal, it’s going to be like the one 50 Cent signed with Aftermath,” Ocel says ambitiously, referring to Dr. Dre’s label and Eminem’s protégé.
Like many hip-hop purists, Ocel thinks too many rappers are sacrificing creative control for major-label deals, where they sometimes lose ownership of their own music.
“I might sign the biggest deal ever with a major label, but until then, I’m just going to strive for that good sound and try to expand my fanbase,” he says.
Though he was born in the golden era of hip-hop and inspired by artists like Run DMC, Ocel has had to keep up with the ever-changing pace of rap’s slice of the industry. He works off of his MySpace page (myspace.com/ocel2007), where you can download songs and ringtones, and check out pictures from his latest shows.
The up-and-comer may have to expand his operation soon: A Star Is Born gets a proper release show Saturday, and a yet-to-be-titled independent film is in the works, a project that makes his eyes light up.
“It’s about life through the eyes of an aspiring artist,” he says. Ocel is trying to convince Ice Cube’s production company, CubeVision, to pick it up.
Though his newfound credibility has allowed him the opportunity to consider such projects, Ocel maintains that his number one passion is music.
“I think you’re born into music, just like you’re born white or black,” he says. “It’s something I knew I was going to do since I was a child.”
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