Interview: Brittany Gage
DeKalb County, Georgia is the second most affluent county with an African American majority in the US behind Prince George’s County in Maryland. Pride, dignity, and a sense of community were fostered at a very early age in the fourth most populous county in Georgia. I can recall hearing the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” so often that I thought it was the school district’s mission statement.
However, after being affected by various cultural and socioeconomic shifts over the years–poverty, gentrification, and corruption of both the county government and school board–a sense of desolation and hopelessness resonates through the county in a physical, mental, and even spiritual way.
Omari Ingram, a multifaceted audio/visual artist from Stone Mountain who goes by the name Euwëi (pronounced U-WAY), has long recognized the despondence and offers solutions of unity and positivity for the county that raised him on his new record DeKalb Ghoul of the Arts.
I recently sat down with Euwëi for an in-depth discussion about the record where he provided some insight in regards to his creative process as well.
Note: This interview was transcribed and condensed for formatting.
Brittany Gage: One of the first things I noticed about the record was the sample sounds like it may have been from a Japanese song or anime. The title seemed anime-influenced as well. Is that the case?
Euwei: Yes. I made the beat while I was watching this show called Tokyo Ghoul. I have a weird way of working where I do one thing for six or seven minutes at a time, then do
something else, then something else and this will continue for like nine hours straight.
Hm. That’s an interesting work process.
There’s no type of structure at all. It’s like the opposite of discipline, but I’m disciplined in doing it [laughs]. So I was watching Tokyo Ghoul, making a beat, and fooling around. Then I’ll go make another beat or write until I get distracted. Tokyo Ghoul was my distraction at the time so I named [the beat] DeKalb Ghoul. Later on, I had a conversation about the DeKalb School of the Arts and I ended up putting it together. A song called DeKalb Ghoul of the Arts by [an artist] named Euwëi? Come on son!
[Laughs] So since you told us the inspiration behind the instrumental, what inspired the lyrics? Because the record is message based and, not to box you in as [a conscious rapper], but the record does have statements that make you think.
I was listening to a different arrangement of music, as well as a project I put out previously called Stone Mountain Top Shotta, and just talking to some of my friends & acquaintances. They would tell me that I seem like a very deep thinker and I take them places in conversation, but I haven’t necessarily done that in a lyrical aspect.
So after listening to your previous work you decided you wanted to essentially step your game up in a lyrical context?
Yes, like the opposite of dumbing it down. I tried to [smarten] it up.
That’s dope. Was it intentional for you to not curse on the record? Because that was one of the main things I noticed immediately about the record like “Yo! He didn’t say any curse words on this record! You can play this around anybody!”
Not at all. A lot of my songs recently haven’t had much cursing in it and it’s not like an intentional thing. I’ve been reading a lot [and] writing down my thoughts and overall as an artist, I wanted to act on my potential. Potential doesn’t mean anything if you don’t do anything [with it].
I was just working on myself as a person and trying to be more real with myself. [One of the things] that black men are plagued with that nobody talks about for some reason is the blurred line between “being hood” and manhood. There’s certain songs I’ve made in the past that I felt weren’t absolutely reflective of me as a person, but more so reflective of me trying to make it in the game while still being me. I don’t even really say “bitch” in my casual conversations. I just wanted to be more real with myself. No filler words. Wait two weeks if you can’t think of anything else [to say].
Based on how long you’ve been pursuing the artist/vocal side of music, do you prefer the production side or being in front of the [microphone]?
I’m [actually] at a weird crossroads with that. I don’t really like attention, but I feel like it’s something I should do, like a responsibility [and] I’ve never really felt that way about anything in my life. Growing up, I never really cared a lot about the lyrics because I always focused on the beats. So, recently I had to go back and listen to a lot of the classics. I’d say in the past four years, I really delved into lyricism and managed to separate the two. I [would] consider myself more of a poet [than a rapper]. If you look through my rhyme book, it’s paragraphs. I’ve never written a song in bar structure. A lot of my songs are written before there are even beats.
Ah! Ok. That’s dope.
[Dekalb Ghoul of the Arts] was not one of them [though]. Sometimes, I’ll make the beat [and] I’ll be rapping at the same time [and] as the beat progresses, what I’m saying progresses. That’s my other other process that I do.
Are you worried about the record being regionalized? Because the title is going to go over a lot of people’s head. You [kind of] have to be from DeKalb County, or at least from Georgia, to even recognize the [play on words with] DeKalb School of the Arts. Is there a worry that the record will plateau due to the title or do you think it’s the foundation to take [the record] to the next level?
I definitely feel like it’s the foundation to help [the song] get to the next level because I personally feel like people have absolutely no clue where I’m from. [The title] is just me more so giving an ode to the [county] that made me while I’m watching all my peers go somewhere else to get put on. I’ve been in DeKalb County since I’ve been in Georgia. This is the lifestyle I know. I ain’t really start going to Atlanta like that until I could start driving unless my family drove down there or something. Golden Glide [Skating Rink], Wade Walker Park, South DeKalb YMCA, you know what I mean?
Well man, I must say you have a dope record on your hands. In the words of Big Boi “If you want to reach the nation, you gotta start from your corner.” I appreciate the interview! Any last words you want to say to the people?
Definitely. If I had to say anything it would be: You have the power in everything. Us as humans, sometimes [we] forget that and let things take power over us. There’s a life outside of this virtual reality that we’ve [become] so accustomed to, you know? There’s more to the internet than social networks. Don’t take things at surface value. Everything has a deep meaning to it, [it just] depends on how far you want to go.
After landing his first official placement on Jacquees’ new mixtape Since You Playin’, Euwëi is poised to be an integral piece in the artistic landscape of DeKalb County and beyond. Be sure to check out the impressive Dekalb Ghoul of the Arts video and look out for many more creative endeavors from Euwëi to come!
Euwëi’s Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/euwei
Purchase instrumentals from Euwëi’s Traktrain: https://traktrain.com/euwei/