If you don’t know about Adil Omar I strongly advise you to check him out. He is a rapper/songwriter from Islamabad, Pakistan and over the last few years has been going from strength to strength. His unique brand of hardcore rap combined with intelligent social commentary has seen him work with top international acts including Xzibit, Cypress Hill and Slash. It’s not all been smooth sailing for Adil though, his home country of Pakistan have put a ban on a number of websites they consider ‘objectionable’ including popular video sharing website ‘YouTube’. YouTube has become a vital tool in promoting upcoming artists. I was fortunate enough to be able to conduct an interview with Adil Omar via email. See what he had to say below:
What up Adil, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview I really appreciate it. It’s amazing how far you have come in the last few years. In the music industry today, especially with independent artists like yourself, the internet and social media platforms play a huge part in the exposure and success of the artist, how has Pakistan’s strict controlling laws on these platforms (such as the current YouTube ban) affected you?
The YouTube ban has been terrible not only for me, but for all independent artists in the country. I'm not somebody with countless brands endorsing me and sponsoring me. Whatever I've achieved has been because of the risks I've taken and the indie fan base I've won over. Independent artists desperately need YouTube and it's not about proxies or VPNs to get around it. We really need for it to be open in order to make a living creating the art we want to create.
You recently released your brilliant long-awaited debut album. How has the response been to that?
The response has been great but due to the YouTube ban and bad planning on my end, the promotion of the record was affected pretty badly. "Paki Rambo" did very well as a single but the rest of the album didn't get the shine it should have. Critically, however, the response has been excellent. Those who bothered to listen to the record, start to finish had good things to say about my evolution as an artist and how I've experimented musically. It's just tough as an independent artist, that too in a country where your biggest source of promotion has been cut off.
The album is called ‘The Mushroom Cloud Effect’ what is the reasoning behind the title?
It just represents the entire mood and tone of the album. It's very volatile, explosive - all over the place. It's like a beautiful disaster. I'm at a different place in my life now, but that album was me not only finding myself and getting to know myself, getting comfortable with myself as an artist, it was also about me letting out all my anger and negative energy on my debut record. I did have fun with it and I did grow tremendously during the writing and recording process but it is what it is, that album has a lot of baggage attached to it.
The first singles off the album were released back in 2011 and the album was originally going to be released in 2012, what were the reasons it took so long to make and release?
Releasing singles and announcing a release before it was even ready was mainly me being an impulsive child and getting overly excited. The YouTube ban delayed the release quite a bit and one of the tracks "Sugar Low" was initially collaboration with Meesha Shafi. Her hook didn't end up making the final cut due to a bad timing and a schedule clash, and it's a shame because she would have added beautifully to it, but it was mainly poor planning and the YouTube ban that was responsible for the constant delays.
Was there any particular time in your life where you got that kind of ‘Eureka’ moment and realised that music was what you wanted to do?
I don't remember. I was honestly so long ago. I had an isolation period as soon as I turned 14 where I had to rethink my entire life and where I wanted to be. That's when I took my years of writing and wanting to do music and actually worked on building a career out of it.
Have you had the opportunity yet to perform internationally and if so how does it differ from playing in Pakistan?
I've played in Pakistan, London, the US and Dubai so far. Every experience is different. So far my favourite places to perform; in terms of the feedback I've gotten from fans would be London and Pakistan. My last gig in London was crazy - we were in a small club in East London with over 300 people in the crowd and literally everybody knew all the words to "Paki Rambo".
You do not smoke, drink or take drugs, in the hip hop world where such behaviour is often glamourised have you ever felt your moral decisions have had a negative impact on your career or how you are viewed as a rapper?
No. I don't care or see what that has to do with my music and if somebody were to judge me solely on the fact that I don't drink, smoke or take drugs, I wouldn't want them in my audience in the first place. My work speaks for itself and that has nothing to do with my personal choices.
What was it that made you decide to use your real name to release music under instead of using an Alias or ‘rap name’ like the majority of other rappers do?
It's easy to remember, I'm comfortable with my own identity and it's the most honest representation of me.
One of your first big breaks in the international music scene was with your work with B-Real from Cypress Hill. How did that come about?
Him and his team sort of discovered me on MySpace when I was 16 and invited me out to record on a project which he was working on with a handful of young upcoming artists. I stayed consistent and we stayed in touch as friends. He's been a good friend and an influence - very helpful and supportive.
You have collaborated with a lot of big name artists and producers such as Everlast, Cypress Hill, Xzibit and DJ Lethal is there anyone else left that you have yet to work with that you would really love to (no matter how big).
I'd love to work with Trent Reznor, Pitbull, Yolandi from Die Antwoord, Ghostface Killah, Snoop, Dre, Grace Potter, Fiona Apple and Marilyn Manson.
I think it is probably safe to say you are the best known Pakistani rapper internationally but are there a lot of other rappers from Pakistan and if so do you have any recommendations of others we may be interested in?
Faris Shafi is my favorite Pakistani rapper. Check out "Awam" on YouTube.
You have a lot of rock influences in your music (even worked with Slash). Are you a big fan of rock music? If so what bands do you like?
I probably listen to rock more than I listen to hip-hop. My favorite bands, at least for now, would be Monster Magnet, Clutch, Nine Inch Nails, Slash (his solo stuff more than Guns N' Roses), Deftones, The Afghan Whigs and Pendulum.
If you would be any fictional character who would you be and why?
I'm pretty content with who I am. My mind isn't letting me explore anything else right now. Scorpion from Mortal Kombat has always been pretty cool though.
Ok, I will finish off with some random questions now.
Dre or Snoop?
I couldn't pick just one. I want there to be an entire Dre and Snoop album.
Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone?
Pepsi or Coke?
Night or day?
You can't really enjoy one without the other.
Horror or comedy?
Clever comedy or psychological horror.
Thanks again for your time dude, best of luck in your career. Is there anything else you would like to add to Guestlist readers here in the UK?
Thank you for the interview. If anyone has just discovered me, I hope you enjoy my work and look out for my upcoming single "Saza" which drops in a few days.
To keep up to date and find out more about Adil Omar be sure to visit these pages:
Interview by Matt Watkins