ESSENCE.com's "New and Next" column spotlights the brightest new talents we think you should know. This week we highlight former R&B teen heartthrob turned singer/songwriter, Olamide.
Who is Olamide?
In the late 90s Imajin, a boy band that actually played instruments, hit the Billboard charts with their single “Shorty (You Keep Playing with My Mind).” Their pictures were featured in Word Up! and Right On! magazines so pre-teens could plaster their bedroom walls. If you look closely, you’ll recognize Olamide as the guy in the front with guitar, just add a decade or so, muscles, and facial hair.
While he spent a significant part of his youth in Los Angeles, the 20-something crooner is a New York native who hails from Hell’s Kitchen. He’s home, hitting stages, and making a new name for himself as a gifted singer-songwriter who just might win your heart, or convince you that he knows your life story, when he pulls out his guitar.
“I’m giving my thoughts and my feelings, my emotions on records and you can kind of get a gist of the kind of person I am,” he tells ESSENCE.com. “I’m a Cancer so everything comes out on the table at one point and this is the best way for me to communicate.”
If at first you don’t succeed... Imajin released one studio album under Jive Records and then an under the radar independent album. They spent years trying to craft a comeback. “Between 2000 and 2007 we decided to pursue another record deal,” explains Olamide. “We were out in California hustling and grinding to get another name out there for ourselves all over again. During that process you know money got short and people had to make personal moves in order to you know survive.”
In 2009 Olamide decided to head home. Unsure if he wanted to pursue a music career, he spent time readjusting to New York and building with friends and family. “I was so gung-ho about Imajin, it took me a while to get my bearings back,” he admits.
After performing at an open mic in Harlem, Olamide was certain that he needed to get back to music and that’s exactly what he did. “I’ve just been sort of hitting stages and not really talking about it, just being about it,” says the singer who released his EP Live from the Bitter End in December of 2011.
Where you’ll see him next: Olamide is taking his talents to the booth to work on his first studio album since his teenage years and performing with his band. “I feel like I planted a seed all over again, I’m kind of watering it everyday,” he says. His goal is to have his product out before the end of the year, with or without a label. “Everything that a record company would do for me, I kind of am doing it myself now,” he says noting that he isn’t opposed to signing —it’s just not his focus. “This is how my cards were dealt so this is what I’m doing,” he says. “Right now it’s independent, who knows what it will be in the future.”
Watch Olamide below and let us know what you think: