"It’s kind of introductory to what OYABUN is, what the sound is, what it is I’m trying to have people understand."



'NVRLND' is Part One of OYABUN's Narrative Trilogy

If you know OYABUN, then you know that his latest EP, NVRLND, is not just any old average body of work. In this instance (each one is unique), NVRLND serves as the first part of a trilogy of sorts, where OYABUN takes us on an introductory journey to himself and his art. Given his already large body of prior work, introductory may seem like a strange word, but it’s a quote verbatim, and it comes from this artist’s Kanye West-inspired penchant for always seeking out ways to reinvent himself. In his own words, stagnant is boring, and reinvention? The best.

A few months ago, we premiered OYABUN’s “Cobain” track on the anniversary of the Nirvana frontman‘s birthday, and now he’s back, on the release date of his brand new EP, NVRLND. Check the record below, then keep scrolling for our interview with the New York native.

Welcome back! We premiered your “Cobain” track back in February, but that feels like forever ago.

Yeah! Thank you for that.

Of course. So you’re gearing up to release your new EP, that’s so exciting.

Yeah, it’s coming out in a couple weeks.

Can you tell us a little bit about it, or what you’ve been up to since your last visit to Milk?

Honestly, I’m trying to put together this big story, so I guess NVRLND would be the first of these three projects I want to put out. It’s kind of like a trilogy to tell this whole story. So it’s kind of introductory to what OYABUN is, what the sound is, what it is I’m trying to have people understand. Recently, we came back from Utah where we did a shoot for two of the songs on the tape.

Cool, so videos?

Yeah, it’s a short film and it encompasses two of the songs. It’s gonna be released as two music videos, but when you watch it back-to-back it’s one complete film. It’s gonna be dope. It gets to bring the music to life more.

Amazing. “Castle on the Hill” came out a month ago, are you gonna drop more singles before the EP?

There might be one that’s a post-single, where it’s like once the tape’s out, I’ll single it out and push that one more, like the second single, cause that’s what the second video is for. The first video is for “Castle on the Hill” and then the other one is for the other song on the tape.

It’s funny how you’re describing it as a trilogy to introduce yourself, but you have so much music out already. Is it a new chapter for you as an artist?

I think so. A lot of the music I had out—I guess I kind of set different goals for myself. Last year it was more so about putting out content, I wasn’t really focused on putting out a project or anything, I just wanted content out. That’s why I made the playlist “Oyabun 2016” and put everything there. I spent a year doing singles, just to build a platform where I could put out a project or an EP.

What do you want the trilogy to say about you?

Even with me doing this, I want to be able to evolve each project. I feel like even with the three, you get a new audio each time. I’m a big Kanye person, like early Kanye, and I like that each time he had a new project or anything, he was able to reinvent himself. It’s still Kanye, but it’s a new Kanye, it’s a fresh one. It doesn’t get stagnant. I think that gets boring.

It’s definitely an interesting balance between being who you are at the foundation versus changing up that interpretation.

That’s why visuals help, I guess. Cause then they can always go back to a point like the “Cobain” video and then watch everything from there until where I am now, and be able to see the things that stayed the same, but what changed too. That’s kind of cool.

I feel like if you have this thread that’s woven throughout everything, that’s who you are, but then everything else can change and it’s fine cause there’s that one thread.


What was it like bringing everything to life visually through the short film?

It was crazy. It’s one thing where you make a song, and you’re like alright, I see this from it. Then you sit down and you try to conceptualize it, and then it becomes that in its written form, but then to actually see it, and be able to see the narrative come out, and see the music become almost like a score to this thing, it’s just the dopest thing.

Is each part of the film literal music videos, like one track per video?

There’s parts in it that I perform the song, but it’s more so that the song is background music to the story that’s going on between these two videos. Fortunately, I guess due to the cohesiveness of the tape, it played out really well. We were able to come up with this one story that covers these two songs, and these two songs are powering the film forward. That’s what we wanted it to be. It’s not as much of a music video like “Cobain” was. “Cobain” had a narrative towards the second half of it, but this time it’s throughout. It’s much more cinematic. The landscapes are amazing, we were in the desert for part of it.

Did you go to Zion, or where did you film it?

I know we went to big desert, little Sahara, we went to the salt flats, that was crazy. That was blinding.

Because the sun reflects off of it?

Yeah, so you can’t really see anything. So, even when we were doing the takes, I really couldn’t see. It was weird, you couldn’t tell on camera, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t see anything. We went hiking into waterfalls, we were like 8,000 feet up in the air, which was also psycho cause I’ve never even gone hiking before.

You’re a New York kid, right?

Yeah, sea level is important to me [Laughs]. I’ve never done anything like that. In Utah, you’re like 2,000 feet above sea level, so then to go hiking… it’s crazy.

Did you get altitude sickness? Were you out of breath all the time? [Laughs]

I just wasn’t mentally prepared, yeah, you get out of breath easily. It was weird, but it was good.

Definitely out of your element.

Yeah, but that’s dope.

If you’re from New York, why would you want to go all the way out west?

I feel like cause I’m here, I could always shoot a video here. I felt like these songs are other-worldly, cause the project’s called NVRLND. So it’s kind of based on Peter Pan’s Neverland and it’s also based on the Garden of Eden. So, I’m kind of limited here in New York to be able to bring that to life. Yeah, I could go to the park, but to have that full shifting landscape in one place is dope because it’s like I could present this new world to people. Here, in New York, it’s real.

Yeah, I mean, New York has one aesthetic—that gritty, urban feel. If you want that, you can get it everywhere you go, but if you want something else, you have to leave.

We were talking about going to Iceland next.

Oh, you should! I hear flights are really cheap.

They are cheap, and the way it looks out there is amazing—all these black sand beaches, it’s amazing.

Yeah and the blue lagoon and everything. I don’t think I’ve seen any music videos shot out there yet.

Not too many shot in Utah, either [Laughs]. We really wanted to take people out of their comfort zone and make them be a little more creative.

Yeah, I guess imagination breeds imagination. If you’re watching something that’s really out there, it’ll prompt something in the people watching it.

Yeah, definitely.

Being from New York, how did you get into music? Growing up and seeing all the icons who have come out here, did that inspire you as an artist?

When I was growing up, I was obviously a big fan of a lot of New York rappers, but I don’t think I ever thought I was going to be a rapper, too. I was a huge fan of 50 Cent, but I was like, “I don’t think I can ever be 50 Cent,” you know what I mean? I just wasn’t that person. I didn’t think that type of thing was ever possible. And then I got older, and I ended up around other people at the time that were interested in music, and I wanted to be able to compete and do it too. Out of that, not only did I become very passionate about it, but I saw the reality of it. It was possible. I went to high school with Steez and Joey—Joey Bada$$—so they were a couple years younger than me, but we would always skate together at this park across the street. It was cool cause you could see it was possible for a kid from Brooklyn. It’s one thing to see something on TV, and you don’t know that person, you don’t know what went into it, but I remember going to one of their first shows. There were probably like 30 or 40 people in the room, so you can see that it’s possible. From there, I didn’t really let up. Especially having Steez around me all the time, he supported me when I didn’t even support myself. After he passed, I just couldn’t stop.

I grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, and people out there who want to be artists have this fantasy they look up to. But you have the reality, it’s just so different. I’m always interested how people from New York got there, cause all I have is the TV version of what you watched come to life right in front of you. So, we want to know—when’s the EP coming out or what are working on right now?

I’m putting out the EP August 21st—there’s a solar eclipse that day, a total solar eclipse, I’m really into stuff like that. The last time I put stuff out, it was during the retrograde, so it’s like a theme. It’s dope. This thing happens every 60 years, something like that, so I want my release to be kind of like that.

It’s definitely memorable.

Exactly, and then for the end of the year, maybe early next year, I have the second project I want to put out. I just want to follow through with what I want to do. I have the material, I just want to be strategic with how I’m able to visually put out everything and just let them know. It’s not every day that you’re in the situation where you don’t have to make anything, I’ve already made them, so fortunately I’m able to have that, sit on it, and see. Do it justice, study it, see how much I’ve changed between the tapes, and take note of that. When the videos come, watch the videos. Do more shows. I’m going to be touring soon, whether it’s opening for a major act or doing my own thing.

Images courtesy of OYABUN

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