Ohmega Watts: For the Ears and Eyes

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Being one of Portland’s most visible hip-hop artists, it’s ironic that Ohmega Watts considers himself a hermit. But when he’s not manning the turntables at his weekly DJ gig, The Fix, this producer/selector/MC/graphic designer is busy at his place in Southeast Portland. “Usually I’m home either designing, working on music, or collecting my vinyl, going through stuff for mixes I wanna make,” says the multi-talented Milton Campbell.

Whether immersed in Photoshop or his record crates, Ohmega Watts sees a connection throughout all of his art. “The way that I’ll [be] editing a track, DJing, and collecting records, I’m visually stimulated by dope artwork from records,” he explains. “As well, how I cut and paste music [is] similar to if I’m collaging a design. To me, [music and visual art] both inform each other and it’s a happy balance.”

Campbell moved to Portland seven years ago after graduating from college in Florida. While his musical career didn’t ignite immediately, by 2003, he and fellow MCs Braille and Othello had solidified the b-boy trio Lightheaded just as other Portland groups like Lifesavas were garnering attention.

Lightheaded’s breakout 2005 LP, Wrong Way (Tres), showcased Ohmega Watts’ love of upbeat raps alongside uptempo breakbeats and funk, but it was his same-year solo debut, The Find (Ubiquity)that captured Ohmega’s ability to create globally informed sound collages. (He also crafted the LP’s classic-looking cover art). Like Wrong Way, The Find was based around electrifying drum breaks, but was driven by a wider palette of sounds, including dub and silky soul. The sound carried through to Watts'2007 sophomore solo shot, Watts Happening (Ubiquity), where his international take on hip-hop rose to greater heights. Tracks from the album, like the Brazilian pop number “Adaptacao” (featuring Tita Lima), were especially surprising departures from rap, often led by the style of the guest vocalists.

To Ohmega Watts, this type of experimentation is a natural result of soaking up all the diverse sounds of his youth in NYC, then reinterpreting them from an abstract hip-hopper’s perspective. “I’m not gonna be limited in any way,” says Ohmega. “So if I get a crazy idea, like to do something with this orchestra and mix up some Afro rhythms and then something else, I’m gonna do it.”

MP3: "For the Eyes and Ears feat. Jneiro Jarel"

Favorite Portland artist:
Ashley Montague. He’s a dope visual artist as far as painting, graf style, and characters.