There's no doubting the ripple effect caused by the phenomenal success stories of newly-minted solo chart-toppers like Beyonce and Justin. Next up to the plate is Omarion, who is primed to make his presence felt as he crafts a rhythm all his own. After making his mark as the lead singer of R&B's multi-platinum quartet, B2K, Omarion now offers a glimpse into who he is today as a young man, first, and also as an artist with a solo debut, entitled, simply, O. The album is packed with equal doses of ballads and mid-tempos and allows listeners to peep his flavor. "My dad hipped me to the music of Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind & Fire, so the album reflects the music that I've been listening to all my life - it's a little old school mixed in with the new." For his debut, Omarion stepped into the booth with producers including AllStar (3LW, Joe, Luther Vandross), The Underdogs (B2K, Ruben Studdard, Tyrese) and Atlanta's own Corner Boys (Usher). As co-writer on 5 songs, he hopes to show fans "a deeper insight of what goes on inside my head," he adds. "Love is always the topic."
First up is the lead single, "Never Gonna Let You Go (She's a Keepa)," a funky, flirty song about the thrill of finding "the one" and features a few, choice verses from Big Boi, the lone guest to appear on the album. "When you find a girl who you like and she has all of the qualities that you want, she's a keeper - bottom line," Omarion says. Then on the flip side, he voices conflicted emotions about his girl with "I Wish." Everyone will be able to relate to his anguish by the time he reaches the chorus - "I know it's crazy, but I wish I didn't love you, but I'm glad I do." In the case of the title track, the letter O has multiple connotations. Not only is it the first letter of his name, but it also refers to the "overtime" he's willing to put in to appease the ladies. "'O' is my favorite song on the album because it explains who I am - it's real grown man," he laughs.
At 19, Omarion is learning to appreciate the unpredictable and ever-changing rhythm of relationships, which he reveals on "I'm Gonna Change," a heartfelt ballad with plenty of bounce appeal. "Relationships are up and down," he admits, "and there always comes a point where someone will say, 'Baby, I'm gonna change.'" Born and raised in California - Inglewood, to be exact - Omarion began his creative journey doing commercials prior to joining B2K at the age of 15. No sooner than they hit the scene with their self-titled debut, the group's first single, "Uh Huh," landed at No. 1. Next came the hit single, "Gots Ta Be," and the release of their sophomore disc, pandemonium! which included the chart-topping banger, "Bump, Bump, Bump (featuring P. Diddy)" and "Girlfriend." The group captured crossover appeal, an entire generation of loyal fans and even a coveted co-headlining slot on the now-infamous "Scream" Tours. Along with earning nominations for MTV Video Music and American Music Awards, they were voted Best Group by VIBE and took home both a Billboard Music Award (for biggest-selling single) and BET Viewer's Choice Award. "There is a greater responsibility with being a solo artist than when you're part of a group," he says of being on his own. "You can't switch it up or take a breath because all of the focus in on you. It's a lot of work." With two platinum albums, a Christmas collection and Greatest Hits compilation under his belt, Omarion's resume has since expanded to include roles on television and film as well as the title of author. He's made primetime appearances on One on One and The Bernie Mac Show, did his thing on the big screen in the blockbuster film and soundtrack, You Got Served, will appear in the in-the-works sequel and has completed work on the much-anticipated film adaptation of the '70's cartoon, Fat Albert. Then there's the autobiography that's full of professional highlights and personal anecdotes. Of his forthcoming memoir, he insists, "There's a lot about me that my fans don't know. I've been singing and dancing since I was 5 years old and have made a lot of sacrifices. You don't live a normal life when you're in the limelight."
Looking toward the future, Omarion envisions his multi-layered career in terms of chapters of a never-ending story that includes songwriting, producing, acting and an openness to explore anything else that his schedule permits. When asked what music means to him, he responds without hesitation, "Music is everything - it's my world, my life. I know that I can't visit each of my fans personally, but I hope that my music makes them feel like they've gotten to know me. I've put my heart into this album." He was born as Omari Ishmal Grandberry on Novermber 12, 1984, in Los Angeles, California, USA.
R&B Singer Omarion's Big 'O' Tops U.S. Pop Charts
Former B2K frontman Omarion's debut solo album "O" bowed at No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts Wednesday, ending the one-week reign of Ray Charles' Grammy-winning duets set.
Omarion's Sony Music set sold 182,000 copies in the week ended Feb. 27, according to Nielsen SoundScan, while Charles' "Genius Loves Company" (Concord) fell to No. 2 with 109,500 copies and 2.5 million to date.
With his since-imploded R&B/pop boy band, Omarion went as far as No. 2 on the album chart with B2K's 2002 self-titled debut, which started with sales of 109,000. The group's best-selling album to date is that year's follow-up, "Pandemonium!," which has sold 1.2 million.
Green Day's "American Idiot" (Reprise) was close behind Brother Ray, slipping one place to No. 3 with 108,800 copies, and 2.7 million copies to date.
The Game saw his Aftermath/G-Unit/Interscope debut "The Documentary" drop one place to No. 4 with 105,000 copies. The rapper is newly embroiled in controversy as mentor 50 Cent publicly dropped him from his G-Unit crew during a New York radio interview on Monday, which may have led to the shooting of an unidentified man in 50 Cent's entourage.
Buzzing in at No. 5 was Tori Amos' second Sony Music effort, "The Beekeeper." The set's first-week sales of 83,000 copies were not the songstress' highest, as 1996's "Boys for Pele" started at No. 2 with 109,000. That Atlantic album has sold 1 million to date, while her best-selling album remains 1992's "Little Earthquakes" at 1.9 million.
John Legend's "Get Lifted" (Sony) rose one place to No. 6 with 80,000 copies and 751,500 to date.
The other top tier debut was Kidz Bop Kids' "Kidz Bop 7" (Razor & Tie) at No. 7. At 74,000 copies, the 18-track compilation -- which includes covers of Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me," Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" and the Usher/Alicia Keys duet "My Boo" -- scored the franchise's biggest sales week and highest chart position so far.
Last year's "Kidz Bop Kids 6" opened at No. 23 with 37,000. To date, the franchise has sold 4.2 million units.
Rounding out the top 10, Eminem's "Encore" (Interscope) held at No. 8 for a second week with 70,000 copies and 4.2 million to date; 3 Doors Down's "Seventeen Days" (Republic/Universal) slipped three places to No. 9 with 68,000 copies and 404,000 copies to date; and Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" (RCA) was No. 10 for a second week with 64,000 copies and 1.5 million to date.
Omarion: Can the former B2K singer break out on his own?
Omarion will try to emerge from the shadow of B2K with O (February 8). It'll likely be a hard road, according to Envy. "He's stuck between the kiddie and grown-up world, which is tough. He needs a smash single to get it going, which I don't think 'O' is." Among the producers lending a hand are Allstar (3LW), the Underdogs (B2K) and Atlanta's Corner Boys (Usher). The 20-year-old singer co-wrote five of the songs, and the album's sole guest is Outkast's Big Boi on "Never Gonna Let You Go (She's a Keepa)."
Prediction: It's hard to break out of the boy-band ghetto, but triple threat (dancer/singer/actor) Omarion just might have what it takes.
Omarion's O Has Tracks For Grandma, B2K And (Almost) Nekkid Club-Goers
Former B2K singer's LP out February 22. If Raz-B, Lil Fizz and J-Boog listen to "Growing Pains," they'll probably be none too happy. On the track from his solo debut, O, former B2K member Omarion pulls no punches in spilling his feelings about the group's split.
"Even though Iwas sour, I tried to be a man/ I still had love/ But if y'all knew what went down, you'd be like, 'What the f---!' " Omarion sings over the slinky beat and Spanish guitar.
"I tried to get real specific on that song, because a lot of people don't understand what happened," Omarion said of the track, in which he calls out unnamed people for causing the rift and badmouthing him."People be like, 'Y'all stupid, why'd you break up?' But when we got together, we were taught that in order to be a successful group you have to have an unbreakable bond. But things went wrong in our relationship and it wasn't hard to write [that song] because when you go through something like that you know exactly what you want to say."
With that off his chest, Omarion doesn't dwell on the past on the rest of O, due February 22, concentrating instead on finding someone to help him forget the bad times. On the sexed-up club banger "Take It Off," over a booming handclap beat, he urges, "Mama, shake it/ Mama, twurk it/ Girl, I love it the way you work it/ So mama, can you take it off?" O swears the song's just about having fun ... with your clothes on.
"This is a coming-of-age record and this is just one of them club joints," the 20-year-old singer said. "When I watch TV sometimes, like 'Wild On,' I see those wild parties all over the world with, like, bubble machines and stuff, and when I was writing that joint I was envisioning everyone in the club getting excited when they heard it to the point that they wanted to take their clothes off. But not get completely nekkid!"
For one of the album's other club tracks, the spare dance groove "Drop That Heater," whose beat sounds like chopsticks tapping on a countertop, Omarion enlisted a pair of ace producers to give him the right bounce. Produced and performed by Rodney Jerkins (Jennifer Lopez) with co-production and backing vocals by Sean Garrett (Ciara's "Goodies"), the song happened so fast Omarion almost wishes it had taken a bit longer.
"I've always wanted to work with Rodney Jerkins and we just went to his crib and he played me the beat, just a kick and a snare and he just put the bass roll on top and that was it," he said. "Right after that he sent the joint over with the music all fixed and it's the most bangin' beat on the album." After making some noise with his first solo single, the between-the-sheets ballad "O," Omarion is gearing up to shoot a video for "Touch," a classic Neptunes track with slick keyboards, backing vocals from Pharrell, and, of course, that signature, insistent Neptunes bounce.
The album also features production from Atlanta's Corna Boyz (Usher), the Underdogs (B2K) and Allstar (3LW) and a cameo from Outkast's Big Boi (see "Omarion Adds Big Collaborator To Solo LP: Outkast's Big Boi") on the old-school funk tune "Never Gonna Let You Go," which samples a classic Kool & the Gang song.
"That's just some feel-good music," Omarion said of the horn-laced ode to finding the perfect girl. "I want people to not think about a thing in the world and just have fun when they hear that one. It's music like my parents and grandma would enjoy."
Omarion: In His Own Words
This time last year, B2K faced some serious questions. Did the B in B2K stand for "broken up"? Did the O in Omarion stand for "over"? Omari Grandberry wasn't about to let that happen, but just as his rise to fame wasn't entirely his own doing, his boy band's unmaking — after only two years — was beyond him as well, resting more in the hands of people he once considered his best friends, as he relates in his forthcoming memoir. "O," out February 1 via MTV Books, documents his growing up in Los Angeles, joining the gang Under Age Criminals and eventually swapping the UAC initials for those of B2K. As one of the most popular groups on the market was unraveling, its lead singer had to make a crucial decision: Would he be able to go it alone?
From the prologue of "O":
Here I was, alone in a hotel room high over downtown Philadelphia with the show three hours away, and I'm waiting for the phone to ring. I had one phone in my hand and one in my pocket. I found myself just staring at the phone in my hand, like I was trying to will it to ring. Suddenly both lines rang at once. I flipped open a phone in each hand. My manager, Chris Stokes, was on one line. The limo driver was on the other. Neither call was what I was looking for. The driver said he was ready to run me over to the arena, and Chris and Taz were ready to meet me there. I couldn't wait any longer, so I grabbed my gear and split.
As I watched the dreary scenery zip past, I started to wonder how things could have got so screwed up so fast. Just a few weeks ago my group, B2K, was on top of the world — and the best part was that the four of us were tight. They were my brothers, and I knew they had my back just like I had theirs.
So why am I sitting by myself in a limo, on the way to a sold-out arena in Philadelphia, wondering if my best friends, Raz-B, Lil' Fizz and J-Boog, will show up for the concert? I don't know what they're planning to do, 'cuz except for one brief conference call a few days back, we aren't talking to each other — my boys and I are communicating mostly by managers and magazine articles — when just a few weeks ago we were shooting hoops and playing Xbox.
That's what the phone call was all about. Will my boys be there to perform with me or not?
Our tour was winding up when sh-- started to go down. Stories were flying that we hated each other — I even heard one rumor that Raz-B, Lil' Fizz and J-Boog had told their manager they didn't want to fly on the same plane as me.
In the middle of all of this madness we still had two live shows left on the tour schedule — Philadelphia and New York, two of our biggest fan bases. Now it was time to put all of that stuff aside. We had said that B2K was going to do these shows, simple as that. Of course, things were so crazy that the other guys had lawyers telling them not to show up, but I couldn't get with that. No matter what the beefs were, I felt it was our duty to deliver.
I'd talked to them about it a few days before the scheduled Philly show. As we'd talked over the static of a four-way conference call, I had felt how torn they'd been. When I'd hung up the phone with them, I'd felt good. They weren't going to leave me hanging, they'd show up for Philly.
Don't misunderstand, I've got confidence in my singing and my ability to give it up for an audience. But this new development, the possible solo thing, had come up all of a sudden, and to be honest, it was kind of scary and intimidating. But I had committed to go on with the show with or without the other guys, and I was locked in. As the limo sped closer to the arena, I tried to prepare myself mentally, running through the new dance moves and coming up with ways to keep the show as on point as it would be with all four of us. It all came down to one question: If I had to, could I deliver what the fans were expecting?
As we pulled into the back, I checked out the building from the outside. Going in this time was different — the last time we were four going in. This time it was only one person entering, and all of a sudden this building was looking real huge — like a fortress.
Now it was less than two hours before showtime. As I was going about prepping for the show, I saw constant reminders of who was not there. The main dressing room area was laid out for four people, but I was the only one there. I stowed my gear and went out into the arena for a mic check. Four cordless mics were set up onstage, and I checked all four just to make sure. Behind me there were two dancers — Sam and Dave — rehearsing. These guys had been brought in to back me up if it came to me going on alone. They had good moves, but some immediate adjustments had to be made on my part if we were going to perform together that night. I'm used to glancing to my left or my right and seeing Raz or Fizz or Boog working it beside me. We were so tight I always felt that I could sense what was happening on the stage at every moment during our show. This new setup was going to be kind of strange. Sam and Dave could back me up with the choreography, but the singing was going to be all me.
I moved out into the empty arena. I took a seat halfway back and checked out the surroundings. This was something that me and the guys did before most shows. It was part of our ritual. It was like we were sizing up the battlefield where B2K was set to take on the world. Now, sitting out there alone in the arena, I felt isolated. It was starting to feel like Omarion against the entire universe.
My mind went back to the last show we did together. Even though things had gotten a little tense between us by that time, we'd tossed all that aside because we were going on in five. Before hitting the stage, we'd done the thing we did before each show. The prayers and the hugs had felt different. More solemn, almost. Maybe we'd all felt the same thing that night; whatever it had been, everybody had been serious, and we'd given a killer show.
Now I'm sitting about 20 rows back from the stage, checking everything out. In an hour this place was going to fill up. As I sat and thought about what I was going to do, my cell rang. Damn, waiting on this call was getting to be a bad joke. I flipped open the phone and listened to a solid minute of loud static. I could hear what sounded like a voice, trying to communicate with me, but it was too broken up. I'll never know who made that call, but some part of me hoped it was one of the guys, calling to explain things or just to talk. Something about that failed call helped my mind to focus. I had work to do. I got up out of the seat and headed toward the back.
The crew for the night's opening act, ATL, had arrived and was hanging out backstage. I worked out a few last-minute moves with Sam and Dave and then went into the dressing room. I sat alone in the room and tried to concentrate. Behind me I could feel ATL's bass line vibrating through the walls. As I closed my eyes, I had a brief daydream, one where the guys show up, charge in and make the last-minute save. Just like the cavalry. I imagined them running into the arena just as I'm about to take the stage. We grab hands, say our prayer, and then the lights come up on us. The crowd goes wild. I knew it was a fantasy, but I wanted to believe in it. A knock on the door. My managers, Chris and Taz, came in, and the fantasy ended. I opened my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was dressed in my Lakers jersey, and I looked good. The three other jerseys, one each for Raz-B, Lil' Fizz and J-Boog, were still hanging at the back of the room.
Taz stuck her head in and flashed five fingers — five minutes to showtime. This was it, no turning back, no more wishing. I finally took the phone out of my hand and tossed it into my bag. I left the dressing room. Outside, the dancers were heading toward the stage; one of them gave me a thumbs-up. I nodded, but I've got to tell you, I still wasn't feeling it. I started moving toward the stage. As I got closer I could hear the chant building — "B2K! B2K! B2K!" It felt like I was marching up to a firing squad, and there was nothing sweet about it. But this wasn't a firing squad. They were fans; they knew me, and they knew what they wanted from me. It was my job now to deliver.
Finally I was backstage. The stage was dark, and I could feel the audience's energy building. I closed my eyes and tried to take myself into the zone. The lights flashed up, and just before I ran on I took one last look behind me. I knew my three bandmates wouldn't be there, but I looked anyhow. I took a deep breath and hit the stage. Reality hit me hard. The guys were gone, and they weren't coming back.
Omarion speaks about his favorites:
My favorite band: Boyz II Men
My favorite top 5 CDs: Musiq, Jill Scott, Kim Burrell, Snoop Dogg and R Kelly
What I do for fun in my off time: Basketball, Playstation 2, Guitar, Piano, Wrestle and Sing
These artists inspired me: Lyrically Musiq inspired me, but overall Michael Jackson for his attitude and kindness.
My favorite hobbies are: Writing Music, Playing Instruments and Basketball.
This artist has made a difference to me and I would like to work with her musically: Lauryn Hill
Siblings (names): ORyan, Amira, Arielle, Ukil, Tymon and Kira Artists
Favorite Food: Spaghetti, BBQ Chicken, Pizza and Jambalaya
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Actor: Robin Williams
Favorite Movie: Brave Heart
Favorite Sport: Basketball
Favorite Team(s): Lakers
Favorite Clothing Designer: Ice Berg, Coggi
Omarion Gets 'Very Mature'
Former B2K lead singer to release autobiography this year too. The whole world has heard it, danced to it, even sung along with Fat Joe as he laments on "Lean Back" how some artists have commercialized gang culture. "Even Lil' Bow Wow throwin' it up/ B2K Crip walking like that's what's up."
One of the guys addessed in the song says he doesn't have any problem with the lyric- in fact,
he thinks Joey Crack is speaking the gospel.
"Fat Joe is a really cool friend of ours. We met Fat Joe and he was like, 'Man, I love you guys, y'all cool,' " Omarion said recently. "As far as the statement [in the song], it's true, honestly. There's a lot of people who don't really know what they're doing when they're doing that out there.
"See, it's different [with me]. I'm from L.A. I grew up in the 'hood. So I've got certain credibility to do certain things. I've got friends and family and stuff like that. I'm not saying it's OK, but it's a very, very valid statement [Joe] is making, because a lot of people don't understand what it is and don't understand that's real. When you're dancing and stuff like that, that's a way of life. But Fat Joe, hot record! Fat Joe is out of here right now."
Omarion hopes he, too, will have a hot record when his long-talked-about solo LP drops later this year. The 19-year-old has finally decided on a title: O.
"The album should be coming around the end of November, Thanksgiving time, which could be a nice little Christmas gift for you," he said. "It's just really getting a chance for you to know some aspects of my life. You'll get to know me, Omarion, O, who I am, what I do, some of the situations I've been through."
In the next few weeks, the braided performer plans to drop his first single, "Never Gonna Let You Go (She's a Keepa)," on which he sings over live instrumentation, courtesy of labelmates the Wylde Bunch.
"Right now there is this song, we're lining it up, and when you hear it, man, it's so different from anything that I have ever done," he said. "It's old-school mixed with a little bit of new. It's real, real hot. Got something new for y'all, for real. [I'm] most definitely talking about the young ladies."
O said anyone who thought he showed maturity on "Badaboom" should just wait until they hear his album's title track, where he also hollas at the honeys.
"It's crazy, it's very mature. ... It goes, 'Oh!/ That's gonna be the sound, girl/ When it's going down your body/ Going, "Oh!" ' So it's real mature. Another song is called 'I Wish.' Basically what that song is talking about is situations that always happen in relationships when you fall in love and the person may not feel all the way the same as you feel for them. You feel, 'Damn! I wish I never loved you. I wish I never felt the way I felt.' All the topics on the album talk about realistic situations.
"When I was doing songs in the past," he continued, "they've always been like, 'Baby, this' or 'Baby, that' or a club record. This time I got to talk about strong personal issues. They're very valid things that people go through all day, every day."
On the same day O hits stores, the former B2K lead singer will release an autobiography with the same name.
"It's just about my life, an episode in my life," he said. "So there's some interesting things in there. There is so much that happens in the entertainment life, especially when you've been working from such a young age such as myself. I've been working since I was 14, so you'll get insight on what goes on."
Omarion Says Former B2K Mates Invited To Return
Prepare to get served again. Omarion and Marques Houston revealed backstage at Saturday's taping of the 2004 MTV Movie Awards that a sequel to their hit dancing drama, "You Got Served," is in the works.
Chris Stokes, who manages both singers, will again direct. He is currently discussing the script with the co-stars and plans to begin shooting in late summer.
"We're messing with the concept right now, trying to get it perfect, 'cause trying to top the first one is a big step," Houston said. "We don't want to do something that's too much like the first one, but not too far from it either. Sequels are tough."
"There's so many different directions we could go," Omarion added. "I didn't have a father [in the first film], maybe my father could come back."
Omarion said his former groupmates, who had an ugly breakup with Stokes (see "Omarion Calls B2K Breakup 'A Real Sad Situation' "), are invited to return, but he's not sure it'll happen. "Everyone's cool, but we're all doing our own things," he said.
As for his own things, Omarion is about three-quarters finished with his solo album, which will show a more mature side of the singer than fans saw with B2K. "I'm almost 20 now, I've been in the entertainment business since I was 14, so I'm growing up a bit," he said. "It's going to be very interesting, talking about everything going on in my life."
The potential first single is called "I'm Young, But I'm Ready." "It's a song dedicated to all the ladies," Omarion said.
The Underdogs (Backstreet Boys, Ruben Studdard) produced the track, and Omarion also hopes to log studio time with Snoop Dogg and the Neptunes. Houston has contributed production as well.
"He's really getting a chance to be himself," Houston said. "When you get by yourself, you talk about personal issues. People are really going to get to know him."
Omarion has also signed on to host a video dedication show for MTV called "Dedicated" and he's executive producing the debut album from his younger brother, O'Ryan. "He's like my twin," Omarion said. "But he's more of a crooner, he really sings.
"As I get older, I want to do more in the business side of it," he added. "I haven't been to college, but this type of experience is like no other."
Another album Omarion will work on is Houston's second solo effort, which is due in March via a new deal with Atlantic Records. "I'm taking my time 'cause it needs to be perfect," Houston said. "I'd love to work with Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake. He's an amazing artist."
"You Got Served 2" won't be out until 2005, but fans can check out the original on the just-released DVD. "It's been #1 two weeks in a row," Omarion boasted.
Omarion and Houston can also be seen together in the "Fat Albert" movie, opening Christmas Day.