With credits going back over a decade with Ludacris, Fabolous and Memphis Bleek, Omen has had a great year with Drake. Get the scoop, and hear how he introduced Dr. Dre to the Toronto star.
By no means is Sid “Omen” Brown a new face to the Hip Hop scene. From linking up with artists like Fabolous and Memphis Bleek in their earlier days to nabbing a Grammy in 2007 working on Ludacris’ album Release Therapy to joining Drake on his blossoming career path, the Harlem-based producer has made his rounds and then some. Still, Omen continues to keep his pulse on the rappers of tomorrow as evidenced by his collaborations with Diggy Simmons, XV, and Vado.
Along with his wide range of relationships, Omen has his sights set on building a musical empire with help from his new production company Elaborate Musik Orchestra (EMO) and a prospective line-up of artists that should stay relevant for years to come.
Omen recently spoke with DXnext about meeting Noah “40” Shebib and Drake, producing “I’m Single” for Lil Wayne and “Shut It Down” for Drake’s platinum-selling album Thank Me Later, as well as his delayed debut album You Be The Judge. Suffice it to say, the jury’s out; Omen is a beast on the MPC.
Start It Up: “I was rapping at one point and a friend of mine who was doing our tracks took a hiatus. [He] went to like Jazz, perfecting his Jazz craft so no one was doing the beats; I had to step in. I’ve always had an artistic mind as far as being an artist. So I just started putting sounds together with a lot of drums. DJ Premier influenced me. Gang Starr, rest in peace Guru, I just started getting good at what I was doing. I bought an [Akai] MPC, and I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”
The Big Break And Earlier Work: “Late ‘98 I got my feet wet with Memphis Bleek’s Coming Of Age. I did a track called ‘Everybody’ and at that time I was managed by Gee Roberson. I did a couple of songs with the Roc-A-Fella [Records] camp and other artists such as Draft Pick, when they had Juelz Santana. Then Just Blaze came under management too. [Gee] was managing Just Blaze, then he started managing Kanye [West]. At that time they was more in-demand, they had studio access. I didn’t really have a studio, I just had an MPC and I was just a new man traveling from studio to studio. So then I started learning sampling. I started going strictly into like chord structures, building sounds. That’s when I landed Fabolous’ ‘One Day’ on the Ghetto Fabolous album. After that I basically started doing more stuff with Fab. I did the Street Dreams album, the ‘Why Wouldn’t I’ record and ‘Change You Or Change Me.’ Then I scored a film for Roc-A-Fella called Paper Soldiers. Basically I’ve been under the radar doing little things here and there.”
Meeting 40 & Drake: “Frequently I went out to Canada from 2001 on every summer; I would go out to the Caribana [Festival]. At that time, Gee Roberson linked me with an artist named Jelleestone. He was signed to Warner Brothers Canada, and basically he had a good sound and I was definitely interested in working with him. So we went to the studio a few times, loved his style, and then he told me about the whole Toronto movement, ‘cause no one knew about that. Later, he got let go of the Warner Brothers situation and then he went with Universal [Records]. At that time he was working with Chris Smith Management, who also managed Nelly Furtado and other artists. In the studio he worked out of, 40 worked at. 40 was an intern, like an assistant. Jelleestone got his own studio and one summer, I think it was 2003 or ‘04, I went there and he was like, ‘This is 40 right here. He’ll be in the session and he’s gonna be engineering this shit.’ I was like, ‘Okay cool’. Then 40 started playing his keys when we were just chillin’. We were like, ‘Yo, let’s put this on a beat.’ So from that point on we just sort of collaborated, like [since] that first day. After that we built up a good rapport, and I would come out there to the studio. He’s always up on the technology, like, ‘Yo this shit is crazy, you know you can do this with your voice?’ He was always real high on vocals and vocal production, like bending sounds.
I went out there, I think around ’07 and he’s like, ‘I got this artist.’ Actually I had heard of Drake through a few people. He did a song called ‘Replacement Girls,’ and I think I reached out to him or he reached out to me, we tried to link through MySpace, like someone had referred him to me through MySpace. I was like, ‘Aight cool.’ So 40 got involved and that was perfect ‘cause at that time I got the Ludacris Grammy [Award] for Release Therapy for working on ‘Tell It Like It Is’ and at that time I worked on just beats and some different features.”
Creating “Overdose On Life”: “I’m big on concepts; I like to take a title and give it to an artist, you know, like a director sending a movie script to an actor. So basically I had the concept for ‘Overdose on Life’ and I told each [artist] do what overdosing on life represents to you. And then Drake dropped his verse right quick. I remember we were in the studio and went down stairs for like 20 minutes just talking, came back and Drake was like, ‘My verse is done.’ So he laid that, then 40 did all the vocal trickery. Mickey [Factz] heard his then laid a verse, then Travie [McCoy] heard both of theirs and laid his.”
Dr. Dre Comes Calling: “At one point this producer working with Dr. Dre, I would say this is the earliest part of ’08, like January, and basically Dr. Dre was working on Detox. He was like, “Do you have anything for Dre? You got joints? They got hooks? It don’t matter.’ I said, ‘I’ll send out one track that I was gonna use for my album but I think it might sound good for Detox called ‘Overdose on Life.’ He’s like, ‘Cool, send it.’ So I sent it, and he literally called me that same night. He’s like, ‘Yo, Dre wants the Pro Tools files, and who’s that rapper?’ And at that time Drake was the only rapper on it. They’re like, ‘We want to fly him out so he can work with Dre.’ So I call up 40, I call up Drake and told them the news and they were like, ‘Wow, are you serious?’ They got flown out there and stayed for a couple months. From that point on I was wondering what happened with the ‘Overdose’ record. It was like a month [later], so I was like you know what, I should throw this shit out. If I sent Pro Tools files to his producer, I don’t know what’s gonna happen to the stems. So I leaked it, and honestly I think when it hit the blogs heavy, for Mickey and Travie and Drake, they had names, but it helped them surface a lot more on the blogs because of that record.”
On “Shut I Down”: “What happened was I already had the track; it was an R&B-type track. So 40 heard it and started adding sounds to it. Trust me, when he has direction, he just goes into mad scientist [mode]. He added more keys, added the lead-in. The drum part of it was all me, he just tightened it up. Then Drake laid all his vocals and 40 handled the vocal production. He’s really hands-on with the overall production of a record.”
Producing “I’m Single”: “It was me, 40 and D-10 in the studio. D-10 is also a producer and he plays on Drake’s tour as his keyboardist. So D-10 laid some chords, then 40 like warped them and then he added piano and some drums, so I just added some real hard head-knockin’ Hip Hop shit and then we added some other percussion splashes to it. From there, I didn’t know what happened to that track. It was one of those tracks where you start it, but you never know where it ended up. So then  hit me like a month or two down the line, he’s like ‘Yo, Lil Wayne’s got this track you did. It’s gonna be on the No Ceilings mixtape.’ At that time, Thank Me Later was being recorded, and then I found out Drake did a reference to it or something like that.
I’m Single’ is still actually moving [units]. It was very spontaneous, like I never expected that. I think as far as doing that track and the ‘Shut It Down’ track, I think a Lil Wayne collaboration is probably in the future, it’s probably gonna happen.”
Linking With Stadium Red Studios: “I had a studio that I was working at, and we didn’t see eye-to-eye so we parted ways. So then I was looking for another studio to work out of, and none them really like…I didn’t feel their energy. It’s all about creative energy; it’s all about feeling comfortable.
It was actually through a friend of mine who works with a lot of celebrities. I introduced her to Mya, who I also did some work with. Mya was filming a show about celebrities with hidden talents and she filmed the segment at that studio. Being from Harlem, my home girl hit me like, ‘I’m at this hot studio in Harlem. it’s called Red-something.’ So then I asked around. ‘Have you heard of Red-something?’ Someone was like, ‘Yeah, Stadium Red.’ So I went online, looked it up, called them up, spoke to Claude [Zdanow] and told him what I could bring to the table and what I’m looking for. And he was all for it. We got cool, the energy was good, then everyone else started coming on board. And now we’re about to take over shit.”
New Talent On The Horizon: “I got an artist that I’m working with, her name is Erin Christine. She’s like an Alicia Keys mixed with a Mariah Carey, like a Soul-Pop twist. She’s already heating up and people are gonna be checking for her. She’s a real special talent. It’s definitely outside of my lane, as far as the Hip Hop side of things. Going forward, this is a special project for me.”
Expanding The Sound: “I’ve started my production company. It’s called Elaborate Musik Orchestra and I got a few producers. I got this kid named Audio Blk from Chicago, he’s gonna be a problem. You see how Dr. Dre and Scott Storch were? We’re gonna be like that. He’s pretty much a part of everything right now, and then I got affiliation with Black The Beast, he’s down with the team. We bout to have a crazy team of producers.”
On Be The Judge: “That’s my Detox right there [laughs]. Detox has been going on for like ten years; this project has been going on for over three years.
I actually just scrapped everything, to tell you the truth. I’m starting fresh. I think everything is for a reason, and everything is in timing so at that time it wasn’t the right time and it wasn’t ready for me to drop it. Right now, the time is building where I do have a reason to drop that because I got a whole team of artists to drop on the project, you know what I mean?”
Doin’ Work: “Right now I’m just getting tracks done. By next year, the name EMO is gonna be all over the industry, like we gonna do so much stuff. So right now I’m just developing the company, developing the producers, the sound, and then as artists come along, cause now artists are coming to the studio like, ‘Yo, what’s good? We wanna get it in, we wanna do some tracks.’ Before it was like, ‘Send me something.’ But now when artists come to New York, they wanna come to Stadium Red. They wanna see Omen, they wanna see Just Blaze. So now it’s easier for me to do a record; I don’t have to chase artists around. And things get done quicker [that way]. Like when I first started Be The Judge, I didn’t have a studio. I was in between New York and Toronto. Now I have unlimited access.”
The Future Of Omen’s ‘Omen’: “I think that’s the name in itself; an omen. An omen is a sign of things to come.”