Chicago born. Columbus Raised.
I first met Greg Owens in 2010 at a mutual friend’s sweet sixteen. Maybe it was the fact that we were pitching at the same girl, but I remembered his name. Over the 5 years since first becoming acquainted, I’ve seen his handle floated around in the social media channels of Columbus music. I’ve paid attention from a distance, intrigued with the snippets that I’d stumble across. On September 30, 2015, he released The Greg Owens Project, and I committed myself to seeing what he was all about. You can skip down to the end of this page to get straight to listening, but I spent some time jotting down my thoughts.
G.O. is an optimist. I asked him what his motto in life was. He immediately replied, “The only limits are the ones you create in your mind.” That much is overwhelmingly clear throughout the mixtape. G.O. let’s his dreams breathe on this project and he’s laced his aspirations delicately into each of his songs. At times, it is inspiring and at other times, it’s exhausting. Still, given the name of the mixtape, I have to imagine that it was his plan to introduce the world to him as an artist. If nothing else, this is where G.O. most succeeds.
Track 8 is titled It’s All Good…
…and it could very well have served as the titular track if the project was a producer mixtape. If you want to know G.O., all you have to understand is that he wants to make it and he sees music as his avenue to get out. I learned through conversation with him that he’s been drumming since he was 2 years old and he obviously understands music. Moreover, he’s extremely good at putting together elements and creating sounds that are interesting and compelling; he produced the entire project. However, the underdog motif sometimes undercuts just how good his music sounds.
From the first song, Go Get Em Now, you hear G.O stepping outside of typical hip hop conventions. Calling on piano strokes and the raspy vocals of Ryan Alan, the song reminded me more of a rock ballad from the 80s then anything that I’d expect in contemporary hip hop. Think In The Air Tonight for a reference point. I appreciated the approach and immediately re-calibrated my expectations to, well, no expectations.
My open mind was rewarded over the next tracks. The sample flip on It’s Alright made me audibly exclaim ‘oh shit’ and the Alpha in me rejoiced with the way that G.O. brought Mo Bounce into the 21st century. The rest of the mixtape is a journey across different sounds and experiments. For the rest of The Greg Owns Project, I heard songs that evoked vibes from hip hop classics such as Kanye West’s Spaceship and J Cole’s Dollar and a Dream. Scattered throughout my notes I have written, “this sounds like Drake and Lil Wayne…crooning Lil Wayne” and “I see he was searching for the Tupac g-funk sound”. There’s even a hint of 808s and Heartbreak era Kanye.
Each song is a different exhibition for what exactly G.O. is able to create. On There 4 You, he made me bop my head. I found myself mesmerized by the way he had his snares and hi hats chasing around the jazzy melody. The end result isn’t necessarily a cohesively produce project, but instead a collage demonstrating G.O’s range. What remained consistent, was how, after every track, I found myself saying “that was interesting”.
What If Andre Young was born in Columbus?
I saw Straight Outta Compton over the summer like the rest of America. The movie was great cinema, but it also did alot to help me understand a crucial part of rap history. For the first time, I saw the infamous Dr. Dre before he became THE Doctor that surgically laced everybody’s tracks. More importantly, I came to see that as important as Dr. Dre was to hip hop, his contributions as a rapper were minimal. After revisiting his discography and doing some personal research, I found that even when Dr. Dre delivered a great verse, chances were that he did not write it. As much of a musical genius that he is, Dr. Dre’s pen is not his strong suit.
I found myself having similar feelings about G.O. as the I listened to The Greg Owens Project. Ironically, three tracks in, on Mo’ Bounce, G.O. name checks Dre and references a ‘ruthless’ mentality that cemented the parallel for me. It’s not that any of the rapping on the project is bad and it is certainly not awful. I can best describe it as limited. There were periods through my time listening, that I was reminded of Kanye West’s old school style. Now, Kanye is my favorite hip hop artist of all time, but even I have to admit that the man possessed limitations. I often found myself distracted by the cliches and commenting on how straight forward the rhyme patterns were. Too many times, I figured out how a line would end before it came.
As I mature, I am letting go of my backpack snobbery. Still lyrical miracles and linguistic acrobats are the way to my heart. I did get some of that from G.O.’s featured artist, but even the guest verses sometimes sounded dated. G.O. spent alot of time working on The Greg Owen’s Project, so it’s entirely possible that some of the verses were written years ago. I’m sureif given the chance, the artist would step up their pen to contemporarilze (that’s a made up word) the lyrics. Alas, you only get one chance to make a first impression and in a vacuum, I was generally underwhelmed with the bars on the project.
“There 4 U”
The technique used throughout the project is not indicative of the quality of content. Sometimes, I wondered if G.O. has ever tried his hand at spoken word, where his strong voice and knack for story telling might ring truer. There are alot of tales told on The Greg Owen’s Project, whether they be about his being poor on Tired of Being Broke, or of courting a lady on There 4 U. Tracks such as There 4 U are where G.O. particularly shines. He puts on his LL Cool J hat, enlists the help of J-Von Barginear to delivery a smooth Usher-esque hook, and spits his best game to a special lady.
There 4 U may be G.O.’s strongest overall track on the project and the one that best showcases what G.O. has the potential to develop into. There weren’t any lines about what he will be in the future, or how he is chasing his dreams. Instead, and perhaps for the first time on the mixtape, he is well aware of what he is bringing to the table and knows that the person on the receiving end is better off with him in their life.
After finishing The Greg Owen’s Project, I believe that ‘project’ is the best way to describe the mixtape because it sounds like an artist who is a work in progress. G.O. has alot of talent, that much is clear. What caries songs like There 4 U, and Mo Bounce is the unbridled confidence. Once he sheds the underdog role, and stops telling the story of an artist aspiring to be great, and instead chooses to just be great, he WILL be something special.I am extremely interested in seeing what G.O makes once he spends some time developing his writing abilities. In the meantime, any track that says [Prod. By Greg Owens] has rightfully earned an instant play from me. If nothing else, this man crafts instrumentals that my ears need to listen to.