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A genuine independent duo, O.U.O. traveled the world and used their knowledge for the advancement of hip-hop. From Zimbabwe to Virginia, they traveled with their heads held high. While other groups ride the bandwagon or just try to get paid, O.U.O. has a deep rooted love for the culture and vow to create intelligent and righteous hip-hop. The name O.U.O is an acronym with many positive and confident meanings. For years, they have been rocking shows and releasing singles. In 2005, O.U.O. finally released their debut album 'Of Unknown Origin' on Domination Recordings. Production is handled by Kev Strange, Misterdew, H-Peh, and Cadence of Raw Produce. While most albums are littered with useless celebrity guest appearances, all of the guests on 'Of Unknown Origin' are only known in small circles within the underground culture. Even though they could not afford big names, the LP shines bright with the chemistry, soulfulness, and true spirit. On a cool spring day in 2005, I had an insightful conversation with Dumi Right, '½ of O.U.O. Dumi Right is the Director of Operations of pH Music and Co-Founder of The Hip-Hop Restoration Council. As a group, O.U.O. is helping to elevate the underground and independent hip-hop scene. Without gimmicks or glitz, they take a cue from the A Tribe Called Quest's stripped down approach to hip-hop. Their music consists of just beats, rhymes, and life. Even though they are heavily influenced by hip-hop from both the U.K. and the U.S., their music is for today. Underground and original, O.U.O. are officially lovers and contributors of hip-hop.
T.JONES: 'What goes on?'
DUMI: 'Man, I'm just mad excited to finally drop the O.U.O record. It's been a long time coming.'
T.JONES: 'The debut O.U.O album, 'Of Unknown Origin' was finally released. Tell us about the album.'
DUMI: 'My cousin Pep and I put our heads together to come up with O.U.O but it actually goes back years and years. I recorded my first rhyme in a studio with him many, many moons ago. He had been doing his thing for a while and I had been writing but hadn't performed or recorded much, if at all. Now, understand that I'm taking you back to like 1988. This was all in Zimbabwe. One day, I was at Pep's crib and he throws on a beat tape and says, 'Let's write a song'.'
T.JONES: 'Do you have a favorite song on the album?'
DUMI: 'My favorites change but I'm really liking 'Outstanding'. That hook is pretty crazy. Cadence, from Raw Produce, did the beat and it's real energetic. It is a good introduction to what the group is about.'
T.JONES: 'How did you hook up with Domination Recordings?'
DUMI: 'Actually, it was through two mutual friends, Peter Agoston from Female Fun Records and Cadence. I told them that I was shopping for a deal and they mentioned DJ Fisher. So, we started building on it. When DJ started up Domination, we struck a deal and got together to put out the record.'
T.JONES: 'When you approach a song, do you have pre-written lyrics and themes or do you listen to the beat and write from the beat?'
DUMI: 'I'd say more often than not, we have a beat. Then, we vibe with it and come up with a concept. From there, we develop the hook and the rhymes. Sometimes though, we'll have some rhymes written and get with someone to cook up a track to match.'
T.JONES: 'How did you get the name O.U.O. and what are the many meanings?'
DUMI: 'Well, we've grown up all over the place N.Y., Zimbabwe, New Jersey, Virginia. Wherever we are, people ask 'Where are you from?' Also, our style is not your typical run of the mill that you see or hear everyday. The abbreviation stands for 'Of Unknown Origin'. It also means 'Official Underground Original'.'
T.JONES: 'Which emcees or artists would you like to work with in the future?'
DUMI: 'I'm dying to do something with Jean Grae or Masta Ace. Ace is one of my favorites of all time.'
T.JONES: 'Which producers would you like to work with in the future?'
DUMI: 'I have to say DJ Premier, without question. Actually, add Prince Paul to that too. He's got that unorthodox methodology.'
T.JONES: 'How would you describe the music of O.U.O?'
DUMI: 'I think it's like complex, thought provoking rhymes intertwined with rugged, yet melodic beats and rhythms. The lyrics are critical. To quote The Pharcyde, I 'Gotta kick something that means something.' Another important factor is the fact that Pep and I trade rhymes back and forth, like crews from the golden age. EPMD, Run DMC.'
T.JONES: 'What have you been listening to recently?'
DUMI: 'I've been listening to a lot of The Roots. They are my all time favorite. 'Illadelph Halflife'! Sean Price. Going through the archives, there is Gangstarr, Tribe, Krs-One.'
T.JONES: 'What was the last incident of racism you experienced?'
DUMI: 'Aw man, there are so many things. Much of it is subliminal. It could be when I got fronted on at the mall in a department store because I guess they didn't think I had money. It could be when I was buying a new car, and salespeople would not give me the time of day.'
T.JONES: 'Where were you on the September 11th terrorist attack? How did you deal with it and how do you think it has affected hip-hop?'
DUMI: 'I was at work and they have TVs in the break room. We were watching like, 'Whoa!' It was crazy because it affected such a diverse cross section of people. It didn't matter what your beliefs were if you were there. It definitely messed up the current political environment in the U.S because I feel it limited people's ability to dissent on issues. If you felt different, than this whole anti-patriotic backlash was used against you. I don't mean I felt different about September 11th. I was mad as hell at the indiscriminate killing and loss of innocent life. The powers that be expected us all to sing with one voice. At the same time, in hip-hop circles, it seemed to me like heads were cautious about condemning the attack because they didn't want to appear to be in bed with the Bush regime. To me, those are mutually exclusive. I think hip-hop was kind of split because people didn't want to necessarily look like they were flag wavers for hip-hop fans. The truth is, the attack was a terrible thing for humanity, no matter how you slice it. September 11th was wrong but that didn't make George Bush right and that didn't justify measures like the Patriot Act.'
T.JONES: 'What are some other political issues you feel strongly about?'
DUMI: 'I think it's so hypocritical how we preach democracy but do not do a damn thing for years when Zimbabwe, South Africa, and all of those countries were fighting for freedom. In fact, it was the opposite. They supported the regimes that were in power. I think it is a travesty at what some of the things they spend money on while they are cutting school budgets and after-school programs at the same time.'
T.JONES: 'Describe growing up in Zimbabwe?'
DUMI: 'Since we were in the city, it was similar in a lot of ways. A big thing is the stuff people here take for granted isn't always readily available over there. The schools are all under the British style, so we had to rock uniforms and ties. I lived there from 1980 to 1990. I left when I came to the U.S to go to college.'
T.JONES: 'How is living in Zimbabwe different from living in the U.S.?'
DUMI: 'I'd say it is the easy access to day to day stuff. Here, kids in high school can have cars. Over there, that's a luxury. There are frequently shortages of basic things like gas and flour. Even though the cities are modernized, a lot of people are still traditional in terms of dealing with elders and male / female relationships.'
T.JONES: 'What is hip-hop lacking?'
DUMI: 'Diversity and balance. To use the analogy of movies, it is like this. I loved 'Goodfellas', but it would suck if every movie in the theatres was a gangster flick.'
T.JONES: 'Word association. I am going to say a name of a person or group and you say the first word that pops into your head. Ok?'
T.JONES: 'Phife Dawg.'
DUMI: 'Ill rhymer.'
DUMI: 'Dead Presidents.'
T.JONES: '50 Cent.'
T.JONES: 'Sadat X.'
DUMI: 'You know the ish is real, so don't front.'
T.JONES: 'MF Doom.'
DUMI: 'Gas face.'
T.JONES: 'Snoop Dogg.'
DUMI: 'Not again.'
T.JONES: 'Wu-Tang Clan.'
DUMI: 'WUVT, college radio.'
T.JONES: 'Dice Raw.'
DUMI: 'World series of dice (laughs).'
T.JONES: 'Ugly Duckling.'
DUMI: 'Scrooge McDuck.'
T.JONES: 'Dead Prez.'
DUMI: 'Sense. Bring back.'
T.JONES: 'Kool G Rap.'
DUMI: 'On the run.'
T.JONES: 'Gil-Scott Heron.'
T.JONES: 'George Bush.'
T.JONES: 'What are some misconceptions people have of you or O.U.O.?'
DUMI: 'Well, since I have a day job, the people I work with are surprised when they find out that I rap.'
T.JONES: 'What is your day job?'
DUMI: 'Consultant / Systems Analyst.'
T.JONES: 'What is PH Music?'
DUMI: 'It is a company I started. It means 'Pure Hip-hop Music'. It is a vehicle to put out all our musical endeavors.'
T.JONES: 'How does the fact that you and Pep are cousins cause problems or make things easier?'
DUMI: 'As far as causing problems, I'd say that the hardest thing about being in a group is how you objectively critique each other without getting personal or raising hard feelings. That's an issue, in any group, but being related, makes it harder. You want to make sure that you're keeping each other on point, but you don't want to step on another lyricist's toes or infringe on their creativity. On the plus side, there is a level of trust since we're related and that would take time or may never happen for people who are just friends. We also shared a lot of life experiences.'
T.JONES: 'Where are you living now? What are the 3 best aspects of living there? What are the 3 worst aspects?'
DUMI: 'I live out in Springfield, Virginia. The best? It's a cool, relaxed environment. It is a safe environment to raise kids, with good schools. UPS can leave 10 boxes of vinyl on my doorstep and it's safe until I get home. Worst? There is no rap industry. A lot of shows don't make it out here and it's hard as hell to get local support for what we do from local radio and press.'
T.JONES: 'What collaboration are you most proud of?'
DUMI: 'I was incredibly amped that Nikki Giovanni agreed to appear on our album and grace us. I mean she's such a great poet and the fact that she agreed to do it was truly a blessing.'
T.JONES: 'What is next for O.U.O.? Remixes? Collaborations?'
DUMI: 'Look out for a remix EP on vinyl, with remixes of some album tracks by Spencer Doran and Hen Boogie. Also, look out for the Cadence / Dumi Right project 'Alternate Reality'. Look out for the Zimbabwe Legit release of the 'lost tapes' style Brothers From The Mother record on enhanced CD and vinyl this summer. Also, one more thing. Look out for the new line of Kunta Kinte Conscious Clothing Freedom Gear coming out this summer.'
T.JONES: 'Any final words for the people reading this?'
DUMI: 'None, but ourselves, can free our mind. If you want hip-hop to get better, you have to make it better!'
Thank you O.U.O.
Interview by Todd E. Jones