Osama Karamat on the evolution of rap music in Pakistan

August 14, 2022

The Pakistani-American rapper, who is also a member of No Front, talks to Instep about hip-hop, commercialism of rap music and the upcoming Umro Ayyar.

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sama Karamat, who adopted the stage name OCL, has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years in terms of music. From outstanding collaborations like ‘Pindi Aye’ ft. a slew of rappers to the recent releases, collaborations with Maria Unera, what’s palpable is they’re devoid of the frivolous rap of OCL in his early years.

Dropping no-holds-barred solo EPs such as paKING, Barbaadi and Munkashif, he is also gearing up to make his film debut with Azfar Jafri’s Umro Ayyar, which tackles a variety of themes. They include “evil jinns” and “ancient lore” among other nuanced subthemes with a terrific ensemble cast featuring Faran Tahir, Sanam Saeed, Ali Kazmi, Adnan Siddiqui, Simi Raheal, Sana Fakhar, Manzar Sehbai, and Osama Karamat (among others).

When pressed about the film, Osama told Instep, “Umro Ayyar will be a game-changer. When this project drops - of course no project is perfect - from my perspective, I feel like it’s going to be a huge game-changer.”

Osama’s faith in the film is firm and absolute.

“A lot of complaints are going around lately about ‘oh, we need to support local cinema’. Yes, we need to but we also need to make better content, your audience is getting smarter, they’re not stuck in the late nineties. They want better stuff and that’s why people are turning to streaming for foreign or neighboring content. It’s because we keep getting the same regurgitated stories, on television and in films. So, I feel that with our film, it will be a page-turner, and write a whole new chapter of cinema in Pakistan. These are very big claims from a very small person,” laughs Osama, “who is still kind of making his way around the industry but I think that if we really pay attention to what’s going on, truly, it will be a game-changer for Pakistani cinema.”

Rapper-turned-film actor, OCL, who is a fan of artists such as J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake, is keeping himself busy with the film scheduled to release sometime this year. One project has been dropping ‘Free’ with No Front. It is a rap group that features OCL, Myca C, and Devistator (who are friends of Osama’s since his childhood days in Orlando, United States).

Their last release was the grit-fueled ‘Free’, produced by dotxb99 (pronounced dot-bee) who is the in-house producer at Stardek, run by MRKLE and Osama (OCL). It was backed by a lyrical music video.

Since its release, the song has also been added to the global music app, Spotify.

Speaking to Instep about the larger hip-hop scene and how it is evolving, Osama observed: “Hip-hop is taking over. In Pakistan, I’d say it’s a lot more commercialized at the moment,” adding, “It’s not necessarily out there in its truest form. It is there, but a lot of people are just milking it, the brands, the corporations, and that’s essentially how things work here and it’s fine.”

To OCL, hip-hop being the genre of the moment in Pakistan is acceptable as long as, “it doesn’t lose its true essence”.

Right now, as a rapper of the present scene, OCL believes that this particular explosion of hip-hop is good for the larger music scene. “A lot of eyes are on hip-hop artists, especially some who’ve been doing it from before and even the up-and-coming ones.

“Hip-hop, rap, and black culture has been a huge staple throughout the decades and influenced things. It’s not just now; it’s been there for a while - whether it is style, or music or the way you speak, the way you carry yourself, it’s been there. Right now, I feel it’s good exposure for Pakistan. Hopefully, it can maintain its true essence and not get too commercialized.”

As for being a solo artist as well as one who is part of a group, Osama explained, “I’m solo because I’m geographically here. Of course, it’s the digital era so a lot can be done digitally.”

When probed about how OCL differentiates himself from others, he notes, “I’m a strong believer in doing what you feel. I can’t sit and write a happy song if I’m not happy. That’s me consciously going off on whatever I’m feeling. I can’t force an emotion that’s not there. Usually, I’m a very positive and optimistic person. And my music reflects that. It’s energetic, high-tempo. If I go towards deeper emotional stuff, then it’s because I’ve been feeling a certain way. My identity in hip-hop is, by and large, energetic, high-tempo stuff.”

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