*Omar Gooding has been a mainstay on television since the early 1990s but there’s another side to him that has been itching to come out – he is a rapper that goes by the name “Big O.”
“That’s my nickname for people that know me,” Omar told Lee Bailey at one of his recent performances at LaMarr Blackmon’s Underground Hit Breakers Independent Showcase and Comedy Slam in Inglewood, CA. “When I do hip hop, it’s just me.“
“People don’t know that I’ve been rapping just about the same time I’ve been acting,” he continued. “But one pays more bills than the other. So, I finally put out a solo album called ‘The Excuse.’ Big O, that’s how we get down. It’s available everywhere, live streaming. Everywhere digitally.” (Check it out here).
The death of his famous father – Cuba Gooding, Sr. (lead singer of 70s group The Main Ingredient) at the age of 72 in April 2017 from natural causes – pushed Omar to get serious about sharing his music.
“With my father’s passing, it felt like a passing of the torch for me to continue giving the musical excellence, if you will, that I’ve been taught – the work ethic and putting out stuff that you like. The album I put out, I like the album. I play it a lot.”
Omar’s busy acting career is what kept his music on the backburner. His biggest roles were in the shows “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” (1992-1997) and “Smart Guy” (1997-1999). He also had roles in “One On One” (2002-2003), “Playmakers” (2003), and the TV version of the film “Barbershop” (2005-2006). More recently, he has been on Bounce TV’s “Family Time” since 2012, in which he also co-produces and even writes episodes.
In between his numerous TV credits, his movies include John Singleton’s “Baby Boy” (2001) and many independent releases, with additional ones on the way.
“I was an actor at the age of ten,” Omar said. “It’s’ just been one long roller coaster ride in the sense of I started on one show then I went to another show and another show. Then I did a movie and the movie blew up. I’ve never had the chance to just sit down and sync into music and hip hop because it wasn’t, per se, my lane. It wasn’t my bread winner.”
Now at 42, he is not afraid to put music in his lane or call his sound old school.
“Compared to the current state of hip hop, yeah it’s old school,” Omar said. “I’m not trying to be negative but there’s a term called ‘mumble rappers,’ which is pretty much a purposeful style in which it kind of got to a point where – it’s not lazy, it’s not caring – it’s a style, a lane that they’re in. It’s trap music and they’re not emphasizing making sure that they’re heard and understood.”
He continued, “That’s not the world I’m from. I’m from the world where if I wrote something and put a lot of time and effort in it, I want to make sure you understand every single word that I spit. So, it’s clear, very audible, and makes you want to think a little bit. And it just tells my story and that’s Big O.”
While part of his story is that he is the son of a well-known singer and the younger brother of famed actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., he does not want to promote those facts to get cred for his music.
“There’s two ways to look at it,” Omar said. “People will say, ‘Oh, I like how you became your own man and how you didn’t have to ride on the backs of your Oscar winning brother or your famous father. You just did your own thing and let people come to you. You didn’t put it out there like that.’ Or it’s, ‘Damn, why you keeping this from us? Why you hiding it? How come you didn’t tell us?’ It all depends on how you look at it.”
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He continued, “I went my way which is I’m just gonna do me and let it come. I don’t come in tooting my own horn with big security and an entourage and this ‘n that. I just walked in the building (tonight) and was carded three times since I been here, and I was supposed to headline. So, it’s one of those things where it’s cool – now, let me just get on stage.”