While Eminem’s annual Anger Management Tour and Jay-Z’s Fade To Black make national headlines with their three-month concert circuits, touring is a way of life for One Be Lo. The Pontiac, Michigan native has been winning fans over with his live shows ever since he was named OneManArmy, one-half of Midwestern gurus, Binary Star. He has broken up with partner Senim Silla, but a post-Binary Star Nahshid Sulaiman isn’t doing too bad for himself: his Subterraneous Records label is one of Michigan’s best, he has a label deal with Fat Beats, and his sophomore LP, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., has received praise from every critic with a pen [including a four star AllHipHop review!]. Still, One Be Lo continues to expound on his reputation as the deliveryman of some of the region’s best live Hip-Hop performances. AllHipHop.com analyzes Lo’s hustle.
AllHipHop.com: Let’s start off with some of the prerequisites. Why did you and Senim Silla break up, seemingly right after Binary Star got big?
One Be Lo: It’s funny, because we actually broke up before we blew up. A lot of people were confused, because by the time the Binary Star album officially dropped, we had already been broke up for a year. We didn’t see the fruits from our labor until a year after the record came out, and two years after we broke up. Like, “Oh s**t, y’all feeling our s**t?” By that time, I was like, “F**k Binary Star, I’m a solo artist now,” but people don’t want to hear that.
AllHipHop.com: What caused the break-up?
One Be Lo: We were just different, man. The best way I can explain it is that we started making music in high school. In high school, of course we hang with the same people, we do the same things, we listen to the same music. But the older we got – and I can’t speak for him – but decisions we had to make, I wasn’t feeling him on those decisions. The way he wanted to handle business, I wanted to do things different. The kind of artist I am, I’ma do what I want to do, and I’ma be me, and I want to give the people around me that same right. To make a long story short, that’s what it really boils down to. Creative differences, that’s normally what I say to people. But at the end of the day, it was like, “You do your thing the way you want to do it, and I’ma do my thing the way I want to do it.”
AllHipHop.com: Why did you change your name to One.Be.Lo?
One Be Lo: There was a Punk group named One Man Army. Selling these records, it sort of convinced me to avoid potential legal troubles with the name. I don’t follow those cats, so I don’t know what they’re doing right now. It’s kind of crazy because I would go on the road, and I’ll be sitting on the Metro in Chicago and I’ll see “One Man Army” stickers all over the place, or I’ll go to Iowa City or New York and I’ll see “One Man Army” stickers in the venue. And people would call me, “I heard you were coming to Salt Lake City,” and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” There was confusion, and I felt like if they got bigger or if I got bigger, we can?t both use the name. I feel like a b*tch because I had to change mine, but I still rep for that [name] and I still use it, then with the press and album covers I use “OneBeLo.” I definitely like “OneManArmy” a whole lot better, but I didn’t want to get bigger and change the name, then have to transfer a lot of people over to something new. I’m like, “Yo, let me start doing this now, so we can make the transition.” It’s still kind of difficult because a lot of people still don’t even know yet.
AllHipHop.com: S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. is looking like your breakthrough album. How has it been doing?
One Be Lo: It’s kind of an introduction for a lot of people who don’t know me, and for the people who do, it’s kind of a transition. So that’s basically the purpose of this album, to set up cats for the next project. We’re just trying to utilize that, and make people more aware of what’s going on. When I get the new project, I’ll have more people left from the first album.
AllHipHop.com: How has it been received so far?
One Be Lo: Personally, I know I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from it from fans. As the Fat Beats staff, the publicist, people are excited about pitching the record. I’ve got DJs who are giving me responses. For what it is, I think that people are really feeling the record, and I think cats are excited. Most importantly, people are excited to hear more material from me. That’s a good thing, and I’m just trying to ride that.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of your album’s success can probably be attributed to your seemingly neverending tour circuit…
One Be Lo: The album came out in February, and I went on the road like a month before the record came out. Between then and now, I’ve probably been home for 30 days on and off. I was already on the road when the album dropped, then I was on the road for about 30 days. Then I got off that tour, went off for a couple days, then I did the tour with KRS-One, went off for a couple days, then I jumped on the tour with Zion I, then I went off for a couple days, then I dropped on the Warped Tour.
AllHipHop.com: How much does that hinder your social life?
One Be Lo: For the last five years, touring and shows and Hip-Hop is a way of life for me. My social life is seeing my peers and my fans, they’re on the same side as me, or I’m meeting them at the venues. That is my life. I’m not hoping it’ll be that way forever, but it is a way of life for me right now, and I’ve gotta see it that way. For the past couple years I’ve been adjusting to that, and that’s really the only thing I know right now.
AllHipHop.com: Why is touring so important to you?
One Be Lo: When you go on the road, you’re giving the people who have the music another way to reach out and grasp you as an artist and get to know you as a person. One of the best forms of promotion I’ve found is performing. With a music video, people can see what you look like, but they don’t really get to see your personality. In the interviews, people can hear some things about your personality, but not get to see you. So when you see a person live, you get to talk to them, you get to see them, you get to associate the artist with the music, and you get to see the person in so many aspects you can’t get from a record. For the people who don’t know you, they’re getting the best form of promotion, because they’re getting the artists themselves – they aren’t getting a blurb from a magazine, or an ad. That?s giving a person the chance to say, “I’m feeling the artist because I’ve seen the performance, and I’ve heard the record.” It even gives you a different perspective when you hear the record, because now you can association the music with an individual.
AllHipHop.com: It seems like you’ll hit every venue in every city.
One Be Lo: For me, it’s not just important to hit up a city. It’s important to tap that market. I can do shows for one venue, but everybody may not go to that venue. Not everybody may go to that side of town. If you really want to say, “I’ve got that city,” you’ve got to go to that city and find out where everybody’s at – not just one club, or what’s popping at one venue, but you’ve got to find out what makes that city work. I’ll hit a record store, two venues, a poetry spot, and a high school. Real people in everyday life don’t all just hang out in one spot.
Say for example, New York. You’ve got millions and millions of people in New York, so if you hit up one venue with a certain capacity, you ain’t even hitting one-one hundredth of the people that’s there. The whole idea is to get exposure, and if you don’t have a million-dollar cat paying behind you to put your face all over magazines and videos, you have to be in your face as much as you can. If you aren’t in their face, they aren’t even thinking about you.
AllHipHop.com: I’m going to randomly name some of the states on your tour this year, and you give me one thing that sticks out from each of them.
One Be Lo: Word.
One Be Lo: Everywhere I go in California I get mad love, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I used to have a distribution deal through TR City in San Francisco. They distributed the Binary Star record back in 2000. I’m probably bigger in Cali than I am anywhere else.
AllHipHop.com: New York.
One Be Lo: My first impression of New York it was that it’s just essential for a lot of artists out there who think they’re special because they’re in New York or they’re from New York. But there are a lot of people in New York that show love, because everybody that goes to New York knows that most people who live in New York aren’t from New York. There are a lot of people I know that’s in New York, they show a special pride when they see you come out there because they’re from the Midwest, so they’re going to bring a lot of people out. The illest thing about New York is the public transportation system, that makes it easier for a lot of people to come out to the shows.
AllHipHop.com: What about some down south places? Texas? Atlanta?
One Be Lo: There’s a big difference between Texas and Atlanta. When you’re in the Southwest, it’s more Mexican people out there, so it’s kind of dope. Being in the Midwest, you’ve got Latinos all over the place, but when I’d go to Albuquerque and Texas, the majority of the crowd [is Mexican]. A lot of the b-boys and the neighbors are Mexican, as opposed to me walking in New Orleans or Birmingham, Alabama, it’s a different demographic.
AllHipHop.com: Out of the concerts you’ve been to, who do you think puts on the best show?
One Be Lo: C’mon man, nobody’s f**king with KRS-One. Honestly, KRS-One is the dopest MC on stage. I’ve seen a lot of KRS-One shows, but you have to see more than one, because he does different things at different shows. In the Midwest, he did all the hits, but out west they have more b-boys, so he was jumping in the circle while cats were breaking. That s**t was ridiculous. That dude is Hip-Hop. I would say the KRS-One show is the livest show I’ve ever seen in my life – all ten of ’em.