Chilling With OG Maco – Exclusive Interview

“I’m not a bit of a rockstar, I am a rockstar.”

Those are the words of OG Maco, a rapper on an ever-expanding journey. The Atlanta hailing rapper was in the UK to perform for his Desperado World Tour across Europe and the US, a tour which started in the Netherlands on 20 January and one that doesn’t end until 15 April when Maco will be bringing down the curtain on his world tour in Phoenix, Arizona. We got to catch up with Maco to get a very insightful chat about his journey and immense workrate.

The rapper blew up in 2014 with his hit song ‘U Guessed It’ and since then, Maco has been busy over the last few years as he’s released a number of mixtapes and EPs. Quietly sipping a beer in the foyer of the RE Hotel in Shoreditch while his phone was constantly taking his attention, Maco by and large seemed relaxed, he was in London to perform at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, his ninth performance in 12 twelve days, the UK was already the sixth country he was visiting, his schedule is relentless, the saying ‘no rest for the wicked’ definitely comes to mind here.

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The tour is called ‘Desperado’ with Maco telling us that he’d been through tough times last year. Trouble with labels he’s signed with including Quality Control Music worn him down. “It fucked me up, I kinda felt like the experience brought out the rebel in me, the desperado in me” Maco says and by the tone of his voice, the feelings of being constricted as an artist obviously was something that he did not enjoy. The ‘Desperado’ tour represents a new start for Maco, a chance for him to connect with his fan base. Maco even has the word ‘Desperado’ tattooed on him as he rolled up his jacket sleeve to show the tattoo on his wrist to demonstrate his dedication to the cause. His last gig on the tour the night before in Budapest, Hungary saw him performing on an old ship turned bar in the river Danube. “The boat was rocking, the fans got really into it” says Maco as his eyes lit up, clearly he had a good night that evening and when asked whether he had a favourite country of the tour so far, he answered that he didn’t have one, put simply he said that the whole experience of being able to connect with his loyal fans across the world was a blessing enough. The ‘Desperado’ tour doesn’t end until April, his won’t start his US leg of the tour until early March when fellow rappers Young Greatness, a label-mate to Maco on Motown Records & Levi Carter join the tour across 26 different venues, a lot of time for Maco to spread his ‘Desperado’ ethos among his fan-base.

The rapper said that he wants his music to “bring the desperado out of people”, he is acutely aware of the pitfalls of an industry where you can end up doing things you would never have done before. “It’s easy to get stuck in the wrong crowd, by the time you realise something is wrong, it’s too late to stop it”, Maco is a maverick of a rapper ready to combust into life. His raspy voice, frenzied flow, near-demonic tone, the issues that he speaks about in his music may suggest he’s an artist conflicted by the industry he’s part of but Maco’s laid-back attitude and general demeanour talking to him didn’t suggest that, in fact, Maco is a more complex artist than meets the eye.

Maco is most known for his hit song ‘U Guessed It’. “I knew after I made it that it was going to blow up” he says confidently. The song’s unorthodox, start-stop nature to the point that it almost sounded like a freestyle was entirely on purpose, Maco’s improvised bars led the song to go viral. ‘U Guessed it’ went down so well that it had a remix featuring fellow Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz and while he told me the decision to make the remix was down to his labels, 2 Chainz wasn’t actually supposed to be on the remix as Maco revealed to me that “J Cole was originally supposed to do the vocals for the remix for U Guessed It”, a revelation that absolutely blew my mind. However, while listening to the song, Maco said to me that he thought that 2 Chainz would sound crazy over the production and because J Cole had taken too long to get back to him, Maco reached out to 2 Chainz & he got to provide the vocals for the track instead of Cole. On the topic of features though, Maco said that he likes “to keep my circle close, I don’t really like to feature anyone just for the sake of it”, Maco preferring to fuck with guys that are on the same wavelength as him.

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In July last year, Maco was involved in a near-fatal car crash that almost resulted in him losing his right eye. Moral of the story: drunk driving is bad. However, what was surprising was Maco did not seem the slightest worried about his predicament. The doctors who were going to perform surgery to repair his damaged face as well as have to deal with his fractured skull among other problems said to him that there was 65% chance that he would lose his right eye. When he heard the doctors’ prognosis, Maco told them “fuck it, do what you have to do, I don’t care”, a quite outstanding reaction while going through such a traumatic experience. As he pointed towards his face, a small scar is visible under his eye where he had had the surgery, the scar could easily be mistaken for a bag under his eye it was that small. Maco said his right cheek had to be reconstructed, his right eye-socket totally destroyed from the impact of the crash and his eye was so badly damaged that it had turned red and yet looking at him, he looked like he had made a miraculous recovery with no after-effects from the tumultuous accident.

His musical inspirations include the likes of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Cudi, a man he paid homage to with a special EP dedicated to the rapper called ‘For Scott…’ and Phil Collins, in fact he refers to himself as the “black Phil Collins”, no surprise consider he dropped an EP in September last year called ‘Blvk Phil Collins’. In terms of Cudi, Maco sees him not only as “an inspiration” but compares him to Morpheus with himself as Neo, Cudi offered Maco the red pill and opened his eyes to try and get him away from the matrix. Maco doesn’t see himself as just a rapper, he’s sees himself as a rockstar too but over the last 2-3 years, he feels like he’s done stuff in the music scene where he hasn’t got credit for it while other artists have gotten credit for doing the same stuff he’s doing, despite releasing so much music in a relatively short of period of time. Although this irked Maco a little bit, he didn’t sound like he was bitter or jealous. He mentions Lil Uzi Vert and Migos in the sense that they are essentially being treated like trendsetters, someone he doesn’t seem to agree with. As the interview continues, the talking moves towards stuff like tightly ripped jeans, khaki bomber jackets, dreads and massive gold chains all being in fashion. “Rappers are dressing like rockstars when I was doing the same shit 2-3 years ago” says Maco and it’s funny that Lil Uzi Vert and Migos came up during the discussion because at the moment, “Bad & Boujee” is the new viral song with Vert and Migos enjoying a huge wave of popularity from the song.

Prior to the interview, the rapper tweeted “[Donald] Trump is uniting the world in resistance to his hate ridden policies. If he’s lucky, that’ll be his legacy.” When Trump’s name first filled the air during the interview, his initial reaction was to say “fuck Donald Trump”, his voice full of disdain. He then started to rattle off names of fascist dictators, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, all dictators with far-right ideologies that enjoyed rises in popularity that led to them power. He spoke of Trump as if he was in that same league, Trump’s hateful, ignorant doctrine leading this rise of the ‘alt-right’. “Trump is so racist than even the racists Republicans think he’s gone too far” utters Maco, it seems right now in America, Muslims are being treated like second-rate citizens. “The Trump ban is a world-wide issue that affects everyone”, Maco sees it as wrong for the seven affected countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) to be treated in the way they have. A combination between politics and the media are helping to spread the rise of the ‘alt-right’, distorting the lines between conservatism and racism.

Maco sounds equally as worried when it comes to the issue of black people in America. Politics and the media unfairly treat black people in his eyes. You can’t talk about the rights of black people in America at the moment without mentioning Black Lives Matter. “Black Lives Matter is not an American movement, it’s a world-wide movement”. With Trump’s recent antics causing widespread disgust from around the world, it’s likely race relation issues in America will reignite, racism in America is still a problem, the civil rights movement is still relatively young. Maco says that “white people are less likely to be victims of crime yet white people are the ones who are more scared”, this is a sensitive issue indeed. When talk turned to the parents of Trayvon Martin, a teenager fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch volunteer may be going into politics, he seemed quite pleased but then sounded annoyed at the thought of Zimmerman trying to auction off the same weapon gun he used to kill Martin. It’s clear that the Black Lives Matter movement and the implications of the Trump ban are both things that Maco is aware of, it’s inevitable to have this sort of mindset in a world where the media is being used as a tool of indoctrination.

Maco is wearing a hipster looking green long length jacket with the big, bold words ‘MAKE LOVE THEN WAR’ on the back of the jacket. Maco’s Instagram account encapsulates the artistic direction that rappers seem to be making nowadays. There are pictures of him in previous cities he’s visited on the ‘Desperado’ tour with the rapper looking more like a model than a musician. Rappers see their dress sense as a way of expressing themselves and Maco definitely doesn’t fail to do that. While he’d been in London, Maco revealed that he had fallen in love with Shoreditch, a “hipster paradise” in his eyes. Shoreditch is a vibrant, multi-cultural cooking pot in London, it’s a constant hub for activity where creativity runs amok with no restraint. Maco is a fan of vintage clothing and considering the way he sees himself as a trendsetter & as an individual plus his black dreads with blonde-dyed tips accessorised with metal beads hanging from some of the locs, the random safety pins which decorated his jacket and the red bandana tied around his arm, Maco has the looks of person comfortable in his own his skin but at the same time, he understands that he is still developing as a person.

Maco wasn’t just in London to perform in Hoxton, Maco linked up with the Brixton Soup Kitchen, a charity set up in 2013 that helps the homeless by providing them with free food, support and company. Last year, Maco formed an unlikely alliance with South London rapper Bonkaz in the aim of trying to put together a concert in aid of the BSK. Since then, Maco has built up a friendship with Solomon Smith and Mohamed ‘Hash’ Hashi, the founders of the BSK who also turned up to the hotel later during our interview. It was obvious from the warm greeting Maco gave to them that he had been touched by the work the BSK does in the local community. Talking about his experience collaborating with Soloman and Hash, Maco spoke of a person who really seemed to connect and emphasise with the local community in Brixton, in fact, during the interview, a homeless man wet from the rain outside walked into the foyer asking for money and Maco gave him € 200 without a second thought. Maco says he’s someone that likes to help people, he doesn’t care about publicity or money.

OG Maco is a guy who wants to live life in the moment. Although he still has to complete his European leg of the ‘Desperado’ tour before going on the roads across the US, he is unfazed. The rapper’s calm and genial manner while sat in the foyer shows how relaxed he is in this moment of time. Maco is also woke as fuck, the experiences he’s had have made him stronger as a human being, he’ll need all that strength if he’s to complete his far-reaching tour.

To keep up with OG Maco’s journey follow him onTwitter at @OGMaco

Photography: @Fizzel_Castro

 

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Dwayne Bickersteth
Dwayne likes to 📝. That is all.