First and foremost, who is Jeff Baraka?
That’s just my name (middle name + maternal family name), so I use it *lol*. I’m an observer, a communicator and an artist. I’m always tryin to connect the dots and see the big picture and deconstruct processes. I rep Chicago (and the Midwest) pretty hard, but my story is similar to other big-city, lower-middle-class, literate, kinda artsy, semi-street dudes who grew up during the so-called “Golden Era” of hip-hop (late 80s-early 90s).
Today you are known as Jeff Baraka aka O Type Star. The name change suggests growth and an extension of your brand.
Yeah, that’s it. I didn’t wanna use my rap name in my non-hip-hop endeavors, but I wanted anyone who was aware of O Type Star to know Jeff Baraka is the same dude.
I wanted to know where the name O Type Star originated?
I took an astronomy course in college, where I learned about the classification of stars. There are O, B, A, F, G, K and M type stars, with Os being the hottest and brightest (our sun is a G type star, for comparison). O Type Star appealed to me as a rap name, cause my 1st name starts with the letter O.
It has been about ten or so years since I first heard you on Binary Star's album (Masters of The Universe). The thing that grabbed my attention was your unique delivery and precise flow. Did you experiment a lot with your delivery before you settled with your signature sound?
Thanx bro. Not too much, it just evolved over time I guess. Btw, a “binary star system” was another term I remembered from my college course. When I first heard’a two MCs callin’ themselves Binary Star, I was intrigued and figured they’d have to be dope – and they were. I ran down the classification of stars in my verse on “The KGB” and for a long time, nobody knew what the hell I was talkin’ about *lol*.
Let's fast forward to the present. Recently you released Driving Songs Volume One. Describe the energy and feeling associated with recording the project.
Man that album shoulda been out sooo long ago! Aside from some isolated elements, guest contributions and bonus tracks, it was mostly “done” by 1998-9, meaning my verses were mostly written and my self-produced beats were stored on ASR-10 and SP1200 discs. Of course when I was makin’ it, I thought it was gonna be hot and elevate me to that next level with my more successful peers. Oh well *lol*
The project is awesome and includes features from Slug, J.U.I.C.E., Common, Malik Yusef, Binary Star and more. I love the fact that you flexed your production skills on the project. How long have you been making beats for?
Thanx again. Decently, since 1994.
"Still Consummate" is one of my favorite songs from “DSV1” because you destroyed a beat provided by No ID. What did you want to convey with the song?
Thanx again. That’s one of four No ID produced tracks I've recorded. On DSV1, there’s also "Soul Oasis" and on "Urban Myth Revisited", there’s "Invisible Ink" and the "Time To Get Paid Remix". "Still Consummate" is a cathartic sh*t-talkin’ joint. Just lettin’ the world know I’ve been here, doin it well, if not big, for a while. Both verses are hella old. I re-spit ‘em (with very minor modifications) to make the point that my sh*t is classic. The 1st verse is from a 1990 song from my old 1213 project (myself + The Twilite Tone). The 2nd verse was originally written to be my guest appearance on No ID’s 1997 album. The title references one of my old rap names, Consummate O. I’m real proud of how I adapted the Smooth B line for the hook.
People should support Driving Songs Volume One because...
it’s pretty dope *lol*. Seriously though, I think it’s a good, solid, enjoyable true-school hip-hop record, despite missing its intended time. It’s been received mostly favorably, especially by Chicago blogs like Gowhere Hip Hop (where I do a lot of media work now) and Ruby Hornet. The novice writer who reviewed it for Okayplayer low-rated it though, which surprised me. I encourage people to listen to the album, read this review and comment.
Are you in the process of working on the second volume?
Yes and no. “DSV2” is partially done now (in the same way “DSV1” was in 1998), but at this point I’m saving room to update it. Some producers have been hittin’ me up and sendin’ beats, so I’ll maybe use some for “DSV2” and some for a “DSV1.5” remix album I’m contemplating.
You have been immersed with other things outside of hip-hop. Can you give a brief summary of what you’ve been doing over the years?
Well we all know the same skill set that makes one an effective MC can be applied to other areas. So I’ve been grindin’ in media and marketing. My current primary focus is TV production, check me out at jeffbaraka.com. I’ve been lucky to mostly avoid the kinda soul-sucking work described so well in J-Zone's new book.
Are you working on any projects for the future?
My own music projects are mostly on hold for now, while I tighten up my TV hustle. But I’m always down to contribute a verse to worthwhile projects of other talented artists (like yourself). That helps me stay sharp and visible.
How can the masses get in touch with you?
I can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @jeffbaraka.
Any final thoughts?
Thanx again my dude for your interest and patience, I appreciate you reachin’ out... respect!