By: Serge Fleury
Just as Eminem proclaimed in his song, “Lose Yourself”; “you only have one shot, do not miss your time to blow; this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” Those are the words that every artist lives by when they fanaticize of making it to the big time. Every unknown MC trying to break into the world of Hip-Hop, wants a taste of the glamorous life. Whether they want to publicly admit it, or not. They all want segments on MTV Cribs, to being the headliner for tours, and to be adored by millions of screaming fans. Some are just a lot more modest than others, when speaking about their personal goals.
History has shown us that in the entertainment business, its not about what you know; its about who you know. Sad, but very true. You can be the most talented person in the world, and get the door shut in your face; because you lack the necessary connections. Or you can be one of the lucky few that has connections; and the talent needed gain the spot light, that everyone craves. This is the case for West Philadelphia native, Kenneth Johnson; better known as Omillio Sparks. The kid from Philly, and formerly of Roc-A-Fella’s State Property fame; has grown into a wise businessman over the past eight years.
After being signed to Roc-A-Fella Records in 1999 through Beanie Sigel, the future looked bright for the young star. When he, along with fellow State Property cohorts invaded the Funk Master Flex Show on Hot 97 and took it over; the fire was already lit. And it seemed that it would be a very long time before it fizzled out. But with only two group albums in eight years, one movie, Beanie Sigel’s incarceration (since has been released), and the break up of Roc-A-Fella; O. Sparks looked more like an outsider looking in. Now as he sets forth to debut his solo project, “The Payback” through his own imprint Colossal Entertainment; Omillio Sparks lets the world know that all that glitters; isn’t gold.
CrackSpace.com: Talk about Philadelphia. How was it like growing up there?
CrackSpace.com: So what have you been up to lately? What new projects are you working on?
Omillio Sparks: Well my project is called “The Payback”, and that’s about to drop. I also have another movie in the works called “Expendable”, and I got another movie coming out called “What We Do.” I’m just movie central right now. [smiles] Its just popping off right now; there’s a lot of things that I’m working on.
CrackSpace.com: Is there any particular reason you named your album The Payback?
Omillio Sparks: Well yeah, there were a bunch of reasons man. Like when that whole thing happened with the Roc; I didn’t know where my next step was coming from. Then, when the Roc was going over to Def Jam, they didn’t take me, know what I’m saying. They left me hanging in the wind, and besides that, I had some other personal problems too. Like my money was low, my lady was trippin’ on me, and I couldn’t get distribution. But I was still in grind-mode, and now I got my own company. We are in full effect now. [smiles]
CrackSpace.com: Was it hard to make a solo album, after being involved in just group projects?
Omillio Sparks: Nah, not at all. Even with all that other stuff going on, it wasn’t hard for me to do that. Because I was starving; and I was hungry, know what I’m saying. The more things I go through, the better I write. So every time something hit me, and I’d recover from it. It was like; “BOOM!” I’d make a rhyme. So it wasn’t hard at all. Man, it made me strong actually.
CrackSpace.com: Do you still keep in contact with all the members of State Property?
Omillio Sparks: No doubt, I’m in contact with everybody except for Freeway. I done talked to Mac [Beanie], and Oschino is on my new mixtape. I still talk to the Gunnas, I just don’t talk to Freeway that much. But I’m still in contact with the boys.
CrackSpace.com: So everything is still cool between you and Beanie?
CrackSpace.com: What did you learn from your experience at Roc-A-Fella and working with Jay-Z?
Omillio Sparks: Just to handle your business, keep your mind on your money, man. Keep your folks tight, and keep your business tight. And I’ll tell you that and that everything is not what its cracked up to be. I want to see everything in writing, and after that; my lawyer has to see it in writing. That’s what l learned man, straight up.
CrackSpace.com: How was your mind set during that time when The Roc was going through turmoil?
Omillio Sparks: It was crazy man, I never knew why we didn’t come out. [long pause] Listen man, we had State Property. Me and Oschino was a group, Crakk [Peedi] was a solo artist, Beanie, was a solo artist, Freeway was a solo, artist, and The Young Gunnas was a group. Then we got to Hot 97, and we was all in one building.
CrackSpace.com: Yeah, I remember that night. Y’all took over the station.
Omillio Sparks: Yeah that night was CRAZY! You feel me? Then everybody was like; “damn these n***as are hot!” “so what’s up with them?” So that was a buzz for us, and then here comes the State Property album. But we was still all broke. And there wasn’t anything before someone came; and actually worked out the deal for us to promote State Property. We was like; “if we’re State Property, and we doing all this, then where’s our cash at?” So that’s how that was going down. Then me and Oschino couldn’t come out, because he was going to jail and I was working. I was under contract with Oschino, so I couldn’t sign without him. Then Freeway did a song with Puffy and them, so he was about to drop his record; and we still got pushed back some more.
Omillio Sparks: So meanwhile back at the ranch, [laughs] we still kept it popping, because we did “State Property: The movie”, and we hit the road. But we was like; “hold up!” Because we’re working but, everybody ain’t eating. So that’s how it went down, and we never came out. But we was still riding. We were like; “Jay you’re our man you’re the boss, so we’re riding with you.” “If anybody comes at ya neck, you ain’t got to say nothing we got you, just fall back.” So when [they] did the break-up of Roc-A-Fella, and Jay took the rest of them and left us, that’s when we was like; “WHOA!”, “HOLD UP!” But this is a business know what I’m saying, it was all business. But now I got my own company, Colossal Entertainment.
CrackSpace.com: So during all that down time, were you still making music?
Omillio Sparks: Well, I wasn’t chilling. But before I started making music; I had to handle my business. I had got with my business partner, then we had formed the company, know what I’m saying. So first I had to get comfortable, before anything else.
CrackSpace.com: So how did the situation come about with you writing the hook for “I Just Wanna Luv You (Give It 2 Me)” for Jay-Z?
Omillio Sparks: I was just in the studio, I was in the B Room, and they were in the A Room. Then Mac came into the B Room, and he heard me laying the song down. Then he went back into the A Room to tell Hov what was going on. Then Hov came back into the B Room, know what I’m saying. [smiling] Then Hov heard the hook, and he wanted it. Next thing you know, I’m flying to go meet Pharrell, and shoot the video out in L.A.
CrackSpace.com: What other material have you written?
Omillio Sparks: Well I wrote seven songs off the first State Property album, and six off the second State Property album. I had something on “The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse” album too. I did a lot of writing, thank God for the publishing companies. [laughing]
CrackSpace.com: So that ASCAP money must be looking real good right now? [smiles]
Omillio Sparks: Oh right! Now its good! We get about $8.00 per record, we just chilling man. I’m just feeling good, and going shopping. [smiles]
CrackSpace.com: Would you say it’s hard switching from artist to CEO? Or do you wear both hats equally?
Omillio Sparks: You would think that, but with all the crap I went through; it already made me a CEO. Because my brain thinks big business first; that’s just second nature right now. Everything I do, I plan it out first. I figure out in which direction I’m moving, in and I execute, know what I’m saying.
CrackSpace.com: So what’s one of the toughest lessons you’ve learned in the music business so far?
Omillio Sparks: [long pause] This is what I’ve learned. I learned that it doesn’t matter who you are; whether you’re Puffy, Jay-Z, or just anybody with a sh*t load of cash, always know who you are. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned. When I got up [there], I was riding with the people who had the money, so I thought everything was going to be right. And that ain’t always what its cracked up to be. Just make sure you handle your own business; because if you don’t see no results, then you’re working for nothing.