OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – When you grow up loving “Star Wars” culture and have the name Lajuan, it makes sense that your best friends would start calling you Obi Juan.
But when most people think of hip-hop, they don’t associate that culture with the “Star Wars” subculture or anything within the “geek” stereotype. Lajuan Stephens – AKA Obi J – wants to break stereotypes, though. In fact, he’s embracing that “geek” lifestyle and using it as a way to make himself unique as a rapper. Under his label GeekOut Entertainment, Obi J is releasing singles that are starting to get some great response throughout the Midwest and parts of the South. He hopes that his new single, “Xanxiety,” will help grow his reputation on a more nationwide scale.
“GeekOut Entertainment is a description of how I am myself,” Obi J said. “I find myself being nerdy, and that just describes me. But I don’t think you have to be the next gangster to be the next hip-hop star. I think what it really takes is somebody with talent. Anybody with talent can make it if they’re willing to work hard.”
Obi J knows all about the hard work it takes to make it in the music industry. While he was in high school he joined a rap group called Presidential hood Boyz, based out of Oklahoma City. The group became successful and was connected to an A&R with TVT Records – one of the more prominent record labels during the 2000s. But in the midst of contract negotiations, TVT fell victim to the recession of 2008 and eventually filed for bankruptcy. PHB dissolved shortly thereafter, but Obi J said he never lost his passion for making music. His experience taught him that if he worked hard, he could be successful – and so that’s what he did. It started with exploring and discovering his own unique sound. Much of his music is influenced by artists like 2Pac and Juvenile – artists he considers to have a “laid-back” style that is something he tries to emulate in his own music.
“I like laid-back music you can just sit down and ride or listen to,” he said. “Music that you don’t have to get up and do anything to. With 2Pac, you could just listen to his music over and over again. You could be in the car and you just roll to his music and you knew all the lyrics and just ride to it. I love that, and so I took all those styles and created my own. That’s what I want my music to be – music that when you put it in you just listen and it doesn’t ever get old.”
Obi J’s sound is a style that has again caught the attention of popular record labels. In late October, he’s scheduled to fly from his hometown of Oklahoma City to Los Angeles to meet with A&R Shawn Barron, the vice president of urban music for Atlantic Records. He’ll be performing his new single, “Xanxiety,” while he’s there – hoping to convince the label to sign him to a new album deal.
“(Oklahoma) is known for country and not that much talent,” Obi J said. “You don’t really see too many people making it out of our state doing rap. But we have as much talent as anybody in the world, and I want to be the one to get our name out there. I want other artists from Oklahoma to have opportunities, as well – and if I can help more people from here make it, that would be awesome.”