Real Recognize Real: Odessa Kane on the SDMAs

To hear local musicians tell it, it's not often that the San Diego Music Awards get something right. But this year, they just happened to hit the bullseye, at least in the category of Best Hip-Hop Album.

Odessa Kane's Cuetes & Balisongs took home the prize for its fiery politics, sharp lyricism and lush instrumentation. I recently caught up with Kane to get his thoughts on the SDMA's and to see what he's got going on next.

Quan Vu: You just won your first San Diego Music Award. How does it feel?
Odessa Kane: It feels great. It's overwhelming but it's fulfilling, and it inspires me to do more work in the city to expand across state lines, which has been happening. Yeah, I'm just really appreciative that people are acknowledging the hip-hop scene that's happening in San Diego. So I applaud the SDMAs and everybody who's been giving their ear to us so we can speak to people in San Diego that hip-hop is still living out here. It's really happening. And, yeah, just happy about that.

QV: You just touched on something with the local hip-hop community. It seems that whenever the SDMAs come around, there's a lot of debate in the community. Do you feel the SDMAs have become more attuned to the local community recently than in the past? About the same? Or maybe even more distant?
OK: You know what's wild? Did Parker & the Numberman not win last year? You know what I mean? [Laughs] Exactly! And that's a shining moment. Cats are being recognized. It's usually cats who don't get recognized that feel they should've been recognized who are usually the naysayers on the whole situation. But what they need to acknowledge is that the hip-hop portion of the awards ceremony is still in its growth stages, right? They can't expect it to happen overnight.

It's also a call to them as artists -- like, You know what? What work are you really putting in then to help that voice be recognized? Are you just gonna sit back and complain about it? Or are you gonna be out there doing avid work? 'Cause let's be for real: If you're not out there doing shows or being asked to do shows, if you're not in people's face with your new CD or whatever that you're dropping.... Let's be for real: A lot of cats really just started rapping not too long ago. They can't really be too mad about the end result because this is a work in progress. So they need to understand it.

But as far as me and how I feel about it? There were some great cats nominated. It baffles me how cats can still speak ill knowing that, yo, Parker & the Numberman won last year. I won this year. And, you know what I mean, just look at my work. Before [the SDMA-winning album] Cuetes & Balisongs, I been in the scene on some MC s--- truly about good hip-hop that comes with that. If they're questioning that -- it really shouldn't be up for debate unless they're gonna be out there, be avid pursuers of making it known who they are and what should be represented.

QV: So if you were in total control of the SDMAs, what are some artists or albums from the past year that you would've recognized yourself that maybe didn't get recognized this year?
OK: Oh, man, I mean, my boy Vernon Bridges. Piff [PCH] -- the brother Piff has that wild stuff. And those are just two albums that I felt. I've heard a lot of other people. But those two guys right there were kinda like, "Oof!" I really appreciate the work that's coming from these cats.

And these are just two people from my perspective. Other people probably got their little version. But if they really love lyricism and they love hip-hop, I feel like they could appreciate that.

QV: Yeah, for sure. Vernon Bridges dropped, like, three albums, and all of them were great.
OK: Yeah, they were great. But like I said, it's a work in progress for people like him to be recognized. So we can't be upset at the process till we add to the process.

QV: So what's next on the horizon as far as music goes? You mentioned that you were working on a bunch of music.
OK: What's cool about it is that -- it was dope to be recognized by my city. But my work with that album isn't done. I'm still gonna push that album. Folks in San Diego -- and folks around the world -- have caught on too. But I'm not done pushing that album. I still wanna break that album and still tour with it. I've done that recently, went out to Boise, went out to Vegas on this little Northwest tour. Other people need to hear it still. That's the focus: getting into different cities and expanding my fan base.

What's happened that I've noticed is anytime I have stepped out of my city and [people have] caught the show, they like what they're seeing. So I'm like: I need to get on the road more. I've got some great things in that regard as far as getting on tours and making that work, and letting people see who I am with the skill, off the strength of Cuetes & Balisongs.

Even Sumach/Gonjasufi came out and peeped the show out in Vegas. He came out. It's a beautiful moment. And I just wanna keep growing on that, keep expanding that.

QV: All right, thanks a lot. It's always great talking to you. I hope to hear you inside and outside our city soon, spreading that SD hip-hop love.
OK: Also, I just wanna make it known: Expect some weeks coming up from me soon, I'ma be putting out new music, new video. The full-length [album] is slated to drop in spring. Really excited about that. It's about to be some next-level stuff that's gonna engage the people again.

QV: Will the full-length be like the latest EP but expanded? Or will it be all new material?
OK: All new material! Folks are gonna trip to see how far across the borders I'm expanding everything and going musically. It's gonna be beautiful. All brand new.

QV: Are you gonna work with your brother again, Scatter Brain?
OK: That's the thing with Cuetes. We're not done pushing. But, dude, I've got so much untapped, producers that are tossing me material that I'm really excited about working with. I think that's gonna catapult off the success of Cuetes & Balisongs. That's gonna take it another level. I really am excited about it because the production is so ill right now. And it's coming from all these different folks. Cats are gonna be real excited.

Full disclosure: Odessa Kane is the brother of SoundDiego blogger Dita Quinones --Ed.

Quan Vu is the founder and editor of local music blog He has also written about local and national hip-hop acts for San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Reader. You can nerd out on rap trivia by becoming BFF's on Facebook or e-mailing him directly.

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