Today we’d like to introduce you to Omar Yousaf.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Growing up in the Klein area of Houston, I started freestyle rapping in the 5th grade after a “dare” from a friend and quickly was known as the rapping kid with the relatively big nose. In high school, my freestyle rapping was accompanied by a deep passion for the art of spoken word and poetry. I started participating in a lot of those types of competitions and began building a solid reputation in the city throughout my four years of high school, especially within the large Muslim community in Houston. As my graduation from high school got close, I had a couple of great friends that pushed me to record a full-length mixtape and just kind of see where it took us.
Unfortunately, we were just high school kids with part-time jobs so we didn’t have any real money to get studio time and get some professional recordings done. After throwing around a bunch of ideas from car washes to bake sales, we decided to sell T-Shirts supporting the mixtape to help us raise money. I was blessed to have a lot of friends in my high school believe in my vision and passion and because of that, we were about to sell over 200 shirts, giving us enough of a profit to record the whole mixtape at a recording studio. We went on to release the mixtape right before graduation and sold hundreds of CDs for donation and even more online through iTunes and other streaming services. That summer, we would use the money we made from selling physical copies of the CD and throw ourselves our own concert. We obtained a few local sponsors, made more t-shirts to sell at the concert and rented out our local clubhouse to use as a small concert venue. We attracted over a couple hundred people to the show and were able to live stream to over 1,000 people.
At that point, it was time for me to move on to college and find something that would help pay my bills more securely. I transformed my passion for rapping into a passion for DJing and used all the money I had made from the CD along with my new job at the Admissions Office at UT Austin to buy myself all the DJ equipment I needed. Luckily, I made some great connections with the help of my mixtape popularity and I joined many organizations at UT Austin to help get my name out. After practicing for a couple months, one of my close friends decided to let me DJ her apartment party by campus for Halloween as my first official gig. I did well enough there with that small group of people, that I was offered to DJ an even bigger party for about 400 people the next night. From that gig, everything moved 100 miles per hour. I started securing gigs almost every weekend, from parties to formal events to school events, corporate functions, clubs on 6th street in Austin, Uptown Dallas and Midtown Houston, and even large weddings with over 500 people. The next five years of my life would allow me to not only maintain financial stability and help pay for school, but it would also provide me an avenue to chase the dream of music that I tried so hard to achieve in high school.
After graduating in 2015, I began my job in the “real world” and decided to still DJ on the side. It was my second week on the job when I got a call from FOX Sports. Apparently, one of the music producers for FOX had heard my song on YouTube from my old mixtape from high school and wanted to use it during their sports broadcast. Unfortunately, the song had a sample in it that was not cleared and therefore, they were unable to use it on TV. As devastating as that was to hear, it was also a call to revival for my rapping. I felt that if my content from when I was 18 years old was able to resonate enough to someone at that level, maybe I still do have a voice to say and contribute to the art of rapping. It was that moment that I decided to go after this music thing again and find a way to make an official, all original album.
It took a couple of years to really grasp my role at work, music, and personal life to a point where I could get this album going. I am happy to say that we are about halfway done right now. We put out our first single at the end of 2017 called “We Up To Something”, a song we did with the legendary Houston rapper Slim Thug. Being able to have someone of his status as a feature for my first album was the highlight of my rap career thus far. We saved up enough money to shoot an awesome music video for it last year and so far, it has over 100,000 views on YouTube.
To date, we have totaled over half a million streams across all streaming platforms for all of our songs. We are set to release our new album this summer of 2018 and start doing local shows in Dallas, Houston and Austin.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There is a laundry list of challenges for everyone that is passionately pursuing their dreams. For us, our initial challenge was money. In order to have the highest quality content we could deliver, we knew we needed some source of capital to help us. Being creative in raising money as well as being smart with how you spend your money was a key driver for us. Part of my whole early experience was enough of an influence on me to pursue a degree in Finance at UT Austin.
Other people’s doubts, opinions, and hate is another big one that I believe everyone has to deal with. In the beginning, it can be very scary. Putting yourself out in public in such a vulnerable way to be criticized, praised, hated, loved, etc. can be very daunting. With today’s impact on social media, it has multiplied even more. Being able to overcome negative and even positive press to maintain your own goals, passion, and direction was a big thing I had to learn and struggled with at first.
Tying into that a bit is remembering your “why”. There’s a reason someone would sacrifice time they could spend with friends, family, work, vacations, etc. to pursue a dream of theirs. As we get more and more caught up in our hustle to make it and grind to make our dreams come true, sometimes we forget “why” we are even doing it in the first place. For me, its to change the identity and stigma of the common Muslim American, particularly the Pakistani Muslim or any first generation American kid. For our culture, it is uncommon to pursue a career in Art and Entertainment. We have trailblazers now that is slowly changing that, and I want to be a voice and contribute to that change as well. Its tough growing up and not being able to see someone that looks like you doing something that you are passionate about. For African Americans, that was having successful black actors and directors in popular culture. That is what made the movie Black Panther such a milestone movie. If I could one day do to the rap/hip-hop culture to people that relate to me what Black Panther has done for African Americans in that field, that would be the ultimate goal.
Finally, the passion and persistence. There are days when you are not going to want to write music or do whatever facet you love to do. Those are tough days. But with any field, you have to continue to practice, continue to learn from the people that came before you, and never give up no matter how stuck you may feel at one point. The best satisfaction I ever get from my music is when someone messages me and says, “Wow. I can’t believe you’re pursuing your dreams so hard. It’s so inspiring, I hope you make it and I want you to know that you’ve inspired me to pursue my dreams of xyz also.” Messages like that are what have kept me going in my darkest hours.
Please tell us about DJ O Fresh.
I still run my DJing company. I go by the name of “DJ O Fresh” and continue to DJ events across Texas for all different types of functions. Along with that, I am also a hip-hop artist releasing my first official album in the Summer of 2018. Our first single of the album, “We Up To Something (Feat. Slim Thug)” has hit over 100,000 views and we are excited to release a couple more music videos before the end of this year.
I am most proud of being able to inspire others to pursue their dreams as well. Not everyone may have a passion for music or rap, but knowing that one of my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any social media friend can look at me talking about my next steps and feel inspired to start a journey of their own that is away from the “status quo” is what I am most proud of. As long as my journey, whether it fails or succeeds, can inspire others to pursue their own crazy dreams – I can’t ever stop.
I never like to use the word “I” when describing my music career. I try to say “we” as much as possible, even if I am the only one physically rapping or physically DJing. None of what I’ve done so far could be possible without some very, very prominent, loving and close people in my life. These are the people that are just as crazy as I am because they believe in my hard enough to spend their valuable time helping me pursue my dreams. I am all about my team and put those teamwork and appreciation values in all works I do whether it be for a client or for myself.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
The only thing I would do differently would be to appreciate every moment as it goes by. It’s awesome to achieve your goals and attain the accomplishments you set out to get. It’s also very easy to forget to enjoy yourself along the way. I 100% believe the classic quote that life is about the journey, not the destination. Always enjoy every moment that you are granted and appreciate everyone around you. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, its time to do something differently. Life is just too short.
- Website: www.djofresh.com
- Phone: 281-785-6409
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/djofresh/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialofresh/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/djofresh
14JJ Photography, Calverly Photography