Genre-pushing group Okumura talk us through their come-up and what we can expect
Written byWords by Toks Asher Young
Okumura – a.k.a Okumura Music Group (OMG) is a hip-hop-centric group consisting of vocal artists, producers, and content creators looking to impact the world with their uniquely branded “Life Music”; art encapsulating the daily struggle and all that encompasses it. The four-member group is made up of the two Newsome siblings (Robert a.k.a Elder Maikis and MASTER), Hawk Luxxington a.k.a Luxxryder & Darius Roberts a.k.a Shadowbyrd.
Recently known for their hit song “ITADAKIMASU” heard in the Nintendo Switch Classic “No More Heroes 3“, involvement in the OST of Paradise Killer (Side B), and recently released album “Back To The Drawing Board“, Okumura intends to make their mark on not just the music world, but the many worlds of entertainment, gaming, and anime alike.
In this interview, the group talks to us about their motivation, upcoming projects, and life in general.
MASTER, your group’s name is OKUMURA, it sounds kinda Japanese and ninjas and from the sound of it, one can guess you guys are huge anime fans. How did the name come about? What was the inspiration behind the name?
The name itself is derived from the anime Aoi No Exorcist (Blue Exorcist), a story focused on two brothers named Rin and Yukio Okumura. After drawing parallels between their relationship and our relationship as siblings – Elder and I adopted the name. It was significant to us at the time and was only increased as we learned of an alternate meaning behind the name, that being “inner village”. Due to many ongoing events at that time, that particular meaning stuck with us, and it – as well as the name Okumura as a whole, has stuck with us ever since.
You guys are a four-man group of two siblings and I assume friends, so how did you all meet? Did you guys go to school or grow up in the same neighborhood?
Elder and I were first introduced to Luxxryder in Middle School (Junior Secondary School); eighth grade (Junior Secondary 3) to be precise. We started as friends and quickly became like family; only to find out we were related many years later.
We met Shadowbyrd at an anime convention through a shared friend (shoutout to GR3YSON) and we clicked instantly. Once we heard what he could do – It was “poetry in motion” from there.
ROBERT, from your alias Elder Maikis, one can assume you are the oldest or the elder of the group. I am also guessing Master is your younger brother? So why are you called ELDER MAIKIS? Is there a specific significance to the name? The origin of Elder Maikis is as follows: I named myself Elder from feeling like the Elder of my village, one who people can come to with their worries, and someone who guides and leads their loved ones in the right direction. Maikis comes from my nickname, Mikey. I had a Lithuanian friend who told me how to say Mikey in their language. Granted, I’m more than likely butchering the pronunciation.
ELDER, I saw somewhere that racism helped fuel your career as an artiste. Can you give us a little background on that?
I dealt with racism a lot being one of the few black people in my school during the time my family and I lived in Iowa (5 years). It taught me how to love and respect others for who they are on the inside; rather than judge them for the color of their skin. I desperately wanted to find my identity during that time, which fueled my drive to express myself through music. My high school friend, Darrien Hunt, was shot by police in the back for cosplaying as an anime character. That showed me we still have a long way to go to overcome the racism that plagues the world, but the energy that we and like-minded humans possess does so one step at a time.
MASTER, from your name one can tell you like to be a master at whatever you put your mind to, the perfectionist, right? Why MASTER? Tell us about your name and how it inspires you to be free.
My name represents a vision of “freedom” as much as it’s a name. It is the ability to create art unrestrained by generational shackles, to be the “MASTER” of myself and my creations. It is the decision to move forward each day proudly, regardless of any outside influence. I am what I identify as, a MASTER: the penultimate decider of my fate.
Have you guys written for, produced for, or collaborated with other artistes or groups? Who are the artistes you guys are hoping to collaborate with someday?
We’ve never written for anyone but we’ve definitely collaborated with other groups; plenty to be in fact. Otaku Gang, Hajjioka Corporation, and The NPC Collective to name a few – though, we tend to work with individuals more than groups. That being said, here’s a list of artists we’d love to collaborate with and we’ll try to keep this as short as possible.
Elder Maikis: Curren$y, Calboy, Since99, Veeze MASTER: Imogen Heap, Lil Nas X, Bill Wurtz, Ian Macleod, Mili Luxxryder: Josiah Williams Shadowbyrd: Lupe Fiasco, Aarabmuzik, Conway The Machine
ELDER, What’s your take on the global resurgence of Nigerian and African artistes and Afrobeats music?
It’s been a long time coming.
MASTER, African artistes, especially Nigerians are currently making waves with Afrobeats on the global stage. Have you worked with any African or Nigerian artiste before? Which African artiste would you like to work with?
While no names, in particular, come to mind in regards to individuals (or groups) we’ve worked with, a few do in regards to who we’d like to work with: Wizkid, Black Sherif, Fireboy DML, & Angel Maxine.
MASTER, what were some of the challenges you guys faced or still face as emerging artistes?
Coming into our own, for one. It took us some time to discover a sound and style that was unique to us. Secondly, I’d say dealing with burnout, writer’s block, etc. It’s so hard – especially when you’re doing this voluntarily without any kind of financial benefits or support towards your dreams, to continue to find the passion for this. However, each time we felt that way, something occurred in our lives that reinvigorated our drives. I think that’s a big part of why we refer to our music as “Life Music” – it truly is music forged from our daily trials and tribulations.
LUXX, you met Master and Maikis in 2007 right? Today they are like brothers to you. So tell us about that, how did you guys meet and where?
We met actually via a mutual friend in gym class and we bonded as young boys do, being rivals for a female’s attention (hahaha) but our mutual love of music and video games is what created the bond between myself and both MASTER and Elder Maikis.
LUXX, what are you most thankful for and what advice will you give to your younger self? Part 1 – Our family and our loved ones; can be answered without hesitation. Part 2 – This may sound cheesy but I believe I can speak for all of us when I say to never give in to your doubts; our time is coming.
SHADOWBYRD, you are a huge video gamer from as early as 2yrs old video game music has been your thing from your early days. What is it about video games that moves you?
What is it about video games that moves me? Man, I’m tryna figure out how to approach this lol. Honestly, it’s a mixture of things from video games that I take in honestly. From the storyline to the characters, to the location, to the music; even down to the gameplay mechanics. It’s just a hobby that’s been there with me since I was sucking on pacifiers as a baby lol.
SHADOWBYRD, you are a self-taught music producer who learned via YouTube at 19 and you joined Okumura in 2017. How has that experience of being in a group been for you?
It has been a pretty damn awesome experience. The synergy has been clicking since the day we all first met at Magfest. From the star city showcase we first did in 2017 to create a 30-track album dedicated to one of our favorite gaming series; we have done quite a lot of work together lol. It’s truly an experience that honestly happened out of pure chance. Almost felt like fate honestly.
Shadowbyrd, what about your group mates inspires you?
To speak in a more blanket sense, what inspires me about my group mates is that they never stop changing; never stop improving. Everyone is out to be the best version of themselves, whatever that is.
How do you guys cope with the growing fame and attention? What keeps you guys grounded?
This is actually something we have talked about rather frequently actually. To be honest with you, we’re still figuring it all out. We actually just met someone who was a fan of ours for the first time a week or so ago and it was a wildly humbling experience. We’re just grateful that people vibe with us as hard as they have been.
“Hmm… what keeps us grounded? I think the easiest answer is to say reality itself. We’ve gone through so much in our lives both separately and together, it’s almost impossible to forget what kept us down; but only because we managed to get back up. Our lessons – no matter how harsh or how gentle, constantly remind us who we were so we don’t forget who we are”, says MASTER.
Who are your musical influences? Which artiste(s) have influenced your career? ELDER MAIKIS: Royce Da 5’9, Charles Hamilton, Lupe Fiasco, and Curren$y MASTER: Imogen Heap, Lil Nas X, Mili LUXXRYDER: Eminem, Xzibit, Outkast, Black Eyed Peas SHADOWBYRD: Lupe Fiasco, Aarabmuzik, Conway The Machine
What advice do you have for young emerging producers and artists out there?
Be yourself; unequivocally and with reckless abandon.
What should your fans expect from you in the coming months? Do you have any events or releases scheduled? Oh, and by the way, I just listened to Nigiri and I am loving it.
We’re looking to re-release one of our most beloved projects, “Nigiri,” soon. It’ll have some adjustments to ensure it’s safe for airwaves but I promise you when I say the wait will be worth it – it will be amazing. On top of that, we’ve got a few music videos coming out for songs from “Back To The Drawing Board” and “Calibration EP” on YouTube within the near future as well so look forward to those. Elsewhere, we’ll be at the DC Music Summit on Oct 14-16 in Washington, D.C., and J1Con in Albany, New York from Nov 3-7 for performances and to enjoy the events too. If you’re attending either of those? Come say hi.
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