A dynamic 'Spoken Word Artist' from Atlanta, GA, Heiress Ocean educates and entertains her audiences while changing the way they see things. Ocean sings and speaks that which has never been sung and spoken before. Earlier this year, Ocean auditioned and was selected to perform at "The Festival Concert for Day of Awareness" at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA on March 22, 2008. The concert benefits the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Currently, Heiress Ocean is promoting her music and performing at live venues. As part of the OnTheMove! Interview series, I sat down and spoke with Heiress Ocean. We talked about her music, her humble beginnings, her projects, and vision.
Fran Briggs: Good morning, Ocean. Thank you for making the time to meet with us today.
Heiress Ocean: No problem, Fran. It's great speaking with you.
F.B. Your work is phenomenal. But, before we talk about it, could you share with us more about your background?
H.O. Well, I am a down to earth Sistah from the heart of Los Angeles, CA. I was raised by my paternal Grandmother whom I adore. I have always had a love for the Arts - poetry and photography are my first true loves, and second and third to God, of course.
F.B. Tell us about the genesis of your writing and music, and why do you think it is received so well.
H.O. Well, I started with my Grandma when when I was 5 years-old memorizing our church musicals. Then, in the first and second grades, I thought about writing my own speeches and poetry. I did. I won my first poetry contest in second grade. It was the I have a Dream Poetry contest and was sponsored by the NAACP. I won! That was the beginning of writing poetry which I thought could change the world.
Although I have never liked my singin' voice, I have always been 'summoned' to sing in the church choir, school plays, and assemblies. I can remember the desire to get to the cafeteria and get into the circle. We call it a cypher now. But it was the circle then. My girls would say, 'Sing that song!, and sing this song,' And so on. I'd say, 'No, first let me bust this rhyme for y'all:
Pro Blackness, anti-wackness, and I'm takin' my throne. Yep. Way back then I was takin' my throne - prophetically! I believe folks like my poetry because it takes responsibility for the youth and for the people. I know that I give hope to my brothers and sisters out there who thought that hip hop was dead - or rather the movement was dead as far as Africans in America are concerned. We still ain't got our 40 acres and a Hummer; and I ain't forgot. I'm not a model; I am striving to be a role model. I think folks see my realness and a vulnerability that speaks to their hearts, minds, and souls. I keep it real.
F.B. That is message-deep and content-rich. Tell me Ocean, were any obstacles involved in your decision to become a Spoken Word Artist?
H.O. I can be quoted as stating, 'I was cursed at birth with being a work of Art.' I said that, to say this, I was half - not whole - just doing the 'Mommy thing' but, it was a sacrifice that any good Mother would make. I would say the obstacles were and have been over come with time. I had to grow and build myself up. I had to find out the true fabric of a man. I had to live a little so that I could tell a real story and give an endearing testimony. So, yes - and no...I would say I had to go on a hiatus and just journal for 10 years and watch the game, study the game, but recognize that I ain't with the game. I am with the people. If fame never comes, my own youth will have something to be dignified about because they know their Mother is a Queen, a Goddess, and a lover of man.
F.B. Is there a particular audience you perform for?
H.O. I perform for All Jah's (God's) people, but I have a special concern for my sistahs. I question what ever happened to sisterhood. I try to show them that there are still a few sistah out here reppin' (representing) for the Nubians.
F.B. What is your definition of 'Spoken Word Artist?'
H.O. Spoken word is poetry in motion. A Spoken Word Artist is a poet who dares to get up on the stage and give away their soul for the sake of uplifting and releasing. It takes a powerful tool to speak teach preach and inform the crowd, rather than just move the crowd alone. I take the spoken word very seriously because the Most High states that life and death are in the power of the tongue. I want to bring life to a dying generation.
F.B. Did you have a mentor when you entered the industry?'
H.O. No, but I did have someone that I looked up to as a role model. I have often found myself going back and trying to mimic her gracefulness. She is my pastor, the honorable Reverend, Ira Dickason. Before I left California, she became the pastor of the church I was baptized in. My Grandmother still attends that church today. I took this as a sign from God that it was "OK" to leave because, she was going to keep a close eye on my Momma. She has always been such a positive person and so Godly and sweet. If I could be half of what she has been I would be great full.
F.B. What are some of the issues that you write about, and why have you chosen "Spoken Word" as one means which addresses them?
H.O. I write about the Crack conspiracy. I write about the degradation of the Black woman. I talk about the starving babies and our need to show concern and compassion. I write about love - where ever you find it - and about hate haters and "frienemies." Feel me? I write about the metamorphosis that I have gone through healthy eating and healing myself. I guess I am one who finds the hard issues, and then tackles then with rhymes and melodies.
F.B. How has the reception been for your work and live performances?
H.O. Well, it had been a minute ... although I did stay busy writing and reciting on a small scale. But here, lately, the reception has been great. Warm and welcoming.
F.B. Many artists have a favorite artist. Do you have one? If so, who is it, and why?
H.O. My favorite artist? I would have to say at this time is Keisha Cole on the over ground level. And from the ol' school, underground hip-hop, I'd have to give it up to my girls, Figures of Speech. I felt like they finish all of my sentences cross all my 'T's', and put the dots over the 'I's', you know? Those sistahs were/are fresh to def; and they inspire me to work even harder at teachin' and reachin' the people.
F.B. What is/was the best thing you've experienced since performing?
H.O. A sense of family. Growing up in the L.A. underground scene made me feel like a part of history. Even when I go away for a minute, my family hits me up and ask, 'Are you still rhyming?' It's just love man; and I love the love.
F.B. Was there ever a time when you second-guessed your faith or writing abilities? If you have, how did you overcome it?
H.O. Fran, there was a time when I said I was never going to pick up the mic again. I was so heart-broken and dismayed. I was willing to forfeit my gift and dreams just for some peace of mind and safety. But you know what? The Lord put it on my heart that trouble doesn't last, and the tail would be the head, the last would be first. I am a believer. As a matter of fact I know what God has for me is for me, and in due season - if I keep the faith - I will see victory. If it just be the liberation of my spirit and mind. I don't' know if that's exactly how I overcame, or if I just stepped out on faith. I realized it would hurt me more to have never tried.
F.B. What has been your biggest surprise since becoming a professional artist?
H.O. I don't know... Probably the haters. And I am sure there are more surprises to come...
F.B. What makes you most happy?
H.O. my children being happy!
F.B. What new things have you learned as a result of writing?
H.O. I've learned a lot about myself. I have been able to sort out what I stand for and what I refuse to fall for. I have also learned to separate the works that are therapeutic for me from the works that will help heal the nation.
F.B. What do you do to relax?
H.O. Well, since I don't get much sleep, I would say that I go for long walks and drives by myself. I used to travel 1 to 2 hours to bum out on the beach. I even like to go to clubs by myself to just chill. I used to ride horses - that's something I would like to get back into since there are no beaches near where I live in Georgia. Honestly, I'm still trying to figure out some relaxation strategies.
F.B. What advice do you have for the aspiring, Spoken Word Artist?
H.O. (Laughing) Remember, my children are listening.
F.B. When writing, is there ever middle before the beginning?
H.O. Of course. Especially when it's a song and not a verse. Often, the introduction of a verse is the beginning of a whole new song.
F.B. What's next for Heiress Ocean?
H.O. The sky is not the limit; praise be to God who gives us the victory and more, and more love!
eMediaCampaigns! Interviewed Heiress Ocean in March, 2008.
Band Website: Heir to the Throne