The only way out of the bottom is: up. Often times people become discouraged when they’re faced with those I-don’t-even-know-what-to-do-anymore struggles. Flipping negatives into positives has always been one of the game’s unwritten rules. So, it’s no surprise that this New York emcee generated hype when he did just that.
It’s rare to see an up-and-coming artist maintain a humble persona when they already have a lot of clout. Fresh off of the stage from his Carnival Life album tour, Darkside’s very own OnetakeCarter stepped outside of a Manhattan venue to chop it up with Aujha Aye. He told us all about having a sneak preview of his success and everything in between, leading up to a well received freshman album on iTunes.
Aujha-Aye (AA): You do this like it’s your second nature, how did you get into music?
OnetakeCarter (OTC): Well, growing up my brother was a huge music head. I played sports and stuff but I always loved music. I sang when I was younger, I was in like, All County Chorus, and shit like that. As I got older, I always wrote poetry. My dad used to make me read before I left the house. A lot of my stuff is dirty too because I grew up listening to a lot of R. Kelly, seriously. And then my voice got deep. Then I started battle rapping and started free styling. It was over after that.
AA: So you go by OnetakeCarter. We know it’s supposed to mean one take, but does it really mean one take?
OTC: No it doesn’t, not at all. I suck. I suck at recording. Recording is very hard. I used to go by “Carter” when I first started rapping. If you search on the internet right now, and you type in “Carter or” “Carter” rap” you’re not going to find me. So I started doing this thing where every time before I would rap, I would be like, “one take Carter!” It was just something I said. I’m like, I might as well just start using this name, or whatever. I mean, there are times when it happens though…a lot of stuff I’ve recorded, it’s one take, the whole song.
AA: Aside from the “one take” there’s a lot of preparation that goes into dropping dope projects; what would you say is the most difficult aspect of your craft?
OTC: I don’t know. Sometimes you got writer’s block or whatever, you got to free yourself. I kind of, had to learn how to get through that. Now it’s just like, I go to make a song and gotta make it happen. I’m making beats now so now the hardest part is finding beats. It’s like, okay…I can look for beats, I can find something but, I’m beating myself in the head, like, get better at what I’m doing before I go looking for so much, you know?
I’m trying to become [Dr.] Dre but I’m still trying to put music out. A lot of producers do sometimes send me some heat shit though. Like, Mike Mo Beats, Jet-Life Muzik, B da Producer, my boy from Civil Satellite, VONON1…I’m forgetting some people, a lot of cool, dope people. Oh, and me, I make some beats. I made 3 Niggas, and I also made Afterhours. Those were like, really simple beats from when I first started making my own stuff. But you know, engineers make magic.
AA: Speaking of dope projects, like making beats, Carnival Life was nice. Was your original vision always to do a concept album?
OTC: Actually, the story behind Carnival Life starts with me not having any motivation. I had lost my job, had lost my shorty, I was broke. One day I went to the car wash with fourteen dollars in my pocket. There were two cars ahead of me, while I’m sitting there waiting this Indian dude came up to my car. He came up to my window and said “would you like me to read your palm?” I’m like, “no I’m not into that.” Long story short, he was talking to me asking me questions and writing stuff down on a piece of paper. Then he goes, “give me your hand.” He puts the paper in my hand and he has the stuff I was thinking written on the paper.
He tells me, “you’re going to find love, you’ve got a lot of success in business coming to you, and you got a lot of money coming to you.” Then he stepped back and said, “drive safely.” I was getting a very bad vibe about that. But, at the time he told me the success would be in July, and then it was May. Once he said that I was like, “oh shit.” Back then I was pretty much homeless and couch surfing, but he just said I got success coming in July, so to me I’m thinking, I’m going to get signed in July.
I’m telling my homies I’m getting signed in July and writing these songs about what I’m going through. I’m writing songs about love, meeting a new girl, about riding in my jeep, about working at the carnival. There would be days, I kid you not, I would go to work at the carnival in my jeep, then I would get off and think, “where the fuck am I going?” But then, everything was okay. Then a year later I was in another situation, I got into a wreck and lost my car. It’s like everything happens for a reason though. Instead of taking the money from that, and instead of buying another car, I bought tapes and I bought speakers.
What I want to do more than anything is keep my vibe the same. My sound is going to change with time. People always think their favorite artist is going to stay the same but think about it, people change every day.
AA: Now that you’re not going through so much, can we expect the same kind of thing on the next project?
OTC: What I want to do more than anything is keep my vibe the same. My sound is going to change with time. People always think their favorite artist is going to stay the same but think about it, people change every day. You learn something new every day. I’m not the same person that’s on that tape. But, I can still rap, I’m going to tell you the story, I’m going to tell you the next part of the story. The tape stopped before we got into the car wreck.
Nobody knows what happened at the wreck. My own friend hit me, driving. Drunk driving. He was at the show with me that night. It was a lot. I have to spit something and tell that story now. You know, people change. I don’t expect somebody’s last album to sound like their new shit. You got to appreciate it for what it is, appreciate the art.
AA: . Oh my God you’re a swag champ, swag, swag, swag, swag, swag. Have you always been a fashion killa?
OTC: My outfit right now is looking crazy, I just got cool shoes on. Well I got a custom shirt on, that’s fuckin’ cool. Everything else is looking crazy. You know, I just dress like myself. I hate people who always want to copy what’s hot, it’s annoying.
AA: So you never had that awkward nerd phase?
OTC: There was no awkward nerd phase. I grew up watching Fresh Prince and House Party. I grew up with a brother that’s seven years older than me, and always around me. He was born in the eighties. So whatever he was doing or wearing, I was too. It’s just me. I mean I’ve had this haircut since the seventh grade. I don’t even know what would do if I were to cut my hair.
AA: You have a little bit of a west coast steez mixed in there too; it’s also in your music. You can definitely hear it if you listen to Cali Coastin’ and Smooth, Cool, Laid Back. You’re from New York though, do you pull your influence from the west coast?
OTC: Yes I do. I’m coming to Cali! Let me tell you. Pretty much, I love west coast hip-hop. I love east coast hip-hop, don’t get me wrong but, west coast hip-hop definitely influenced me. That’s the only thing I listen to now, and back then. I’m talking years back…you know, Kendrick since 2010, Dom since ’09, TDE, Tyler the Creator for years.
The west coast influences me but I don’t think I sound like those artists. It’s weird that you say that because I want to go to Cali so bad, I haven’t been yet. But I’m going, I’m definitely going.
AA: You’re coming into your own now, at the end of the day what do you want people to say when they hear your music? What do you want them to feel?
OTC: I want people to quit their jobs. Do whatever you need to do, what they want to do. My whole message behind everything is motivation. When you play a OnetakeCarter album I want you to feel like you’re playing Will Smith’s Summertime or Dr. Dre’s Let Me Ride on repeat. That’s it. Quit your job, do what you want to do. Don’t work for nobody else. Don’t waste eight hours of your day everyday building somebody else’s dream. Build your own. Life is short.
I got homies that committed suicide, I know people that have died. It’s like, while I’m here I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want to do, so I want y’all to do whatever y’all want to do. Go get it. It’s going to be hard; it ain’t going to be easy but, still, go get it. I want y’all to love yourselves. And I also want y’all to be chillann.
Quick Q & A
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Imma say stomach virus and skinny jeans.
What would you be doing if you weren’t rhyming?
If I wasn’t rapping, I’d be making clothes or skateboarding full-time.
Best advice you’ve ever received: The best advice I’ve ever received was from my man Duane, and that’s to treat my ideas like emergencies.