8:38 PM on a regular Wednesday night, driving through China Town, passing that old Oriental Noodle Bar, turning onto Lafayette, we finally pull up to Santos Party House for Omen’s first solo show in New York. I’ve been following Omen now for about 7 years and I’ve been waiting to see him live ever since. I first heard of him when I started listening to J Cole back in 2007. Omen and Cole made a lot of music together when he was first coming up, with collaborations on Cole’s early mixtapes like The Comeup and The Warmup. Omen’s been on tour with the likes of J Cole and Rihanna, but the Elephant Eyes tour is his first, real solo tour. I know the album has to be special to him since it’s his first real studio release. It was definitely something special to attend the show and share that moment with him as an avid listener over the past several years.
He goes by the stage name of Omen, but is also known as Damon Coleman. He reps Chicago; you can hear it in the way he spits and in the message of his lyrics, he definitely has that Chicago rap vibe. When I saw him live this past Wednesday, he reminded me a lot of Common, which I didn’t put together until I heard and saw him live. It’s the flow and the soul – these Chicago emcees exude talent, it’s wild!
Most New York shows I’ve attended have been at venues like Bowery Ballroom, Music Hall of Williamsburg, or Rough Trade. I never stepped foot in or seen pictures of Santos Party House so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As soon as you walk into the venue, you can tell it’s going to be an intimate show, not necessarily because it is a super small venue; the venue altogether is about 8,000 square feet with two floors, the NorthPole (upstairs) and the SouthPole (downstairs), but because there was probably a total of about 50 people at the venue when we arrived. We were directed down a fluorescent-lit staircase, and at the bottom of the staircase was what looked like a blank wall with a speckled black pattern projected onto it. As soon as we stepped foot down there, a bouncer yells, “MANDATORY COAT CHECK!” Meanwhile, everyone is looking dazed and confused because where do they really have mandatory coat checks? It’s funny how mutual irritation brings people together. We were all waiting in line at the coat check talking about this absurd thing called a “mandatory coat check.” Perfect timing, though, as we walk towards the stage just as the first opener, H. Scott, is starting his second song after killing it on a Nas beat. H. Scott is pretty dope, he has a classic sound, almost. I didn’t dig everything, but I did dig his energy. He had this upbeat, enthusiastic vibe that was contagious. He had everyone bumping and jumping around. The second opener, J.I.D (of Spillage Village) was very animated on stage. I’ve heard of Spillage Village before and I like a few songs from them, but I wasn’t feeling his set. The music sounded under-produced and the vocals often didn’t flow well with the beats, but maybe it was the style of his choice. He reminded me a lot of Lil Wayne, like 90s Lil Wayne. He definitely has that Atlanta trap-rap vibe so if you dig that, you may dig him.
At this point, the crowd is beyond pumped up for Omen to perform. I have to say, things moved along very smoothly and quickly at Santos. It’s not like that at all music venues. Sometimes you’ll be waiting, a whole hour and a half for the next person to perform. About 25 minutes after J.I.D finished his set, we see a tall guy in a dark red beanie rocking a Dreamville bomber jacket, a light grey New York t-shirt, and some white and orange Stan Smith Adidas, squeeze his way through the crowd from the left side of the stage. People realize who it is and start hopping up and down cheering, “OMEN! OMEN! OMEN!” Everyone is screaming and yelling, cheering, clapping, snapping pictures and videos as Omen goes straight into his first song, Motion Picture. The crowd settles down as soon as he begins to spit, all heads bobbing, all souls vibing. He finishes the song, takes his jacket off, takes a sip of water and goes into an introductory dialogue,
“You might of just came with ya homeboy, ya homegirl, I go by the name of Omen. Some of y’all may know me as TDK… Turn Down King. And I came a long way from a city called Chi-city, Southside Chicago.”
What made this show even more intimate were the short stories he shared between each song he performed. Every song he’s written and made has a significant meaning to him; they are drawn from his specific experiences and contain emotions and thought that he’s actually felt and thought during those times. He took the time out to speak a bit on the roots of each song and killed each song right after. The crowd really had a lot of love for him. I didn’t realize how much these other people were fans until the girl to my right, the guys directly in front of me, the three girls behind me, and everyone else there, were all yelling out every single lyric to every single song he performed. Throughout the night, you learned more and more about him as a person, and as an artist; from how hard it was for him to put this final studio album out because he was becoming more known as Cole’s “shadow” than given credit where credit was due how he had to go through a few mixtapes that he thought were going to make his career before he really got it right, how he would go on tour with J Cole and Rihanna but go back home to Chicago and have to wait in line to get in the club, or that one night when he was really at his worst and ended up calling his ex. He shared all of those details with all of us throughout the night so you could only imagine how close we felt to the music as listeners.
It’s definitely always worth following an artist in the early stages of their careers. You get to say you experienced the evolution of an artist, especially when you are able to see them perform in smaller venues like Santos. Before you know it, they’re playing at venues like Madison Square Garden or the Barclays Center. Omen, though he has ties with bigger names, is a new name and face that hip-hop has needed. Hip-hop needs more conscious, lyrical rappers, and emcees who make you think. I suggest you give your ears a gift and listen to my man, Omen. Check out his latest album below, Elephant Eyes, your ears will thank you.