Armed with an ASR sampler and leftfield production approach, Los Angeles beat maestro Omid Walizadeh is one of underground hip-hop's best kept secrets. With the release of Monolith, his third full length album and debut on Mush Records, Omid is primed to spread his beat-centric vision to all corners of the globe.

Having honed his chops since the early 90's, Omid first got the itch to perfect his craft after witnessing the vibrant hip-hop scene at L.A.'s Goodlife - a health food restaurant with a legendary open mic session.

"The most amazing and progressive rappers and producers would go there [Goodlife]," Omid explains. "The first night I was there, I fell in love with it and decided that I had to step up my talents and music so I could be worthy of being a part of this movement."

From that point forward, Omid immersed himself in his art - digging for records and crafting beats as though possessed. "I definitely became one of those cats that would lock themselves in a room with just the sampler and records and not come out until a dope beat was made," he says.

The practice has paid off and Omid landed a string of productions, crafting tracks for Freestyle Fellowship, Shapeshifters, Abstract Rude and Busdriver to name a few. But it was 1998's album, 'Beneath the Surface' on Celestial Recordings that carved out Omid's reputation as one of the Los Angeles underground's burgeoning innovators of sound.

Now, with the release of 'Monolith', Omid has returned with a diverse collection of compositions - splitting the content between searing emcee-centered tracks and densely layered instrumentals.

"I wanted to showcase my skills as a producer, to show I can produce good songs with emcees or without," he explains.

For the vocal tracks on 'Monolith' Omid collaborated with an impressive roster of emcees - Aceyalone, Slug, Abstract Rude and Murs to name a few. Having designed the instrumentals to ebb and flow with each emcee's distinct style, Omid successfully bridges the gap between producer and lyricist. "Shock and Awe," which features Busdriver's theatrical wordplay, is a perfect example of this synthesis.

" Omid tends to bring out the best in the emcees that he works with," Busdriver says. "His lush sample-based backdrops showcase the emcee's talents, rather than overshadow them."

With the seed of an idea, Omid approaches each track differently - piecing together elements that fit best with each lyricist's strengths. "Some emcees have a lot of character to their style, so it's fun to make tracks for them," Omid says. "Like [with] Buck 65, I knew I wanted to make a dark, carnival type of track, to inspire him to take the song in that direction, which he did." The end result of the duo's collaboration, "Double Header," is a baseball inspired stroll through childhood nostalgia and feelings of isolation.

And though Omid cut his teeth making beats for rappers, it's 'Monolith's instrumental tracks that set it apart from the competition. "Arrival/Departure," with it's lulling, nursery rhyme appeal is a beautifully orchestrated introduction to Omid's rhythmic sensibilities. In contrast, "Sounds of the Sitar" lends a festive, unorthodox tone to the album. "I'm of Iranian descent, so I always had a ear for the 'exotic' and 'spiritual' sounds of the Middle East," he says. "So I always try to put those flavors in the music."

With a myriad of projects slated for release in 2004 - co-producing the 2Mex and Ellay Khule albums, work on a full length album for Sach (from The Nonce) and plans for a new solo album - Omid will be spending much of his time in a familiar and comfortable place - locked in his bedroom with a crate of records and a sampler.


Worse Case Scenario Q & A:

Disaster can strike at anytime - whether it's a flashflood, shark attack or swift kick to the groin. So vapors decided to test the survival skills of Los Angeles-based producer Omid with a handful of hypothetical scenarios.

Q: You're stranded on a remote island off the coast of New Guinea, which is rumored to be inhabited by cannibals. What is your strategy for survival?

A: Barely eat anything and get so skinny, it wouldn't be worth it for them to eat me. Then at night I would sneak up on one and eat them.

Q; You're trapped in an overcrowded elevator with seven of your sweatiest co-workers. You've used the emergency phone, but maintenance tells you the problem will take several hours to fix. Do you climb out the emergency exit or brave the unpredictable amount of agony inside your newfound odor box?

A: Definitely climb out the emergency exit!

Q: Your car has broken down in a bad part of town. While walking through the unsavory neighborhood, you're accosted by two midgets (one wielding a switchblade the other a pair of miniature brass knuckles). The pint size duo asks for your wallet and your watch (a family heirloom). What do you do?

A: I would run real fast towards the midgets and jump over them like hurdles.

Q: While dining at a local restaurant you begin choking. Luckily, a nearby patron performs the Heimlich maneuver, causing you to cough up what appears to be a small rodent. Do you wrap the rodent in a napkin and continue eating or ask to speak to the manager?

A: If the rodent actually tasted good, I'll just cut it up into smaller pieces this time and chow down. But if it was nasty, call the manager!


Mush Records