Omar Apollo's Stereo (on Vinyl)

by Jay Grant

Who Is He?

Omar Apollo’s parents moved to the US to give their kids a better life and the opportunity to go to college — but Omar always knew this route wasn’t meant for him. The 21-year old, first-generation Mexican-American singer-songwriter and producer dropped out dropped of college two weeks in, instead focusing on his jazzy, soulful bedroom-pop music.

He began playing guitar at 12 years old, but quit soon after because he got bored of only playing in church. As he tells it, he then heard Ego Death by The Internet and fell in love with their unique blend of hip-hop, jazz and soul. “I didn’t know you could make music sound like that. I don’t usually go deep into music rabbit holes, but it made me want to play guitar again, so I went and bought one. It was a Samick guitar. I paid $40 for it.”

At 17 he started writing songs again. He found early fame on Soundcloud with lowercase, DIY, bedroom-pop tracks like “rockit,” “comeovurrrrrrr,“ and his first big hit “ugotme” that earned hundreds of thousands of listens on the platform. Since then he’s toured the country, garnered 25 million plays on Spotify, and penned a song for the soundtrack of the upcoming Jaden Smith starring film Skate Kitchen, joining Clairo, Princess Nokia, Khalid, and Kali Uchis.

Omar released his debut EP STEREO this past summer, and we’re excited to share it with with everyone on vinyl for the first time. The vinyl edition comes in toothpaste color and includes three bonus tracks: “unbothered,” “Brakelights” and “Heart.”

You’ll Like If You Enjoy:

  1. Steve Lacy / The Internet
  2. Kali Uchis
  3. Rex Orange County
  4. Cuco
  5. Clairo
  7. Gabriel Garzón-Montano
  8. Miguel

My Take

The opening song “STEREO (Intro)” is everything I want from an opener, and tells you everything you need to know about this EP. A fun drum fill leads into a funky groove with psychedelic, Tame-Impala-esque keys and soulful vocal yelps that sound like a goddamn warrior cry. Then 26 seconds in, we hear the strums of a Mexican-tinged nylon string guitar — Omar names Los Panchos as a big influence — and then finally his seductive, crooning falsetto vocals singing in Spanish “Ella, ella me dijo. Toma este vino y baila tambien.”

His sound falls somewhere between the hazy, DIY bedroom-pop of internet-winning artists Clairo, Cuco, and Brockhampton and the jazzy RnB sound of The Internet, Rex Orange Country, and Kali Uchis. The production on this record—mostly handled by Omar himself—is pure gold. If he wasn’t such a good singer, he could have a successful career as the industry’s next in-demand bedroom-pop producer. He rarely sticks to one sound for long, often drastically changing it up even within the same song. On “Ignorin” he flips between smooth soul and a quick, playful rapping. On his most endearing song “Erase” he switches between a straight-forward RnB sound reminiscent of Daniel Caesar or Sabrina Claudio and an attitude-filled B-section, singing in his falsetto, “Baby, I was out of line, but you weren’t there, you weren’t there.”

He kicks up the attitude on the disco track “Hijo De Su Madre” with lines like, “I dress up when I hang with rich kids. I guess I’m hanging with rich kids,” and, “You ain’t ever seen a brown boy like this.” That might be the most important line here. Omar Apollo’s proud embrace of his heritage comes at an important time as America becomes more and more diverse. The music industry at large is still playing catch up, but with music like this, Omar Apollo is pulling his weight and so much more. When you want to find the next big trend in music, listen to what people of color are making.

Order STEREO on vinyl here.