Local hip-hop artist OX gets his name from his work ethic: "I'm OX because I work hard … I'm a workhorse," he explains in his bio.
A native of Madison's east side, he's been making music for quite some time in a city that's not exactly known for nurturing hip-hop musicians or their fans. The musical quest began when he won a freestyle competition in high school, beating out some tough competition from the West Coast. Since then, making music has been a labor of love, while his relationship with his hometown has been frustrating to say the least.
In an interview with The Daily Page early last year, OX summed up his sentiments toward the Mad City with a dose of brutal honesty.
"I love my hometown and its people for all their love and support," he said. "But when you look at the hip-hop demographics, the major labels don't know anything about us or where we are located. When I went to New York recently to shop music and network, I found myself explaining more about where I'm from and where it is than what my music was all about."
This isn't to say that Madison doesn't have a lot of redeeming qualities, or that it hasn't made an effort to support hip-hop: Projects such as the two-year-old Homegrown Hip-Hop Festival at UW-Madison have done much to strengthen the community of local and regional musicians and listeners, and performers such as Rob Dz and The Crest maintain a busy schedule of performances year after year.
However, as an artist, having an established scene for your product helps, especially if you're seeking a record deal. As such, when OX received an acceptance letter from the University of Minnesota a few weeks back, he immediately saw it as an opportunity to further not just his education but his musical career.
His new song "Celebrate," which will appear on the forthcoming album Death of a Salesman, due out in early 2009, is a testament to his own perseverance and a reminder for his listeners to take the time to take stock of their achievements and give them the spotlight they deserve, even if it's just for a moment. It's a fitting message for the new year, and for the many musicians who struggle to feel recognized in a smaller city.
"I am pretty well-known for my deeper, darker side of things, personally and musically, so I felt I needed to change it up a bit," he says of the song. "I also wanted to have a party track that's not like everyone else's but is still universal, very uptempo and something you might hear at a party. Even if you're not dancing, I want you do feel like you are doing so."
Well, your chance to dance with OX -- not just to him -- may be right around the corner: He's in the process of planning a farewell-to-Madison event for the end of the year. Though our city hasn't been a match made in heaven for him, he will certainly be missed -- and we hope he'll stay in touch.
An MP3 of "Celebrate" is available in the related downloads section at right. More songs by OX can be listened to on his MySpace page.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.