Rising Artist Ovrkast. Makes Introspective Rap for Cloudy Days

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Rising Oakland rapper and producer Ovrkast. makes contemplative, dreamy music that invites you to tune in closely to catch lyrical gems. (Alan Chazaro)

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nside Bar Shiru, a Tokyo-inspired cocktail lounge in downtown Oakland, an Aretha Franklin vinyl spins when I arrive on a recent evening. Founded by a pair of jazz aficionados, the dimly lit establishment features a library of records so extensive you’d need a ladder to reach every shelf.

It’s the perfect place to meet Ovrkast., a 23-year-old lyricist and producer whose recording studio is around the corner.

He’s in the farthest nook, buried inside Questlove’s memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues. Despite the buzzing environment around him, he’s strictly focused on the text.

“[Questlove] is a genius,” he tells me. The book is just one source of current inspiration for the open-minded artist, who says he has been reading widely and taking daily hikes to start his mornings.

A self-taught musician who bounced around Oakland Unified School District as a teen, he’s been making a name for himself and reaching beyond the Bay to collaborate with notable rappers with impressive cult followings, including L.A.’s Earl Sweatshirt, Washington D.C.’s MAVI, and Birmingham’s Pink Siifu.

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In 2020, Ovrkast. released his anticipated debut album, Try Again. Then the pandemic hit. Still, he’s been able to accumulate over 18,000 followers on social media and has topped a million streams on Spotify.


Though the ongoing pandemic has significantly reduced his ability to tour and organically collaborate with new artists, Ovrkast. has used the detour as a way to cultivate personal and creative growth.

“When I dropped Try Again and the pandemic happened, it was kind of a blessing because people were forced to sit down with it and actually listen,” he says. “That was basically me coming to understand that art is a real process and I need to be patient. It’s not just lyrical or instrumental. It’s about the whole human experience. I’m still growing and changing as a young adult, and this album is a reflection of that.”

Rather than being discouraged by quarantine, the emerging artist found motivation to engage with his craft in new ways. Within a year, he put out multiple drum kits (which are basically collections of sounds for music producers) and beat tapes (most recently Early Autumn School Clothes, which he initially distributed via USB stick). Then he delivered 2021’s Try Again (Deluxe), one of last year’s best rap contributions.

The original version of Try Again is a certified head-nodder, and the deluxe package includes “Love Somebody,” a standout addition that gives a heartwarming ode to his newborn nephew. The revamped album also adds a throwback-style extension to the end of “Outro (It’s Time)”—implementing a “hidden-track” method that extends the song by an extra 90 seconds of empty noise before transitioning into the three bonus songs.

On both versions of the project, his raps drift along like dreamy hues floating over muffled instrumentals, evoking an impromptu jazz session. The gentle production intentionally omits any of the rattling bass or aggressive punchlines that many East Oakland rappers are famous for. The result is an elegantly curated and textured portrait of a young artist who is capable of giving listeners “2 Minute Bars” of rhythm-assisted poetry and personal musings.


“I would just listen to everything and mimic whatever I could discover,” Ovrkast. says of his younger days. “After school, I’d be making beats everyday. Once I heard the results, people liked it and I started grinding out. Some of my friends came by and we started rapping as a group called Kinfolk. That was my first roots on the microphone.”

He lists Knxwledge., Odd Future, Capital Steez, Flying Lotus and mixtape sites like DatPiff as early influences. But he doesn’t force himself into any category, either. It’s precisely this degree of alternative mindset, weirdness and vulnerability that draws me—and his sizable group of listeners—back for more.

Ovrkast. exudes a refreshing sense of humility and unguarded authenticity with lines like “[I] love keeping quiet ’til I throw a beat to it” on “Uck” or “All praise to the shit I don’t know, different ages / Tryna learn this shit is how it goes, flippin’ pages” on “AllPraise.” In a time when social media-fueled narcissism dominates our screens, Ovrkast. stands out as a free-spirited wanderer driven by quiet, internal contemplation—something he says originated from his youth and is reflected in his stage name.

“I always loved rain and Oakland hoodie weather,” he says. “When it was raining I could just be inside, drawing, looking up music. That’s where the idea of Ovrkast. came from. I cherish that feeling. That combination of rain, music and calmness all go together. It helped me with my anxiety.”

From start to finish, Try Again delivers bars with cool restraint and understated insight. Even when it’s hype, it seems laidback. The album is reflective of a sound and style that has been associated with a new wave of rap that Pitchfork writer Sheldon Pearce called “introverted.” It’s hip-hop that lingers beneath the surface and operates on intuition, self-empowerment and free association rather than braggadocious claims or capitalistic assertions of materialism. It’s an audio experience that feels more amoebic than linear—more inward than outward—and doesn’t slap from speakers as much as it soothes and spills freely.

Ovrkast. (Alan Chazaro)

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hile reflecting on his experiences, Ovrkast. makes sure to credit mentors like his music production teacher, Mr. Holiday—who first introduced him to a recording studio at Bunche Academy in West Oakland, which Ovrkast. attended for two years. He also mentions like-minded Oakland rappers Nimsins and demahjiae, who have also deviated from the prescribed sound path of regional rap.

“[Mr. Holiday] would see me at lunchtime and ask if I wanted to make music,” he recalls. “That’s where I first started making beats and found an underground world of instrumentals. It wasn’t until I graduated as a young adult that I realized the gravity of a dream I had to make an album and be among the other artists I listened to.”

The majority of Ovrkast.’s album is self-produced, and he isn’t backed by any label. Though he stumbled through it all, he was never afraid to “try again” and experiment with the unknown. Lately, that means he’s been learning how to play drums and piano to incorporate new instruments into upcoming work. For him, growth as a person and musician are part of a simultaneous process that requires mindfulness, practice and a long-term outlook that allows for adaptation. But for now, Ovrkast. should relish the “Church”—the title of one of my favorite tracks—that he has built for himself.

“[Try Again] was really my third real time trying to make an album,” he admits. “I wasn’t focused and was teetering. Once I let go of trying to force something, I just let it float around. That’s when I felt most confident and could give a snapshot of my life in that moment.”

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It’s a perfectly timed opportunity for listeners to re-engage with his music, which emphasizes how we don’t always need to be flawless—especially as we enter a new year.