BIG IN DA STREET

GET WET With The OceanGang Movement…

In MAGAZINE on January 3, 2012 at 4:27 am

Remember that weird kid you went to elementary and middle school with, the one

who seemed to be either in or from another world? You know, the one with shirts and

pants that were too little, whose shoes were perpetually raggedy, as if they were bought

in that condition? Well he’s all grown up now, and none of that has changed. In fact he’s

managed to turn everything that made him an outcast into his own brand of cool. His

birth name is Mario Smith, but to the thousands of people he has somehow convinced to

drink his wacky Kool-Aid, he’s known as Cartier God.

Cartier, a devoted Rastafarian since ’08, is the captain of the Ocean Gang, an 11

member rap family based in Athens, Georgia. As their name suggests, the Ocean Gang

are of a bunch of aquaphiles who use vivid ocean imagery in their music and slang. For

instance, a particularly spiffy outfit might be referred to as ‘wet’; they call their female

cohorts ‘mermaids’. They recently released a mixtape entitled, what else, ‘Life’s A

Beach’. So why the fascination with mother ocean? “The ocean is unknown territory just

like space, 75% of earth is water; nothing can survive without water.” Such decidedly

lighthearted matter seems odd coming from a group helmed by someone who calls

himself Cartier God. While Cartier may sound like the moniker of your average gangsta

rapper, one conversation with him will be enough to convince you that he is anything but

average. As a matter of fact, he’s anything but gangsta. Ocean Gang music is marked by

random syncopation and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. He prefers to describe his style

as abstract. Says the lanky 26 year old, “I call my raps “emotions” ‘cuz they’re based

on whatever I’m feeling at the time; I throw stuff together and whatever I get out of that

is what it is, and I just run with it”. This style of rapping is known as based freestyling;

whatever comes out, well…comes out. It is heavily influenced by the creator of based

music, California rapper Lil B. Based music is a blend of rap, house music, poetry and

ambient sounds (i.e. bells, wind chimes, etc.) and has a huge cult following on the West

coast. “It’s much more than just music, based is a lifestyle and it stands for positivity,

individuality, being yourself and not caring what anybody thinks.” He says Lil B’s music

made him want to be more positive, so every lyric he spits is completely non-violent. In

addition to Lil B, he counts Andre 3000, Imogen Heap, Coldplay, Sade and Bob Marley

among the artists who had great influence on his musical style.

Although it may seem like such varied influences could never produce a cohesive

sound, Ocean Gang’s devoted fans are a testament that they are indeed doing something

right. One look at his ‘I ❤ Cartier’ album on Facebook leaves no doubt that people

are listening…even if it gives the false impression that all those people are female. The

album is filled with young women, all scantily clad, one topless, who hold up signs

or have graphics on their photos declaring there love for Ocean Gang in general and

Mario in particular. Not bad for someone who was once teased for smedium clothing

and raggedy shoes; these things have now become his trademark, along with earrings

and necklaces that could be found at any neighborhood yard sale, Goodwill or your

grandma’s jewelry box. I was the first person rockin’ Hollister. I used to get teased ‘cuz

my clothes were too small, now everybody doin’ it’. Somehow he managed to make them

cool, er, excuse me, ‘wet’.

The popularity, however, extends far beyond Facebook and Athens; the offbeat

gang was mentioned in a recent Rolling Stone article and even got shout-outs from Wiz

Khalifa and red-hot teen heartthrob Justin Bieber on Twitter. As if these things weren’t

enough proof that the Gang is on their way, rapper Soulja Boy asked them to join his

crew, SODMG (Stacks On Deck Money Gang). Says the heavily tatted rapper, “Soulja

Boy was always on the net and ran across my crewmate Young God’s song ‘Perfect’ on

YouTube. He got at Young God, and Young God referred him to me. Soulja Boy was

digging our style and wanted to be apart of it and asked to be in Ocean Gang. He dm’d

me on Twitter and said ‘Bless me captain!’ And thus their relationship was formed.

Soulja Boy and Mario are now co-captains, if you will, of the cruise ship Ocean Gang.

Although the adulation and recognition are indeed welcome, it’s more important to

the gang that they garner respect for their individuality and uniqueness. According to the

self-described former outcast “People are not open-minded enough to see that there are

other styles out there, people just listen to what’s hot in the club and what everybody else

is listening to. We want to expand people’s minds, make them look at rap in a different

way.” Hopefully their soon-to-be released album ‘Futuristic Oceanic’ will do just that.

Tremendous buzz coming in to the game, props from some of the biggest names in the

game and a unique vision? Now that’s how you splash! – E.C. Jordan for BIG IN DA STREET

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Ocean Gang – Mermaids & Seaweed Hosted by DJ Wats

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