Editor’s note: Oklahoma Gazette is featuring Norman Music Festival performers each week leading up to its 10th anniversary event April 27-29 in Norman.
Though never accused of making anything close to a dumbed-down sound, some associate local rap fixture Josh Sallee’s music with a good, thoughtful, time-out. Considering the linguistic and conceptual intricacies of hip-hop’s underground, some listeners have looked elsewhere.
Those who have not paid the Tulsa-born emcee much attention since his widely celebrated 2014 release Know Society, however, are missing out on experiencing his more bluntly real, layered musical approach. For the last few years, Sallee has quietly created some of his smartest music to date — and is earning a decent, consistent living while doing it.
Sallee performs April 28 on Norman Music Festival’s Bud Light Depot Stage in downtown Norman. His most recent studio release, the Red Aromas EP, is a collection of personal, relationship-related songs he produced entirely on his own. His last full album was June 2016’s Hush Hush, a gripping project in which Sallee opened up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.
“[Hush Hush] was a really special project for me because it is very personal,” Sallee said during a recent Oklahoma Gazette interview. “A lot of people have said it’s my best work, and I think that’s what you want; you want to keep improving.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Hush Hush is how well Sallee stitches together his narrative by sampling historical interview excerpts from Beatles icon John Lennon.
Sallee said he was thinking about how he felt an emotional connection between the feelings related to his own turmoil and the events surrounding The Beatles’ breakup in 1970. For inspiration, he watched a few old Lennon interviews online. In the first clip, the English musician speaks about the pressure he’s enduring. “Pressure” is Hush Hush’s opening tune.
“I’m just like, ‘Oh my God; that’s my intro track,’” Salle said. “As I went through songs and interviews, thinking about it, I just thought about how it was telling my story.”
Though Hush Hush received considerably less media attention than Know Society, the rapper said he’s now earning his best, most consistent living to date as a musician, even while his average number of live shows per month has dropped.
How is such a feat possible? Sallee said Spotify and other music-streaming services, though sometimes maligned by artists and musicians, has been a game-changer for independent artists at his level.
“It’s not free money, but it’s money while you sleep,” he said. “It’s all the time; people are always listening to music.”
Sallee said fans have streamed a few of his songs a total of 300,000 to 400,000 times, and his music averages about 70,000 streams monthly. He also admitted the services indeed dinged early album sales. While a first-week check might not be huge, Sallee said he expects his projects to earn consistent revenue for months or even years to come.
“It’s much more stable than anything I’ve experienced in the last five years,” he said.
Norman Music Festival 10
Print headline: Cash, flow, Rapper Josh Sallee enters Norman Music Festival 10 on a roll with fresh content.