Interview: Langston Okinawa Never Compromises The Art

+FreshFinds: Little Rock, Arkansas artist, Langston Okinawa releases EP, "Fair Park Blve" and shares details on his journey as an artist in Arkansas.

Langston Okinawa is an artist to watch from Little Rock, Arkansas. He released an 8-track EP titled Fair Park Blve in July (2018) and is currently working hard to push the project forward. His neo-soul vibe and influences by J. Cole, Frank Ocean, Drake, and more come together to provide a new sound and style. In this interview, we discuss his past, the EP, being an artist in Arkansas and what’s to come.

T: You’ve been on the music grind for some time right? This isn’t new to you?

L: Lol, yes and no I’ve been pursing music for about five years now but didn’t really start recording a lot until about two years ago.

T: Take me back to five years ago. At what point did you decide that music was it for you?

I was skeptical ’cause I never saw music as something for me, but it was there for me when I was the loneliest.

L: I was in a bad place. I didn’t think college was for me and I was failing a lot of classes and bumming out. I never really felt good at anything else. I just had no drive no ambition and it was taking a toll on me mentally from falling out with friends and many horrible arguments with my parents. And by 18 I was listening to J. Cole’s “Friday Night Lights” mixtape constantly. So much that I wanted to express myself like he did. I was skeptical ’cause I never saw music as something for me, but it was there for me when I was the loneliest. So, I went with it ’cause it was kinda my ride or die, then I wrote a 15 track mixtape at 20 years old, but never finished recording or released due to self conscious thoughts.

T: That’s powerful. J. Cole provided a piece of self reflection for you at a very vulnerable point in your life, which compelled you to write a 15 track mixtape that you didn’t release. Looking back, what changed for you? Especially since you are now putting out music and I’m assuming that self consciousness isn’t much of an issue.

L: Yes he did and along the way I’ve received more influences from other artists as well. And the change came from a now or never mentality. When I got my credits up I transferred to UALR in fall ’15 in hopes of furthing my options in a bigger city. I didn’t get far like I planned until earlier this year after graduating and getting in Da Ark. But self conscious things are still apart of me especially with my recent project but I’ve found myself being more comfortable with my craft.

T: It’s all a process and I see that you’ve put a lot into your recent release, “Fair Park Blve”. How was it creating this EP?

L: Yes it is for sure. And yes I put a lot into the project. The creative process of it was slow and strenuous much of the time. I didn’t think people would enjoy my voice and I felt like my lyrical ability had went down. Compared to my past writing I was very upset with how it was going honestly, but I pushed through ’cause I told myself I would do it and do it by the time I set. I just put all my energy into thinking about how I should execute each track and the beats best I could at the time, not at all expecting the reaction I got from people when it dropped. In a way I feel like this project was like the rap version on the “Z” album by Sza, for it’s cryptic lyrics and different style and sound.

T: I agree with the different style and sound. What was your goal for this album? The overall message? The choice in artwork?

I wanted people to see me looking down that road with the stars hovering over me as a person on a journey where the road is long and the stars seem very out of reach for a dude from Arkansas.

L: My goal was to simply remind people that I was doing this for real. It was another attempt at gaining a fanbase and getting more official as an artist. And the message of it or concept of it was to dive into my scattered brained thoughts and feelings that I had while living on Fair Park Blvd after graduating college. And with the artwork I wanted people to see me looking down that road with the stars hovering over me as a person on a journey where the road is long and the stars seem VERY out of reach for a dude from Arkansas.

T: “The Color of Vanilla” is one of my faves from the EP. You have many slow, sensual sounds. How was it creating and selecting the tracks for the EP?

L: Thank you, that song is actually in the process of being made into a video and should be done filming tomorrow. And yes, the beats are a nice groove I get that from being in love with sound. I was influenced by “So Far Gone” by Drake for it’s ambient atmospheric sound. “Alomy with Ego Death” by The Internet and “Channel Orange” by Frank Ocean. Plus, Neo Soul is my favorite genre of music.

T: I definitely hear those influences in your sound. I want to go back to what you said about the stars being very out of reach for a dude from Arkansas. Let’s talk about this! Arkansas is overlooked when it comes to talent and creativity. What has your experience in Arkansas as an artist been like and do you feel supported?

I feel overlooked like many other Arkansas artists who are being different within their own rights.

L: My experience in Arkansas in general has really been a struggle. Since I apparently don’t make the normal wave of music I come across many confused faces and no sense of wanting to know much about my music especially after some hear my name. But on a positive tip I have gained a small portion of fans from the project and that’s all I wanted was to have some fans if any. But overall, I feel overlooked like many other Arkansas artists who are being different within their own rights. I’m glad to be different one of the main focuses was to make a project that youthful people in big cities like NYC and LA could could vibe to.

T: The state as a whole has so much talent to offer, but like you said, your wave of music is so different that not everyone appreciates it. In most cases, people leave to the major cities to focus on their music, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Continue to make the music you make and those who it’s meant for will gravitate towards your sound. I can see the NYC and LA crowds enjoying your music as well, but that’s because they already have established communities and creatives who do make sounds that we don’t hear everyday. Arkansas can be that.

L: Yeah I’ve ran into some interesting talent here as well. But it doesn’t get as much shine as it does from Arkansas people but that’s cool. I was thinking of moving to Texas eventually or somewhere ’cause it seems futile to push it here sometimes. But I plan to keep my style going I don’t plan to compromise my art.

T: Never compromise the art! Get up and go if you feel that it’s vital to your art, for sure. How has it been being part of a group, Da Ark?

L: No I’ll never go for the compromising lol. But I feel something had to give soon and I feel I’m going to leave my comfort zone. But being in the group is cool we all are very different in personality. It can get stressful sometimes, but it’s alright.

T: I’m in San Antonio now and I’m trying to find my place here, aside from teaching. Music is something I love and just connecting with creatives in general. So, I’m also having to get out of my comfort zone. Slowly, but surely. So I understand. Do you have any shows coming up?

L: Cool. Texas is great out that way and I understand the process. And we should be doing some more shows in Arkansas in November I believe.

T: I hope everything pans out for you! Any plans moving forward after the release of your album?

L: Thanks. Hope so for you and your stuff, too. And really right now my plans are to drop videos do some shows just promote it the best I can.

T: Can’t wait to see the visual for “The Color of Vanilla”!

L: Ah yes, it should be coming out sometime in November as well looks like it’ll be a great one from how we’ve been shooting. 

T: Keep me in the loop, for sure! Thank you for chatting with me. I learned quite a bit about you and I’ll keep my eyes opened for what’s to come.

L: Alright sure and I’m glad to have been able to explain things about my music to someone.

T: Well, glad we could share some good convo!

Stay updated with the sounds of Langston Okinawa via SoundCloud, Apple Music and Spotify.

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