Omarion doesn't want to be seen as a teen pop star anymore. The 28-year-old singer, who stepped onto the scene as frontman for B2K in the early 2000s, began his solo career with 2005's "O" (Epic), which debuted atop the Billboard 200 with 182,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sophomore set "21" (Epic) garnered similar success in 2006, crowning the chart with 119,000 units, but just four years later, "Ollusion," released through Omarion's imprint StarrWorld Entertainment and EMI, fell short, entering the Billboard 200 at No. 19 with only 21,000 sold.
After signing with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group earlier this year, the R&B star is ready to step into his adult shoes and release music that diverges from his previous teen-geared fare. On Nov. 29, Omarion will deliver his "Care Package" EP (Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros. Records) for free through file-sharing sites. The project features contributions from Problem, Tank and Wale, who appears on its first offering, "M.I.A.," which is also included on MMG's " Self Made Vol. 2."
For Omarion, the EP signifies a shift in his public perception and musical content, ushering his themes into a more mature strata. "A lot of my fans are adults and have children and lives. It's really interesting because they still come out and support, the fans that used to chase my car. I think they ready," he says. "This is the real grown-up me. This is that age when Beyoncé had 'Crazy in Love' and Michael Jackson had 'Thriller,' when Justin Timberlake had 'FutureSex/LoveSounds.' I feel like I'm at that age. I can't wait to display this new me."
His evolution from boy to man has been calculated. Prior to the release of "Ollusion," Omarion was briefly signed to Young Money Entertainment but parted ways with the label after a few months. With his manager, Ketrina Askew, the former teen heartthrob planned to ditch the underage pandering and take control of his career. He planned on signing a deal with E1 Music, but happened to bump into Rick Ross at a strip club, putting the wheels into motion in getting a fresh start.
"We look at it as starting over from scratch. That's where our approach is-that we don't get complacent," says Askew, who started working with Omarion after "Ollusion"'s release. "This is the reintroduction and reinvention of Omarion. It was important that people see the real him, for people to know who he truly is. He's not a teen-pop boy band singer anymore. He's a grown man."
To bolster the EP's impact, Omarion shot a video for "M.I.A.," which logged 250,000-plus YouTube views in its first three days of release. Warner plans to bank on Omarion's social networks (@1Omarion, 737,000 followers) and saturate the online market with music videos.
"Omarion coming into the game, of course he was a singer and dancer but he had great visuals, which are going to be a big part of the EP as well as his album," Warner urban A&R director Alaska Gedeon says. "This is a platform that allows him to get back to where he left off and then some, and then he can evolve into being more of a creative."
Gedeon says the label plans to service "M.I.A." to radio but is treating the EP as a "precursor" to his fourth solo album, for which Omarion has recorded 50 songs and hopes to release in the spring. He also plans to dabble in acting and open up a dance studio franchise in Los Angeles. Once fans hear the EP, he just wants his presence to be felt.
"I hope that they hear the emotion and take away one thing, and that's that I'm coming," Omarion says. "I'm going to continue to create music. I'm here, and that's what it is."