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Keep Calm & Omarion: How the Singer Learned to Be Unbothered by Drama

Omarion
Katie Spoleti

Omarion photographed on Jan. 10, 2020 in New York.

The temptation of junk food has Omarion cornered. As he gazes through the snack area inside the Times Square Billboard offices, his options are plentiful, but his eyes shift and begin to lock in on a bag of Oreos.

Rather than indulge on anything sugary or carb-heavy, the spry dancer opts to play it safe before settling on a cup of tea. "We got a tour coming up," he exclaims. I can't take no chances." Seizing chances and opportunities has proven to be rewarding for the 35-year-old singer.

Last year, O stitched together his brainchild, The Millennium Tour, featuring a bevy of acts from the 2000s and headlined by his former group, B2K. Omarion's nostalgic stroll down memory lane raked in $25.5 million, selling just under 290,000 tickets, according to Billboard Boxscore. Because of the tour's massive success, Omarion announced plans for The Millennium Tour 2020 last November, with him and his 2007 Face-Off collaborator Bow Wow headlining this year's festivities.

"It's been 15 years since me, and Bow [Wow] have done a tour," says Omarion. "So to commemorate not only that, but him being one of the first child prodigies in the game to open up the doors for a lot of other child prodigies like myself. It's gonna be exciting, man."

While fans are clamoring for this year's lineup, which boasts the likes of Soulja Boy, Pretty Ricky, Ying Yang Twins, and the tour's "first lady" Ashanti, one glaring omission includes Omarion's bandmates of B2K. Last year, The Millennium Tour dealt with controversy revolving around B2K member Fizz dating Omarion's ex-girlfriend and mother of his two kids, Apryl Jones. Despite the fallout between O and his bandmates, he remained unbothered and carried on with the tour, making it one of the most successful runs of 2019.

Now that The Millennium Tour 2020 has kicked off, Omarion hopes to keep his foot on the gas and notch another smooth victory among his diehard fans. Billboard spoke to O on his decision to leave B2K behind, why Bow Wow's legacy deserves more respect and why he's still in love with the music business 20 years later.

Twenty years in the game. What does that number mean to you?

Double amplification. Double illumination. Just new levels of light.

Looking back at your 20-year career in entertainment, what would you consider to be your biggest achievement?

I feel like this place that I'm at right now is a big personal achievement. Being in the industry at a really young age, you kind of pay for your lessons. You don't want to pay for those again. The littest part is that I'm still here today. I'm still motivated by the importance of sharing. I think music is such a powerful thing. It's cool that I still feel inspired to share. I truly think that's what music is about. It's not about what you look like or what happened yesterday; it's truly about how the music speaks to you.

Up until this moment right now, doing The Millennium 2 Tour, as a creative person, I'd say this is one of my biggest accomplishments. To be able stand as an artist within your own right when a lot of people only have a hot two years [means something]. Twenty years is a long time to do anything. If you're doing something for 20 years, it's like, "What are you doing it for?" It's not just about selling music anymore for me. So today, being able to produce The Millennium 2 Tour and have so many amazing artists from a particular time and era come out is an amazing thing.

What was the thought of process of not only duplicating the success of the first Millennium Tour, but beating it?

I think it's always about being able to present something that connects with people. To be completely honest with you, doing the first Millennium Tour reestablished a relationship with my fans. When fans were coming up to us at the show and they were like, "Yo. This is my girl. We're coming to the Millennium Tour. We haven't hung out in many years. She has kids, I have kids," [was dope]. Just to see all of the fans really be engaged on a level like that has really encouraged me to continue on.

I don't think it's about topping your last; I think it's truly about just doing your best. That's what I continue to do throughout my career. It's been 15 years since me and Bow [Wow] did a tour. So to commemorate not only that, but him as being one of the first child prodigies in the game to open up the door for a lot of [artists] like myself. It's gonna be exciting, man. We gonna have a good, grown time. [laughs]

Why do you think Bow Wow is underappreciated for what he was able to do in music?

It's always difficult for child entertainers because they're growing up in front of the world. Bow was one of those kids -- just like myself -- and it's really, really hard for people to allow you to make mistakes. It's like you're publicly going through college. Everybody has moments. It's really a matter of perspective.

Bow Wow has really done a lot as a child entertainer. Like I said, he's opened the doors for a lot of kid stars. A lot of kids don't get the opportunity to transform and grow into an adult that people respect because it's like, "Oh, I've watched him grow up. So I'm going to treat him like a little brother forever." It's like, "No, I'm grown man." [laughs] I might still look at the same, but no. I got kids. [laughs]

There was a lot of pressure going into your 2007 joint album Face-Off with Bow Wow. Is there anything you would change reflecting back on that project? 

Yes and no. I remember Bow got into a really big fight with Jermaine [Dupri] right before [the project]. We shifted gears on producers. I wished the process would have been [smoother] and we collected more records.

I think when I was a kid, the game was different. Most of the time, we were working on the clock. There was always some strategy behind it. I make music completely different now. So I wouldn't take back how that was created, but I would just say if I would have had what I have now, which is the understanding of really cultivating albums and taking your time, [things would have been different]. There's just something special about taking your time. Anything that you take your time with is better, but I wouldn't change nothing. [laughs]

How would you compare your success with B2K versus your solo success? Do you box everything in one?

It's one of the same. Just like Michael Jackson in the Jackson 5 or Beyonce in Destiny's Child or Justin Timberlake in *'NSYNC. I just think there's something unique and special about the breakout stars in groups. I think you're able to kind of connect differently with the audience when you're used to having that support. So I would say it's one of the same. I sung all those backgrounds and did all the vocals just the same as my solo albums. It's all the same. [laughs]

Switching gears: What made you decide to bring Ashanti along for the second tour?

Ashanti has some incredible songs and a lot of songs that people make great memories to. It felt right. They used to have these catalogs called NOW! When everyone had the NOW! CDs, it had the multitude of hits. All the hits that were throughout the 2000s. She got great songs. And I just wanted to bring in that feminine energy and add it to the pot. I think it's a great ingredient.

Have you thought about adding more women to the tour, and if so who do you have in mind? 

In the future, it'd be dope to maybe do an all-female one.

If you can do your own 2000s all female lineup, who would you choose?

I don't know if I'd make it 2000s, but new age? I'd love to see Tinashe and Teyana [Taylor] before. Maybe even a Missy [Elliott]. I would want another songstress. I would want H.E.R. H.E.R., Teyana, and Tinashe, that's fire.

When you announced the tour, you decided to not bring back B2K. What was your reasoning for that?

Well, it was always a plan. It was always meant for us to do that tour. It was never in the plans for us to continue to proceed. Also, it was so successful. The Millennium Tour is my baby. The concept, the production, everything about it. And for other obvious reasons. [laughs]

With you being that up, how were you able to block the noise of Fizz and Apryl and still perform during that tour?

I'm gonna say that I had practice. [laughs] A lot of practice. To be completely honest with you, in order to really, really understand what you're doing, you have to know yourself. You have to really know yourself. Over the years with me maturing as an artist and as a person, I really learned to keep things in perspective.

Also, it's not about me anymore. One thing that was cool and stood out for me as far as keeping my composure and maintaining my cool was my kids. I got the opportunity to perform for them [the last tour]. My son came onstage and that was a special moment because I see my son change after that like, "Oh, you're on the road, Dad? Oh, you got shows?" My son is only 5, but he understands it. It's so cool that I was able to share that moment with him versus 'Dad, you used to be in a group?' That was really dope.

When you announced that tour back in November, was it premeditated because you did reveal it the day of Fizz's birthday?

No. Universe. Promise to God. I be on my own. I don't even know what be going on, you feel me? [laughs]

 

 

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