Magazine Feature

'Cut It' Rapper O.T. Genasis: 'I'm Not Chasing a Hit Record -- That's Why I Can Make a Hit Record'

The 29-year-old rapper from Long Beach, Calif., has earned his second top 40 hit on the Hot 100 with “Cut It.”
Jory Lee Cordy

The 29-year-old rapper from Long Beach, Calif., has earned his second top 40 hit on the Hot 100 with “Cut It.”

O.T. Genasis may have risen in prominence thanks to a million comedic Vines riffing off his single "CoCo," but the rapper's career is no joke. O.T. tells Billboard what the O.T. stands for, and what he wants to say to his doubters: "Now you see me"

Rapper O.T. Genasis blew onto the scene in 2014 with "CoCo," and within days, crafty teens and young adults on Vine were making 6-second microfilms of themselves with Nesquik, baby powder, and baking soda. Though O.T. Genasis could have easily been written off as a one-hit viral wonder, he fared even better on the charts with his 2015 single "Cut It," which has been on the Hot 100 charts for 17 weeks where it currently sits at No. 35 ("CoCo" was on the charts in February 2015 for all of one week.) O.T. Genasis took some time before a pool party performance to talk to Billboard about his stage name, his approach to music post-"CoCo" success, and his favorite O.T. memes.

What's the story behind your stage name?

Genesis means the beginning. But I put the A instead of the E because I didn't wanna be criticized in church and nothing like that. And it means the beginning, but in my city I'm the only person that's on the West Coast that has a different sound, so I was thinking to myself, "This the beginning of a new sound, a new person." That's why I came up with that name for myself. And O.T. just comes from me traveling a lot, being out of town, trying to just make a living.

Is O.T. also for overtime?

O.T. is for overtime, O.T. is for outta town...

That's a lot simpler than I thought the story would be.

Nah, O.T. is a word that we use in the urban community. It means outta town. You can figure everything out after that.

"Cut It" came after "CoCo." How did you deal with the pressure of producing another hit like "CoCo"?

It wasn't that much pressure, it was just me being anxious to show I could do it again. On so many different levels, of course, I was doubted and everything like that but it was all about having to find myself again and just have fun with it, man. That's what I did originally, have fun working. Not worrying about what everybody was saying. But it was a lot, don't get me wrong, I heard every second there was somebody on my back talking about "So what you gonna do next?" or "You know the next one gotta be bigger than this!" and I'm like, "Bro, how big can it get?" So you know, just having fun, man, just sticking to everything and just being me.

What would you say to those skeptics who are critical of your success and think, "Oh, he was done after one song"?

Now you see me! Self-explanatory.

What mindset did you enter the studio with when you did your mixtape Rhythm & Bricks?

I studied music and [there's] so many things that I can do with so many ways I can work, and I have so many different styles of music. I just didn't know which one would be accepted. I put out Rhythm & Bricks, which showed my versatility, and I had a lot of melodic songs on there, then I had a lot of street songs on there, and I just wanted to know what everybody wanted from me. I did put that out so that everybody could get a feel, so "Cut It" just happened to come out of there. I just went in here saying "Lemme just put everything down and see what everybody gets, what everybody takes from there," and it happened to be "Cut It."

What you say is the secret to a catchy song?

Just me and a couple of drinks, good vibes, and good people around, you know? Real simple. I always had it, 'cause I have an ear for music, not just one genre, so I always had it. Just enjoying everything, enjoying yourself, keeping it original, waiting 'til the song comes, you're not chasing the song. I'm not chasing a hit record -- that's why I can make a hit record. It's not forced at all, it just happens. It's off of vibes.

Rapper O.T. Genasis on Backlash to Ode to Cocaine 'CoCo': 'I Stay in My Lane and Do Me'

How did you train your ear for music?

I've always been a fan of music. I listened to a whole lot of oldies -- I never really listened to rap music that much. I listened to a whole lot of oldies and R&B, I love R&B. Things happen, like the way that I make music now, it's more than just me just rapping on a hook or just saying anything. Everything has to be timing, the way that I say words has to be in the pocket, everything has to be in the correct pocket. My flow, my delivery has to be there because sometimes -- most of the time -- it's not what you say. It's how you say it, and that's what makes music, man, that's what makes music so brilliant, so many different things you can do with it.

What's been your most interesting or surprising encounter with a fan of yours?

Maybe I would say landing in Dubai and you just see people running up to you and they're saying, "O.T., photo please, photo please!" You know, it's amazing man, and that's way in the Middle East, and I've been on so many European tours that it's crazy, but the love that I get on the other side of the world is amazing, man. Like, out of the U.S., it's amazing. That's a very humbling experience, people that see me at the airport and they want me to sign pictures and everything like that, but I'll never forget a little boy [in Dubai] walked up to me and said, "O.T., photo please!"

Have there been any musicians that have told you, "O.T., I love what you're doing," who shocked you or stunned you?

Timbaland, Jamie Foxx, these are people that I'm like, "Wow." Like, "You listen to my stuff?" When they told me that, I was like, "Wow." And people like Diplo, Steve Aoki, these are people I would've never thought would have been listening to my music or like what I'm doing, so it's dope.

So you have Diplo and kids in Dubai.

Yeah! [Laughs.]

"CoCo" rose largely because of Vine and the hilarious things people would do using your song. What are some of the more interesting Vines or memes you've seen people do using "Cut It"?

It's a whole lotta dope barbershop stuff that they use for "Cut It." I've seen a whole lot of barbershop things and barbershop memes on Instagram. It's crazy what people come up with right now. It's amazing, man. Oh! There's one that I really like -- it's somebody, I don't know what school it was, it was somebody who was graduating, and it said, "Your tuition is way too high, you need to cut it," but they had that on their graduation hat. I was like, "Wow, that's dope."

What's the last thing you saw that made you say "You gotta cut it"?

My bills. My bills, oh man. And definitely taxes, we gotta cut that. We gotta cut that.

A version of this article originally appeared in the July 23 issue of Billboard.