OC Notes' Bad Rap

Why he says his acoustic-guitar-playing self is "the real me."

The Situation On a recent Sunday, I'm capping my weekend with a beery night at Liberty on Capitol Hill. Joining me is Otis Calvin III, better known as the local musician OCnotes. "I kind of want to start going by Otis," he says, "but I'm Otis the Third, my father's a preacher, and I don't want to have people typing 'Otis Calvin' into Google and have my weed-smoking ass come up when they're really looking for my dad."

How He Got Here Calvin splits his time between Pioneer Square and Bellevue, where his 2-year-old daughter, Bella Day-Mars ("It means 'beautiful day on Mars,' " he explains), lives. "I love my daughter. She's filthy," he says, happily flipping through cellphone pictures of Bella eating, playing a toy guitar, and lounging in the grass in a model's pose.

Shop Talk Through his solo material and as half of the duo Metal Chocolates, OCnotes is one of Seattle's most popular and highly regarded hip-hop artists. But Calvin is also a songwriter of a different sort—at a recent low-key show at Fremont Abbey, I saw him sing a series of charmingly simple, stark songs that he plucked along with on an acoustic guitar. "That's the real me," he says. "I'm not the best at guitar, but I understand movement of music."

In 2008, Calvin released a record of his acoustic material called Yes . . . It Hurts, but he believes that because of his role as a black hip-hop artist, no one's given those songs the time of day.

BTW Calvin doesn't believe he could play a guitar show at a place like Neumos or the Crocodile—he doesn't think people would come. It's the narrow categorizations that bother him; why can't a rapper also play guitar and sing? "People want to really plastic-wrap hip-hop artists—people that do performances without a band behind them—'cause they don't understand. It doesn't mean we're any better or worse than any one of these rock bands. We're just doing some different shit."


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