Music News & Reviews

After a rough start, Sacramento’s Oke Junior is making noise in the rap world

Rapper Too Short brought Matthew Osivwemu out to rap to a crowd of thousands during his set at Bottle Rock Napa Valley in May.
Rapper Too Short brought Matthew Osivwemu out to rap to a crowd of thousands during his set at Bottle Rock Napa Valley in May.

Matthew Osivwemu is a Sacramento-based musician and rapper who has collaborated with the likes of Mistah F.A.B, Too Short, Sage the Gemini and 2 Chainz. Now, the rising 25-year-old rapper is gearing up to drop a seven-track album later this month.

Osivwemu says he’s focused on making music that encourages people to be themselves. His next EP, Self Worth, is an album dedicated to that.

“I make motivational music, inspirational music and my style is real versatile,” Osivwemu said. “I don’t want to be boxed in as one type of artist. My whole brand is like dare to be different. I want people to just be themselves and chase their dreams, honestly, and you know, feel good, feel motivated.”

While he’s performing, Osivwemu goes by the stage name Oke Junior, a move meant to pay homage to his father, who died in 2012.

But the rapper’s stage name isn’t the only thing inspired by his family. Osivwemu said his oldest brother Anthony encouraged his interest in rap from a young age by showing him music videos and providing feedback about his music. After getting in trouble in middle school, Osivwemu said he moved in with Anthony in Napa.

“He was in a group home in Napa because he used to get in trouble, and he saw me going down the same path as him, so he moved me out there with him,” Osivwemu said. “Moving out there was when I really started getting into music more, because he was always doing it. That’s my biggest mentor when it comes to music.”

After gaining notoriety at school for his freestyling skills, Osivwemu started rapping over instrumental music and eventually won a talent show with a friend.

“I used to make CDs and I used to make them all (in) Garage Band, no microphone, no nothing, just rapping into the mic, the computer and then I mixed it myself,” Osivwemu said. “I would buy blank CDs from Target and print out like 10 songs and write in marker.”

Osivwemu moved to Sacramento to pursue a degree in communications from Sacramento State, a subject he chose to help with his music career.

“Communications was something that related to my music career, the classes that I took, organizational communication, public speaking, all these different courses helped me with the music, you know, helped me with my skills and stuff like that,” Osivwemu said. “Things took off definitely in college because it was that community where, you know, I was able to give (my music) to all like the kids who I went to school with and there was no one at Sac State that was really rapping.”

It was while he was in college that Osivwemu started performing at Ace of Spades on R Street, a venue known for showcasing both local artists and performers known around the world. Osivwemu opened for Too Short at the venue in 2016. Since then, the rapper has opened for well-known acts like Nef the Pharaoh and 2 Chainz.

After a performance in Oakland in 2016, Osivwemu met Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B., a Bay Area rapper known for being a catalyst of the Hyphy movement, who signed Osivwemu’s mixtape to his label. Since then, Osivwemu describes F.A.B. as a mentor and has featured him in several of his songs.

“I looked up to these people growing up, especially being from Oakland,” Osivwemu said. “(Too) Short is from East Oakland, F.A.B. is from north Oakland, I grew up watching him. So for him to co-sign me and to like back me up, that validation is like epic, for sure.“

It’s been a long time since Osivwemu had to hand out CDs in order for people to know his music – now his YouTube videos often garner more than 25,000 views. Rapper Too Short brought Osivwemu out to rap to a crowd of thousands during his set at Bottle Rock Napa Valley in May, an experience Osivwemu describes as “epic.”

Osivwemu still maintains a full-time job on top of being a rising rap star. He works as a site manager at the Robertson Family Development Center in north Sacramento, where he oversees academic and creative programs for elementary school students.

“Our main objective is just enhancing their skills and just bringing out that creative energy,” Osivwemu said. “I feel like having this job, it lets me be myself. It’s funny, one of my kids was like, ‘You’re like the male version of Hannah Montana.”

Osivwemu is also working on a clothing company with his girlfriend, Atarah Lockett, called Dare to be Different. Lockett said the line will be made up of recycled and repurposed clothing emblazoned with the company’s logo.

“We are both are artistic individuals, we like to stand out, don’t we like looking like everybody else does, looking like the in crowd, and I mean the idea of it just coincides with the idea of the brand name, Dare to be Different,” Lockett said.

Lockett said Osivwemu has an all-encompassing message with all the projects he’s working on, and that is to give back to the community and encourage creativity.

“His job with the kids, it goes along with his platform, with community outreach, a lot of what he talks about and his music as well,” Lockett said. “He encourages others like by peers or whoever and just reminds them that it’s always important to stand out.”

Osivwemu said he plans on staying in Sacramento, a city which he described as having a robust artistic culture, until the next opportunity arrives.

His next EP, Self-Worth, drops mid-September.