In January 2011, the singer-songwriter and producer Om'Mas Keith began working on his album City Pulse. Six months later, with the record nearly done, he put it away to concentrate on Frank Ocean's Channel Orange.
"There was no other alternative, really, in terms of knowing I was gonna immerse with an artist for that amount of time," Keith tells Rolling Stone in his Hollywood studio. "It really wasn't that hard a decision for me, knowing I had a body of work that was almost ready and that was just touches away from completion and in my possession."
That decision, of course, has paid off considerably: Ocean's critically-acclaimed album is one of the five finalists for Album of the Year at the 55th Grammy Awards. Keith, for one, is not surprised that he and the others behind Channel Orange will be attending the ceremony at the Staples Center on February 10th.
"After I was done producing, we took our listen and we kind of got that chill and we all said, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna be at the Grammys,'" he recalls. "We all said it, so we kind of manifested it to this experience."
Once he had finished working with Ocean, Keith returned to City Pulse, which you can hear exclusively below. Like Channel Orange, Keith regards City Pulse as a fully realized body of work, with a story. "It is somewhat of an exaggerated, somewhat fictional narrative; that's how it's done, that's how you make the good story," he says. "I think part of artistry, to me, is the blend of sharing your personal truth with people and then sharing your fictional idea. My album is definitely an album about love, sexual experiences, fun and touring the world."
For obvious reasons Keith says, "Now I think, timing-wise, this is the time for me to release this." He also plans to play live behind the record, starting with a European tour and then dates in Los Angeles, his current home, and beyond.
It will all have to be balanced with the continually increasing demand for his services as a producer. "What happens is now 16- to 18-hour days are just standard," he says.
Among his next projects, Keith is working with Azealia Banks on her forthcoming album. He envisions forging a similar working bond with her to the one he has now with Ocean. "She's probably going to be one of the artists that I go into a long-term working relationship with," he says. "We've already done a series of very intense sessions that I personally feel resulted in some of her best music to date. I think she feels that way too."