For the 12th mix in our monthly feature we reached out to Ol’ Burger Beats. He has previously been referred to as ‘The Producer of Darkness’ and we thought a curated selection of lo-fi favourites would make a nice companion to our season of darkness. We met at a spot called Tranen in Oslo’s Ila suburb. The historical building first opened its doors in 1921 and was once a popular cafe and folk restaurant. Tranen is now the location of some of the best pizza in the city and was a fitting place to meet Ole-Birger Neergård, who is making some of the best beats in the city.
Norway is a large, diverse and remote place at times and Ole-Birger’s upbringing is not what you would expect from a guy making hip hop with an inner city sound. Growing up with the same 15 kids from Kindergarten to High School the only thing hip hop about his home town is when he mentions ‘West Coast’ in reference to its location. The isolation did leave a lot to be desired when trying to connect with others musically and he laughs that it took him a while to find hip-hop, but became hooked after hearing Stankonia by Outkast. ‘This is the first album I remember relating too, it was less Gangsta Rap and more influenced by blues and soul’. The discovery of this album led him on a process of digging into a hip hop catalogue where he cites Gangstarr, DJ Premier and Big L as influences… Everything released a long time prior to Stankonia. ‘I have always been 10 years late’, he laughs, ‘and now I am 40 years late. I mainly listen to 70’s jazz’.
Describing himself as someone who is musically living in the past we discuss the current state of hip hop and music. We both agree that in some way it is cool that it is now the largest genre and the new pop music, but it is also bad as a lot of the new acts don't really know or get into the history of the genre.
‘I am the least American guy in the community, but I think it is important to respect the sound and the innovators of the genre. The soul of hip hop I feel is less present nowadays and it is a reflection of our society and the internet. Everything is easier. To make a beat in 10 mins, throw some rhymes on it and make people feel good in someway, then you have a track. A lot of new hip hop lacks that thought and depth… I don't only want to live in the past, I want to make futuristic sounding hip hop too, but not in the way some of these others are doing it’.
The first Ol’ Burger Beats project that sounded how he wanted was a five track demo tape released via Bandcamp in 2014. The positive and prompt feedback led him to use the demo tape as the basis for his first album ‘High Rhodes’ which uses Fender Rhodes piano samples as a red thread throughout. Following its release on Spotify he was again surprised with the response receiving emails from Okayplayer and Mass Appeal, blogs he had been reading since a young age, wanting to write about his album. ‘It was a crazy experience for me and I ended up putting the album out on vinyl. It was also a dream of mine. I had been sampling off vinyl and to make it go full circle in a way was cool’.
Having previously released music through his own label Ole-Birger found his way to Mutual Intentions and has enjoyed the advantages of being surrounded by a group of people where he was able to connect musically. ‘I met them by going to Eivind (Ivan Ave) and Fred’s (Fredfades) concerts’, he laughs. ‘My girlfriend and I were in the first row for two years until they started to recognise us. Maybe they had heard some of my beats prior to that, but I was just visible I guess. I was super influenced by Fred and every beat maker on Mutual Intentions and being allowed to release my music on that label was really beneficial and natural for me’.
Outside of making music Ole-Birger holds the position as head of hip hop at The Garden, a record store in Oslo, where he can have a small influence on the market by actively searching and bringing in records he likes. We talk the resurgence of vinyl for a bit and he lets us know that the first Norwegian press has opened, just outside of Oslo. It is exciting to have that opportunity in his homeland and the next time he puts a record out he wants to press there. ‘It would be nice to have everything made here in Norway’.
We joke a bit about the ‘Producer of Darkness’ statement and he laughs, ‘The next project I have tried to make a bit warmer, I will bring it out in summer and step up the positivity a bit. I really am a smiling kind of dude’.
All photography by Ronja Penzo