Rapper OG Vern offers a well-rounded picture on ‘Northside Slim’

The Columbus musician continues to move further from the braggadocio-filled rhymes of his earliest years, a more mature direction driven in part by his experiences as a father

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
OG Vern

With each album, Columbus rapper OG Vern allows a little more of himself to bleed through, moving from the braggadocio-filled rhymes of his earliest years into tracks that increasingly capture his vulnerabilities. This is particularly true of new EP Northside Slim, which Vern described as rooted in a rocky stretch in a relationship.

“It’s been plenty of times where I’ve had rough patches in relationships and I couldn’t get on a track and rap about it,” said Vern, who will host a listening party for Northside Slim at Addella’s on Oak on Friday, March 25, in advance of the EP’s larger digital release on April 8. “I’m definitely just being more open with myself, letting it be more emotional, and really just keeping it real with myself in terms of how I go about things. And it’s been beneficial, too, because it’s like having a diary, where you can record a song and then listen to it for days and days and days. … It’s like taking lessons from myself, and it’s made the music better. There’s a growth factor.”

Vern attributed much of this maturation to being the father of a 4-year-old daughter, who has gradually evolved into a musical collaborator, of sorts, as well as his fiercest critic. 

“There’s some way, somehow that she’s an executive producer on a lot of things,” Vern said, and laughed. “It’s getting to the point where she’s realizing, oh, you do music for real. She’s been to Comfest, and she’s seen my music videos, and she’ll hear a song and know it’s me. She’ll recognize my voice even over a beat with drums that are loud as hell, which is crazy. … And there are certain times she’s like, ‘I don’t like this.' And I’m not going to be like, oh, she’s just a kid. It’s more like, OK, what can I do to make this better?”

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The rapper said he entered into fatherhood with zero expectations, leaving himself completely open to the experience, which he described as far more enjoyable than stressful. By experiencing the world through his daughter, Vern said, his own curiosities have been revived, and things that might have become commonplace now often feel full of possibility. 

Gradually, this mindset has started to shape Vern’s music, giving three-dimensional life to Northside Slim, which comes across as an emotional table-clearing, the rapper airing his baggage as a means of moving into the future unencumbered. “Leave all that hate … in 2021,” he sighs near the close of “Nightlife,” a shadowy track that percolates with the high-boiling anxiety of a Safdie brothers' film. 

“Becoming a father has definitely matured me, and I feel like that maturity has spilled into everything else in life, even the music,” Vern said. “When it comes to music, I’m writing more about life experiences, mentioning [my daughter] more in my songs, and really just growing into a person who knows exactly what they want to say, and how they want to say it.”

More:OG Vern emerges from the dark with celebratory new album

The direction was further shaped by the beats that arrived for the new EP courtesy of Jay Vega, with Vern recalling the way the producer’s tracks appeared to call out to him, “practically telling me … this is how this [album] is supposed to go.”

But the influence of fatherhood on Vern’s music runs even deeper than his increasingly mature perspective, bringing new drive to his artistic pursuits, which he said are now motivated by a desire to leave something behind for his daughter — both financially and in creating a catalog she can revisit down the road to better know her father. (This is an exchange with which Vern is familiar, having amassed a collection of tapes recorded by his parents, both of whom made music in their younger years.)

“When I started music, I just wanted people to hear my music, and to play some shows,” Vern said. “And that’s still the drive, but also now it’s more to have something to give to my daughter, and to make sure that if something was to happen to me today, my music could be something that could potentially help her. … I want to be able to leave something for her when the time comes. And hopefully that’s no time soon, God willing.”