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The New Locals: Ojikae

The Melbourne R&B singer on his new single 'Ex' and his unwavering love for 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'.

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Melbourne R&B singer Matt Cicero’s stage name, Ojikae, is a fusion of things: Oji means prince in Japanese and is a nod to one of his favourite shows, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Prince, his favourite musician, while Kae is a nickname from his teenage years.

This marriage of inspirations is evident in his sound—new wave R&B that calls to mind D’Angelo and Frank Ocean. In 2017, Ojikae released his first demo ‘Existentiality’ on Soundcloud. Despite his limited discography, the then 18-year-old caught the attention of ABRA and TOKiMONSTA, and later joined them on tour as their Australian support act.

At the end of last month, Ojikae released ‘Ex’. It’s a rehash of ‘Existentiality’, giving the demo a final polish. Alongside it he released a video steeped in a VHS 90s aesthetic. We caught up with him to chat about Will Smith’s outfits, Frank Ocean’s discography, and his Dad’s metal band.

I feel like this question is often overdone, but I have to know. Ojikae is an incredibly unique name, can you tell me the process behind coming up with it?
Well, Oji in Japanese means Prince, and my favourite show of all time is the The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When I was 16 my name was just Kae so I put Oji and Kae together. Coincidentally one of my favourite artists of all time is Prince, so it fits nicely.

‘Ex’ is a refined version of your 2017 demo ‘Existentiality’. You’ve teased on Instagram that there’s more music on the horizon—how soon until we’ll be hearing this? Have you got plans for an album?
I have another single coming out really soon [that I] co-produced with Uno Stereo. And after that, I plan to release a few demos I’ve produced myself with videos filmed by myself and my friends. For me, albums can’t just be songs mashed together into a project, they need to tell a story.

So I want to take my time writing a cohesive project that tells a story conveying as much emotion as possible. The best albums always tell a story and grow as you listen. Stevie Wonder, Pink Floyd, Prince, and as of late, Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean’s albums are how I aspire to make large bodies of work.

‘Existentiality’ lead you to support artists like ABRA and TOKiMONSTA. What was that experience like? Do you have a favourite venue to play?
Max Watts was a very cool venue to play live, and supporting Tokimonsta was a really cool gig. I met some cool people, and learnt a lot about performance and crowd interaction.

Your dad was a guitarist in a metal band. That sounds like a pretty hectic dichotomy between your music and his—do you listen to much metal?
My dad still plays in a band to this day and he raised me to listen to all kinds of music. When I was three-years-old I knew every lyric to every song on The Best of The Police (which I have no memory of). But I grew up listening to a lot of Kiss, Toto, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Prince, The Police (obviously) and David Bowie. A lot of other bands and artists too, but they were the most frequented.

You released a playlist with songs that inspired ‘Ex’ and music that brings you joy on the day to day. To you, what’s the best music to wake up to?
Normally I don’t listen to music when I wake up so my mind is clear, which helps me to create sounds I haven’t heard before, but if I was to wake up to music I would listen to any Stevie Wonder song. GOAT.

You’ve said that Frank Ocean was the first urban artist that you listened to. So, which is the better album: Blonde or Channel Orange?
Nostalgia Ultra. Can’t choose between the other two, both such incredible albums.

All your photos have a super 90s aesthetic. Who is your style inspiration at the moment?
Will Smith circa 1991. [The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air] Season one, episode seven and season two, episode 23—some of the flyest fits ever rocked.



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