Omari Love on New York, Nightlife and Sobriety

Omari Love on New York, Nightlife and Sobriety

Story by Justin Moran / Photography by Eliza Jouin / Styling by Sophia Eberhardt / Makeup and hair by Briana McChristonMay 19, 2023

Growing up in Minnesota, Omari Love never felt entirely understood — not because they didn’t see themselves reflected in the world around them, but because the world has a tendency to ostracize those who do things differently. Like so many artists before them, moving to New York ultimately unlocked a much larger world of community and self-discovery, which led to the creation of Love’s new album, The Flower That Grew From Blood, out on SoundCloud today.

The project is “dark and dismal, with elements of rock and roll,” as Love tells PAPER, which helps underscore its key themes: “Pain, loss, grief, growth and acceptance.” This journey, of needing to hit the bottom before eventually arriving on top with fresh perspective, echoes the way Love experienced making this album. “I’ve discovered that growth is an ongoing process with no margins,” they say. “I’ve learned that pain is inevitable.”

Belt: Vivienne Westwood

Like its title suggests, emotion bleeds from every track, with distorted blown out production and brooding vocal delivery. Some tracks lean more heavily on dramatic guitars (“Ghost Movies”), while others see Love experimenting with electronic instrumentation (“I’ve Had Enough”). For a new artist, The Flower That Grew From Blood is ambitious and rides in its own lane — a space Love is admittedly comfortable with. Even so, they say “there were moments where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to release this project, but people continued to affirm the idea within me.”

And we’re so happy they did. Listen to The Flower That Grew From Blood and read Omari Love’s thoughts on nightlife, sobriety and St. Paul, below.

On St. Paul, Minnesota:

Since childhood, I’ve been trying to find a way to help others form an understanding on who I am. I grew up somewhere that was often considered the coldest place on earth. And not only was this place a frozen tundra, it was also at one point the murder capital of America. So naturally, I was n search of an outlet or a sort of asylum that could free me from its merciless grasp. Growing up, I was always quiet and often misread. I was always the outcast. I never felt that I couldn’t relate to others, though, because I always saw a piece of me in everyone. I more so felt that others couldn’t relate to me because I was never afraid to express myself, while my peers were always afraid of what others might think of them.

On Self-Expression:

Music has always been my cornerstone. Even before I learned that I could create music myself, it had always been there to console me. Producing and recording music was the first form of self-expression that provided me a sense of liberation. It was through music where I first started to realize the possibilities that I could possess, and it was through music where I started to realize just how interconnected the world is. Around the same time, I discovered my love for tattooing. Tattooing has provided me the foundation to sustain myself for life and I am forever grateful for that. Tattooing and music both ultimately brought me to New York.

On New York: 

I was 18 when I moved to New York from St. Paul and, at first, my primary goal was to pursue my passion as an artist. But as I grew older and as my perspective began to broaden, I realized there is far more to life than merely pursuing a career. That was the most profound realization that I could’ve had and since then I’ve been in search of something larger. Living in New York has been the most humbling experience. Since I’ve lived here, I feel that I’ve learned so many valuable lessons about love, loss, humility and growth. I will carry these lessons with me until the end of my life.

Tracksuit: Opening Ceremony

On Nightlife: 

My relationship to nightlife has changed a lot as I’ve grown and nightlife in general has changed for me, but at one point it felt like a sort of safe haven. It was a place where I would go to break away from the pressure of day-to-day life — where I could dance and express myself freely without the daunting anxiety of perception that day brought. It was underneath the bright gleaming strobe lights, through the thick vapor of the fog, and beside the colorful melodies and loud drums where I met some of the most important people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing — where I’ve shared some of the most important conversations that I’ve ever had. And where I realized again, the profound ways in which music could connect the world.

On Sobriety: 

I was introduced to drugs at a really young age. From prescription pills to psychedelics, back to prescription pills and then eventually to powders. At first I would take drugs for fun, then they became something I would do out of boredom and, eventually, something I would resort to when I felt anxious or anything unpleasant. Before I knew it, I was convinced I couldn’t live without them — and this cycle went on for years to come. I didn’t realize it was eating me alive until I had already given so much of myself to it: so much of my money, so much of my health, so much of my energy. and so much of my time.

Now that I’ve broken this cycle, I realize that the dragon I was so occupied with chasing was right there within me all along. For anyone who is still caught in the cycle that I was, know that you’re more powerful than you might be able to imagine at this time. Know that you’re loved and supported, and that there is nothing to escape. The world is a difficult place to navigate, but it only becomes easier when you’re taking care of yourself — treating your body and mind with kindness and love.

On "The Flower:" 

The flower is a representation of life, growth and fragility. The flower follows what makes it feel happy and warm, and blooms despite the circumstances that encompass it. The flower is found even in the darkest fractures of the earth and also blossoms in rain. Although the flower is delicate, it never worries about whether it will wither. The flower is something beautiful that people have always admired despite it growing from dirt, murky water and mud.

Vest: Jean Paul Gaultier, Pants and necklace: Vivienne Westwood

Throughout May, PAPER will roll out our final projects under the most recent editorial team. These pieces continue pushing forward our mission to provide a platform for fresh talent and important stories too often overlooked. From the subjects to the creatives behind the images, our hope is for you to discover new things and be inspired by what you see. As always, thank you for showing up and being part of our community. –Justin Moran, Editor-in-Chief

Photography: Eliza Jouin
Styling: Sophia Eberhardt
Makeup and hair: Briana McChriston
Assistant: Robel Jacob