Josh Sallee is a 2010 graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma, facing the same frightening job market as fellow grads across the country. Luckily, he doesn’t have to worry about it — at least for now — because he’s got another gig lined up that’s been serving him pretty well.
Josh Sallee with The Cool Kids, Roosh Williams and Jabee
6 p.m. Friday
Farmers Public Market, 311 S. Klein
$18 advance, $22 door
“My dad keeps asking if I’ve put in any applications yet, and I keep telling him ‘no,’” Sallee said with a laugh. “I’ve been in school for like 17, 18 years straight through, so I have that in my back pocket and will probably be doing that for, like, 35 years, so why not take my break, go and have fun, and see what happens.”
In some ways, he’s just another unemployed 20-something with an advertising degree; then again, he’s got a full-time gig as a rapper.
You read right: a rapper, and a good one at that, already gracing the stage with the likes of Mickey Avalon and Kidz in the Hall. On Friday, he’ll share the stage with The Cool Kids and the metro’s own Jabee at the Farmers Public Market.
That doesn’t mean he’s not putting his degree to good use, however. When and if the time comes that Sallee should need to submit his résumé, he’ll have a full career of hands-on experience, with Bizzy Bone and Paul Wall as personal references. Don Draper has had just as much as an impact as André 3000 on Sallee, who has taken a natural talent for performing and amped it up with the principles of advertising.
“My schooling has been a force behind all of this, for sure,” he said. “I hate having student loans. That sucks, but I’d never been here or done this without it.”
I’m a rapper. I’m just not up there with Three 6 Mafia.
Sallee got bit by the rap bug back in middle school, via Busta Rhymes and Outkast.
“I’ve liked hip-hop from about fifth or sixth grade. My parents hated it, though. My mom would find the albums I snuck in and throw them away,” he said, laughing.
He didn’t try his hand at performing until high school, occasionally freestyling at parties, and didn’t pursue it any harder until a talent competition garnered him a spot opening for Bizzy Bone. Things have gone full-steam ever since, continually landing on major bills, bringing along his own sizable crowd to each of them. Such fanfare convinced his parents his cause wasn’t so lost.
“They didn’t react too poorly to me saying I wanted to be a rapper, especially once they started to see what was happening and that people were enjoying it,” Sallee said. “They finally came to a show at Cain’s Ballroom, saw all the people there and said, ‘As long as you are enjoying doing it, go for it.’” And he has, continuing local momentum while furthering his name through humble means and a lot of savvy, utilizing YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to move beyond Oklahoma.
“My biggest video was shot in my bedroom with a USB mic,” he said, laughing. “A remix of a Mike Posner song that went on to get 190,000 hits.”
Those people enjoy his rapping, despite his not being the most typical emcee.
“I’m a rapper,” he said. “I’m just not up there with Three 6 Mafia.”
He comes off as fresh and exciting for people who might not expect it from this white kid from suburban Tulsa, and he loves the reaction.
“Going to shows, maybe being in a little rougher location … seeing someone enjoy it after expressing some doubts, it’s cool to feel that,” he said. “They are kind of shocked. You can hear people go, ‘Whoa.’” He’s heard only positive feedback from his shows and debut mixtape, “Honor Roll Accolades,” released last fall. The release party for said album — which incorporates samples from the likes of Gorillaz, Arcade Fire and Passion Pit — was just another opportunity to flex his knowledge.
“We did a lot of promotion for that one. That’s how advertising has come into play, knowing demographics, knowing what people will come out to, knowing what night to do it,” Sallee said. “You can’t just grab an open date; you’ve got to have a plan.”
Speaking of, what about the future? “I feel like if I wasn’t doing this at a decent level, I wouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “I’ll worry about job applications later."