Josh Sallee with Chase Kerby
9 p.m. Friday
Kamp’s Deli & XIII X Lounge
1310 N.W. 25th
The guy was Eminem, and the album he was promoting, The Slim Shady LP, became imprinted on Sallee’s elementary-aged brain.
“I don’t think that was when I thought, ‘I want to be a rapper,’” said Sallee, the son of a church pastor. “But Eminem was the first rapper I became a huge fan of.”
Slim Shady’s reception was mainstream America’s first full-on embrace of hip-hop, suddenly scooping a gigantic audience of young, suburban listeners seeking — as always — a new outlet for their angst. Now, that generation is in college or working its first job, and well-conditioned to the genre’s ubiquity in society.
In other words, conditions are perfect for a young, talented rapper from the suburbs to make a living slinging hip-hop online, and Sallee’s working to make sure that it’s for good.
“Man, it takes four years to blow up overnight,” the 24-year-old University of Central Oklahoma graduate said, citing Wiz Khalifa, who saw that much time pass between signing with Warner Bros. and notching his first No. 1 hit. “I want to do it the right way, though. I want it to last, like a career — I don’t want it to make me go crazy.
“Look at Stoney LaRue! What a great career! You get to travel where you want, make great money, have a powerful voice. He probably has a wonderful family and he doesn’t have to worry about anything.”
Sallee’s sophomore LP, the brand-new Probable Flaws, is a decisive and exciting step forward that showcases the kind of chops, connections and determination requisite of a professional musician. Its release party is Friday night at Kamp’s Deli.
Spread over 45 minutes, its 13 tracks run the gamut of thoughtful hip-hop, whether playfully swooning over charming samples, speeding up for maximalist bangers or tumbling into a narcotized, subwoofer-heavy beat spiked with neon melodies.
Flaws’ tone is effusive, riding high on lyrics that entail what it’s like to be 24, talented and naturally optimistic. It’s focused by his rapid-fire verses and supported by production from his 23-year-old producer/roommate, Blev (né Courtney Blevins).
“Josh and I would go fishing and listen to [Lil Wayne’s] Tha Carter II,” said Blevins, who befriended Sallee in fifth grade. “We built a bond through [hip-hop].”
Best of all, Sallee has made it clear that he’s moved beyond the collegeloving persona of songs that populated both last year’s debut album, Return to Sender, and his 2010 mixtape, Honor Roll Accolades. Now he’s committed to expressing a more mature self.
“We wanted to send a message to the folks who liked Return to Sender,” said Sallee. “That I’d grown up a little bit after ‘So Chill,’ but that I still wanted to keep the club bouncing.”
He also caught a fortuitous break.
Three of Flaws’ songs were recorded at Atlanta’s illustrious Tree Sounds Studios under the ear of multiplatinum hip-hop producer Groove Chambers, who invited Sallee to his hallowed pop grounds unsolicited, via Twitter.
“My mom said, ‘You should go to Atlanta tomorrow,’ so we drove 14 hours the next day,” said Sallee. “Then we were recording where Adele had sang a month before. It was just like, ‘Wow, where am I?’”
Repping by rapping
Raised in Bixby, Sallee moved to Oklahoma City to attend UCO, and has no plans to return. Or head anywhere else, for that matter.
“I’m not done here in Oklahoma,” he said. “My name’s going to be attached to this state.”
Probable Flaws does more than just name-check his hometown. Sallee loves to mock popular highbrow sentiment about the state in “the middle of the map,” on the infectious “OKC to KC.”
Predictable of a Midwesterner raised on family values, Sallee expressed disdain for nihilistic rappers like Odd Future and hollow characters like Mac Miller. Instead, he’s inspired by contemporaries like Portland’s superearnest Macklemore and the creative Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar.
And he doesn’t use offensive language, either, giving listeners one less reason to hate on him.
“I don’t want people to think I’m clean ’cause of a God thing,” he said. “I don’t want to be like Jeremy Lin or Tim Tebow, where my beliefs are at the forefront of my career. I want to become vulnerable to Oklahoma. I want to come home to here.”