Just Joshin’ 

Like millions of young suburban teens at the turn of the millennium, Josh Sallee watched rapt as a man in his late 20s with dyed-blond hair, a baggy white T-shirt and a dour expression rapped about his severe emotional confusion on MTV’s Total Request Live.

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.”

Flaws-less

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.”

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