Oakland, California’s “OKOLO ThaDonDiva” was born Okolo Thomas and has been making a name for herself in the music industry since the age of 9. Her style is hard-core sexy, unique and flawless. Her look is exotic.
OKOLO’S lyrics are reality filled. Her dad had been on drugs since birth and she was raised by a hard working single mother. OKOLO took to the streets, hustling and staying in trouble. Her love for acting, hip-hop and performing helped turn her life around. OKOLO released her debut solo album, “The Real Diamond in the Ruff”, in 2006.
The album featured artists such as Latoya London and Messy Marv with music production from DJ Darryl who produced “Keep Your Head Up” for 2Pac. Known as the Bay Area’s best kept secret, her resume today consists of hits like Money Bag$, Boss Chic and Hot N Wet. Her raspy voice speaks volumes on every track.
OKOLO says she was “born to be a star”. She is a writer, aspiring actress and is currently launching her own accessory line. She is an educated business woman, who understands the necessity of hard work, networks and the bottom line. OKOLO is ambitious, personable and talented and although she is a diva, being a single mom has taught her how to be humble, how to make the necessary sacrifices and to work hard for her dreams. Taking charge of her destiny and making moves to make her goals a reality, OKOLO is a don diva in every sense of the word.
HipHopLead- How did you come up with the artist name of “OKOLO ThaDonDiva”?
OKOLO- Aristotle, one of the producers that I work with actually gave me that name, mostly because I am the sole investor in my music product to date. All my studio time, tracks, videos etc. are HereAfter Ent., my record label. I always knew I was a female boss but when he gave me that name it was official.
HipHopLead- Like many artists it seemed you endured a rough childhood and you are now blazing your own trail. How did the relationship with your Father either help or hurt your journey to be the artist you are today?
OKOLO- I think the pain of my past helps me endure. If I could make it through the negative in my past I could make it through anything. There wasn’t always pain, but the pain is what forced me to grow. It is what forced me to hustle.
HipHopLead- Are you two on speaking terms as of now?
OKOLO- Even though he was on drugs he was never an absent father. We always had a relationship. My dad ended up completely turning his life around and started becoming the father I always knew he could be. He is deceased now for a few years and I really miss him. It hurts to talk about him. I wish I had more time just to tell him I love him again.
HipHopLead.com- Do you have any songs speaking on your relationship with your parents?
OKOLO – I don’t have any recorded songs but I am a poet first so I had a poem that was actually published a while back.
You gave me the best gift life
You and daddy made an immaculate conception that night
Not using no protection then I started to fight
Then I knew I was the blessing when I got to the light
Loved me, hugged me had my back tough even when I messed up
Still had faith in me, even when I tested your trust
Chose to have me and you could’ve aborted me
Young dreams of rapping the only ones supported me…
HipHopLead- Growing up with a single Mother is no easy task at all. In a way, as 2pac said, “what don’t kill me will make me stronger”, do you feel that those hard times made you the “Boss Chick” you are today?
OKOLO- Definitely, I raise identical twin girls by myself and it’s hard. However, I have to be strong for my girls because they didn’t ask to be here. When despite the odds you survive, that’s a boss. For us women, we have to juggle a lot. So for a single mother I’m the provider the protector the nurse the mother and the father. You deal with the cards you’re dealt and keep it moving. I can say I quote the Serenity Prayer A LOT!!!
HipHopLead- Out of all your tracks what made you want to do the video for “Boss Chick” ?
OKOLO – I did Boss Chick because it is an important message for women. You don’t see women in a positive light in this industry often. I didn’t chose the concept for my first video “Money Bag$” and I wanted to make sure that I hit the world with something that bumped but at the same time was empowering. It didn’t hurt that the track was produced by Grammy Award Winning producer Ryan “Ghost” Bowser.
HipHopLead- What is Okolo’s definition of a “Boss Chick” ?
OKOLO – A Boss Chick is a woman that can take care of her man, her children and still have a career. A lot of women are into this independent mind frame where they don’t need a man. But most of us independent women that don’t have a man, truly want one. A Boss Chick is a woman that can have it all, do it all and still take on more. We give it to him at night, make breakfast in the morning, take the kids to school, go to work and/or school and make it all look easy. Boss Chicks GO and we go hard!!
HipHopLead- Are you interested in signing to a major label or is an indie label better suited for you?
OKOLO – I like the freedom of being independent and I like the support of a major. I’ve seen both. Having been on the Steady Mobb’n Premeditated Drama album (Puff Puff Pass) as an early teen gave me a taste of what it’s like. At the end of the day, my goal is to be in a position where the world demands and can appreciate my music. Whether it happens through an independent or a major, it will happen.
HipHopLead- It seems that in Hip Hop there can’t be more then one popping female rapper at a time. Same thing with a white rapper. And anyone who comes into play already gets compared to the current leading artist. How do you think we in the hip hop culture can condition ourselves to accept more then one at a time?
OKOLO – I think what I’ve seen historically is one female rapper as a part of a crew. You never really see more than one female rapper in one camp like you see male rappers. For example, Lil’ Kim, Missy, Eve and Trina were all out around the same time, but different camps. Today I think it’s a little different because there was a void for a while with female rappers on a major scale. I think the difference is males can be comrads and women are sometimes be catty and want to be the only one. But there’s no way that you can claim you’re the best if you haven’t experienced or can’t take a little competition. That’s not the best, that’s a monopoly.
HipHopLead- Who are you favorite rappers of all time?
OKOLO – 2 Pac because he was a part of the music fam and is my lyrical hero. Biggie because he was so smooth and clever, he seems like he could just rap you right out of your panties. I loved the fact that every track on both of these two artists albums beginning to end were solid, none of that bullshit. I love and admire Jay Z, because lyrically he is a friggin genius and even smarter as a business man. I love Kanye also because he is a character without trying to be a character, he’s just himself and his lyrics always mean something. I really like Wale and Kendrick Lamar too. My bad, that’s six.
HipHopLead- How bout your top 5 female rappers of all time?
OKOLO- I really named them in Boss Chick. “Boss Chicks hella tight, Salt N Pepa together mixed with a little Lyte, Hardcore like Kim, Stylish like Eve…” These female rappers and Yo-Yo charted the course for me. They are who I studied. I am also my favorite female rapper. No one is coming with my combination.
HipHopLead- When did you realize making music was your calling?
OKOLO – At the age of nine I wrote my first rap but I really realized it was my calling when I started making hits and industry standard songs and videos with my independent budget. When I realized hey, what I have out there can be in rotation with the best of them, this is really what I’m meant to do.
HipHopLead- Have you dropped any mixtapes, since you debut album in 2006?
OKOLO- I dropped a mixtape called the Ear Candy Mixtape that I pressed up, gave away and sold out here in Cali on the streets. I was also featured on other mixtapes. At that point though, it was necessary that I take some time off to improve the quality of my music, my lyrics, making sure my songs were mixed and mastered to a professional standard etc. I basically took time off to re-invent how I approached this whole game.
HipHopLead- Do you have any new albums or mixtapes in the works? If so, can you elaborate?
OKOLO – I just dropped my “Money Bag$” mixtape available on datpiff.com and I will be dropping my album “Money Bag$” this summer . In a couple of weeks my EP called “Ear Candy” will be available for free download on-line. I will be doing a mix-tape between that called “The Ugly Duckling Mixtape”. But ‘Put It In The Air’ is my latest single and that song is pretty dope.
HipHopLead- How have you evolved since your 2006 album as an artist compared to now?
OKOLO – My confidence, my knowledge of the business, sense of direction and the amount of songs I have. I’m a beast now. Back in 2006 “The Real” Diamond in Tha Ruff was all of my artillery. I didn’t have vision, I just did songs. These days I have plenty of songs I can choose from and I am constantly staying in the studio recording more. I also write for others so it has become more of a business for me. I learned a lot from my first album and was able to apply it to how I do things now. I always try to learn from my mistakes.
HipHopLead- We see you dropped a video titled “Money Bag$”. For one what inspired that video?
OKOLO – So speaking of mistakes…hahaha. I LOVE this song and the video! I think the song was a great record. But this was my first video and a lot didn’t go right. The concept was the directors and the idea originated from the Pulp Fiction Honey Bunny scene. He intended on doing more than just b-role shots but my style team only had the two looks. So we rolled with what we had. This impacted my branding because there was no separation between me the artist and the robbery scene that was taking place. Then, on top of that, we had chiefs in the background telling me to rap like I was on the block. I made the mistake of listening to too many people. But it was my first video so I gave myself a pass, learned from that experience and redeemed myself from a branding perspective with “Boss Chick” and “HotWet”!
HipHopLead- In “Money Bag$” you spit “Cash and credit only, No downloads for free/ are kidding me?/ everything costs..” Is it is safe to say you don’t believe in giving out free music?
OKOLO – You guys are hella funny. I can’t believe you caught that. At that time I didn’t view the internet as a tool to market and promote as much as I did as an avenue to get my product into the hands of the consumer. Things are different, 2 year olds are rapping now. So you have to put stuff out there to differentiate yourself from the other 50 million rappers so people can hear that your stuff is the truth. So I do give out free music.
HipHopLead- Do you think the over saturated mixtape market is hurting the genre or helping it?
OKOLO – I think mixtapes with a purpose or with great features are good. I think they build up anticipation and a lot of artists have come up from mixtapes. But what is the new thing? It’s about innovation. The new idea is going to set you apart, not doing what everyone else is doing. A mixtape just isn’t going to work for everybody.
HipHopLead- What was it like working with a producer who helped craft one of the dopest records in Hip Hop history (2pac- Keep Ya Head Up)?
OKOLO – It was an honor. I always felt like if this man believed in me, the same man that produced one of Tupac’s greatest hits, then I am that chick. I am the only female rapper that DJ ever got behind. Not only did he produce Tupac, but he was a Beats by the Pound Producer for No Limit so he produced for Snoop, Mystical, Master P and the whole No Limit family. I was a kid then so I had no idea how to use that opportunity. I do now.
HipHopLead- On your song “My Honey” you were basically stating that you are the type of woman that is right for your personal interest. You said “promise to always build you up and never break you down/ and you’ll never hear about me ever sleeping around”. Was this song made from a personal experience?
OKOLO – I just think that the odds are against the black community and especially the black man. So from a personal sense, with whoever I am with, I am just the type of woman to fall back and let the man be king regardless of what he is going through. I will follow and be loyal to him as long as he is leading me in the right direction.
HipHopLead- With that said do you think women cheat as much as men?
OKOLO – No. I think you have some women that will cheat. But the majority of us were raised that if we have sex with too many men we are a hoe while sleeping around is a badge of honor for men. So I think the majority of women would feel guilty if they did cheat, that’s just me. However, you do have those with the “don’t give a fuck” mentality that do what it do and don’t care. I can’t knock them either. Sorry guys…karma can be a bitch.
HipHopLead- Ok lets switch topics … it’s not often you hear of any female rappers repping Oakland, or even Cali for that matter. Is it easier or harder for you to brand your self being tucked away in the golden state?
OKOLO – It’s definitely more challenging being from Oakland. The music business is in LA, New York and Atlanta so I definitely have to be creative and think outside the box. In this industry it’s all about who you know so that makes it harder for me since the right elbows aren’t out here. But I network and collaborate with people outside of the bay and have actually started promoting outside of the state. Also, I travel a lot. My network is growing like Verizon!
HipHopLead- Do you think if you were a man the process would be easier?
OKOLO – Fa sho! It’s a man’s world. I am a female rapper, with my own record label pushing my own product. Some men probably don’t like it too much, like who is this bitch? Some may respect me more. At any rate, my thing is I have to take control of my own destiny. I can’t sit back and wait for somebody else to push me, help me put me out etc. I have to push me because nobody believes in me like I do. However, I do have my brothers behind me that support me and help me when I need them and step in if necessary.
Here at HipHopLead.com we like to ask some questions a bit out the norm to give our readers a broader outlook on you. So fasten your seat belts… here we go..
HipHopLead- What’s your favorite food?
OKOLO – I love pasta. I know I have Asian and Indian in me but I think there is some Italian somewhere because I love Italian food. I also of course love me some soul food. Turkey necks, candied yams, greens, mac n cheese and corn bread. Okay – now I’m hungry.
HipHopLead- Tell me one of the craziest things you ever did?
OKOLO – Definitely having sex on the freeway. Not the Bill Clinton kind. And yes we were pulled over, well sort of. But listen, you shouldn’t text or talk while driving so you shouldn’t have sex either. Keep it safe, haha.
HipHopLead- Do you think we are going to have any more attacks like what just happened in Boston?
OKOLO – Hopefully with Obama in the administration America is seen as less of a bully by our surrounding countries. I hope this does not happen again. My prayers go out to all of the victims and families that were affected by this horrible incident.
HipHopLead- What’s more ratchet, Love and Hip Hop or The Bad Girls Club?
OKOLO – Oh the Bad Girls Club is way more ratchet. You have some ratchetness that goes down on in Love and Hip-Hop but the Bad Girls Club is like the rat hole.
HipHopLead- Snoop Doggy Dogg, Snoop Dogg or Snoop lion?
OKOLO – I like Snoop Dog. I don’t too much get Snoop Lion. But that’s big bruh, the big dog and he can do whateva he want!
HipHopLead- Tell us a hidden talent OKOLO as?
OKOLO – I can juggle with my ass cheeks. Just kidding. I act, dance and write poetry. I also sew and have an accessory line that I will be launching soon so stay tuned! I have designs that you have never seen in your life!
Back to the norm ..
HipHopLead- After listening to you for a while it’s apparent that lyrics are important to you. How do you feel about the lyrical element of the game kind of drifting off over the years?
OKOLO – I don’t think it has drifted off necessarily; you have Kanye, Jay Z, Wale, Kendrick Lamar Little Wayne and Rick Ross and more who have great lyrics. I think that once you don’t have control over your own art form others control what people see. Artists aren’t always signed for the best reasons. The consumer just has to take a stand and not support whack shit. We can’t always let popularity and a great marketing strategy force us into liking an artist that’s bootsie (Oakland term for WHACK).
HipHopLead- Name one song of yours that will have the HHL viewers hooked?
OKOLO – I have a lot of great songs but if I have to name one it would be ‘Put It In The Air’ It’s an up tempo – smoke, trunk and club friendly song that you all will LOVE! It’s definitely a record to nod ya head to.
HipHopLead- With that said it was great chopping it up with you. This is the part where the floor is yours .. so give any plugs, shout outs, F.U.’s .. whatevers clever….
OKOLO- I want to give you a shout out for this interview. It was a pleasure. I want to shout out my hometown of Oakland, California! I want to shout out my fans for all your love and support! The producers that I work with Ryan “Ghost” Bowser, Aristotle the Great, Tha Mekanix, One Drop Scott, Charlie O, Middle C and DJ Daryl. Also a shout goes to anybody that is hustling or struggling to make a way for a better life.