Rapper bounces back from technical difficulties to establish himself as a musical force
OG Vern's music career almost ended prematurely in high school due to faulty equipment.
At the time, the rapper, born Vern Christian in Akron 20 years ago, had tried his hand at MCing several times, first at age 8, and again early in his teenage years, each time walking away, unsure it was meant to be. In 2014, OG Vern decided to give it one more go, recording his song “Method Man” over a “Sweet Love” instrumental cribbed off the Wu-Tang rapper's album, Tical 2000: Judgement Day. Shortly after he finished recording, his computer crashed, wiping the track from existence.
“After that I gave up. I was like, ‘It's not meant for me to do music.' I was done with it,” said Vern in an early June interview at an Olde Towne East coffee shop.
Fortunately, fate intervened in the form of a friend, who invited Vern to freestyle on a track. Vern agreed on the condition his appearance remain anonymous. “And then people started saying that they liked it, and everybody was like, ‘Is this you?'” said the rapper, who demurred, managing to maintain his cover in spite of the praise.
But buoyed by the support, Vern re-recorded “Method Man” in the ensuing weeks. He has maintained a furious pace in the years since, culminating in his most recent release, NOT4THEWEAKHEARTED, a dark, menacing effort he crafted in the fall of 2017 while coping with frustrations brought about by these efforts to carve out space within the industry.
“Stuff gets really weird as a musician. Promoters will try to cheat you out of money. Sometimes you feel like people forgot about you, or that you're not doing enough,” Vern said. “Being so young and having that expectation for success … when it doesn't happen right away then it's like, ‘Back to the drawing board,' which was frustrating. I had a reality check with this one.”
While the beats tend toward moody and foreboding, Vern maintains his composure throughout — “Crack under pressure, I never,” he raps on the tone-setting “Up!” — rhyming about both his money-making dreams as well as his desire to leave something even more tangible behind for his 11-month-old daughter: a musical legacy. Indeed, by the time Vern asks, “Is you gonna sink or fucking swim?” as the seven-track effort nears its close, there's little doubt he'll be skimming his way across the surface with water skier grace.
Growing up, Vern, who lived in Akron until age 10, appeared destined for a career in music. His mother, Cordella, was a rapper, and his father, also named Vern Christian, was a rapper, DJ and producer, as well as the owner of the record store 2 Live Music. Both served as a source of inspiration and sounding boards who were unafraid to dish out criticism.
“My mom [would listen to my music], she'd tell you straight up, like, ‘This is not it,'” Vern said, and laughed. “But listening to them helped me.”
In more recent years, Vern received an added lift from late Columbus rapper Sheron “Nes Wordz” Colbert, who appears on album track “Play Around,” courtesy of producer Jack “Tha Audio Unit” Burton.
“Nes came up to me like a phantom in the night after one of my shows [in 2017] and was like, ‘Yo, I mess with you. I been watching you.' And he starts telling me stuff I've been doing over the last six months to where I was like, ‘Even I forgot I did that,'” Vern said. “We were supposed to work on a song together and we never got to it, so when Jack told me he was able to do that for me, it did make me cry. I'd always listened to [Nes'] music, but getting to meet him … had such an impact. He was just super genuine. But that's just Wordz.”