The word of Ox

The best rapper you’ve never heard of.

The word of Ox

Conrad Schoenleber

He goes by Ox.

“Not Julian, only my family calls me Julian.” Ox fits. An imposing yet soft-spoken man in his mid-twenties (he refuses to share his age because it’s “irrelevant”), Ox has declared himself “The Midwest Machine” with his latest album, “Death of a Salesman,” available for free download on his website.

Ox is many things: egotistical, brazen, troubled, but most importantly, talented. Transplanted from Madison to Minneapolis and a senior at the University of Minnesota, Ox got into music at a young age.

“When everyone else was outside doing sports or whatnot, I was in the house taping off the radio,” he said. “I grew up with music. Music is second to breathing, and I really mean that.”

He’s not lying. He claims he never takes off his lime green headphones when in public.

Ox cares so deeply about music that it has even caused problems. In and out of jail and getting in arguments with producers, Ox has probably missed his chance to make it big multiple times. But that’s all behind him. He’s much more mature, and he’s ready to become a part of the Minneapolis scene. His latest album should help him along the way.

“Death of a Salesman” is a thoughtful and hard-hitting rap album. It’s honest and personal, and by the end you feel like you personally know Ox.

“I’m a deep, depressed, dark person,” he said. “Storytelling and talking have always been my strongest points, and I try to put myself into music.”

The album starts off with a soulful tune called, âÄúThe Return.âÄù Produced by Man Mantis, the beat immediately hooks you. Altered Motown samples and solid turntablism back up Ox’s powerful delivery. Although the lyrics are of the cliched, “I’m back mother[expletive]” nature, it’s an inspired track and a commanding opener.

Things take a decidedly darker turn on “1st Gun.” Told from the perspective of someone buying a gun for the first time, the track is introspective and intimidating. “Today’s a special day, I just copped my first gun/I know my capabilities, I don’t really need one,” Ox spits. It’s an insightful look into why people get into crime in the first place and stands out as one of the best songs on the album.

Ox is a powerful storyteller. From the track “War” or “I’m Walking Away (From U),” “Death of a Salesman” tells the story of a young man struggling to find his way in a world that he doesn’t fully understand. It’s dark and turbulent, reflecting the life of a troubled rapper living in Madison.

“I was just in a super dark place, and I could have easily killed myself, but I was too scared to, so I was ready for someone else to do something bad to me,” Ox said.

Things have improved for Ox since moving to Minneapolis. Graduating this year with a major in youth studies, he plans to continue making music while working with children. His intelligence and honesty are a welcome change from the “swag” inanity of much of mainstream rap. “Death of a Salesman” is worth repeated listens. Get hooked by the beats, but stay for the lyricism.