The hosts announced the next performer, Aaron Sawyer.
Sawyer walked down to the stage, took off his socks (something he says helps him feel ‘grounded’) and asked the crowd to give itself a hug of self-appreciation before breaking down into empowered vocal riffs that left a stunned silence hanging among the audience. Then, he spent the next five minutes freestyle rapping acapella, letting off a stream of conscience full of dense wordplay and surprisingly impactful content.
The performance at SUAB’s Open Mic Night was unique to say the least. Not only was Sawyer the lone hip-hop act of the night, the level of passion and creativity he brought to his performance set him apart. His words and his presence felt electric with a desire to take on the world in every possible way.
A marketing and entrepreneurship senior at OSU, Sawyer spends his free time teaching yoga at the Colvin and recording raps he releases on Spotify. The beginning is a good place to understand Sawyer and his work.
“I’ll take it all the way back,” Sawyer said. “I was born in the ambulance of St. John’s hospital, April 22, on Earth day. 8 a.m., fresh on the sunrise, couldn’t even make it to the hospital, I was ready, bro.”
Growing up in Broken Arrow, he said his earliest memories of writing lyrics were in creative writing classes. He grew up listening to punk rock, but a natural affinity for rap music grew as he watched BET when he got home from school. He didn’t know it yet, but an artist was growing inside of him.
When he graduated high school and was getting ready for college, Sawyer realized the true power music holds. He went to a music festival with his sister as a graduation gift. He said the experience he had at that weekend in the middle of nowhere getting lost in the music, opened him up to a new world.
“That’s when the writing really started,” Sawyer said. “I had to understand, I had to decode. I was writing and it just got more and more in depth; I became more and more curious about what was really going on.”
Most of his early writing full of lots of anger and rage, Sawyer began falling into the trope of ‘angry white boy rapper’ that so many kids like him become. However, an accident that left him with two broken wrists brought him into a new world that opened him up to finding peace: yoga.
Prior to breaking his wrists, Sawyer was an avid weightlifter. After the accident, he wanted to keep his body in shape and discovered Rebel Yoga, a yoga class led by a reformed felon teaching others to find tranquility in their lives. It was here that Sawyer received a lesson that has stuck with him ever since.
“He was the first person to tell me, ‘Aaron, sit down and shut up,’” Sawyer said. “He was the one who told me I sound like an angry white boy, that ‘there are enough angry white boys in the world, we don’t need another one.’ I had to sit with that, and that prompted me to start tapping into source, into spirit for my message, rather from my rage and anger.”
Yoga became an artform beyond a workout for Sawyer, a way to express himself with his body to find peace and balance. He took a semester abroad in Australia where he spent most of his time doing yoga, meditating and writing.
“I started breaking down the English language, understanding that they call it ‘spelling,’” Sawyer said. “These are spells that we’re casting, this is magic. So, I understand that I can break down my reality with words.”
Coming back from Australia, he had a fresh perspective and a new drive to achieve his goals. He began recording tracks that blended his hip-hop style with the roots of punk music, some that he would release on Spotify, including a full-length album titled ‘Free Your Mind.’ Sawyer is passionate about blending the genres, saying that 808 drums and electric guitars are something he loves.
“On my softer days, I want to go back into the jazz and R&B elements with the poetry, but for concerts, I want to mix those bass drops with riffs,” Sawyer said. “It can’t get any better. I learned that sometimes, whether people understand the lyrics or not, sometimes it’s irrelevant because it’s a feeling; they get the vibe behind it.”
Looking to the future, Aaron said he wants to make albums that are hip-hop, albums that are punk rock, he said he’d even do an EDM album if he could make it not corny. Above all else, he wants to make music that brings light to others
“It’s up to me, for my free will, to show people what you can do with language,” Sawyer said. “And how you can create a beautiful reality by speaking positive existence.”