For independent artists, there’s the dream and the grind.
Omar Aura: On My Dig is a film about the grind.
The documentary â€“ directed by Clovis High School grad Colby K. Neal and available for digital release this week â€“ follows Fresno rapper Omar Aura on his trip the The A3C Festival in Atlanta. The festival and conference is one of the largest annual hip-hop gatherings, with thousands of artists playing in 10-plus venues over two days. Last year, Aura was chosen to perform by fans in an online competition that pitted him against other rappers in March Madness-style brackets.
It was a big opportunity for the rapper, and not his first.
â€œHeâ€™s had some flashes of success,â€ says Neal, who met Aura while working on the video for the rapperâ€™s track â€œMannie Fresh, Kanye.â€ In Aura, he saw a universal story of struggle and determination; of the lengths an artist will go to to keep the dream alive.
â€œHe was everywhere I was after that,â€ Aura says.
The pair traveled to Atlanta together, shared a hotel room while the rapper spent three days performing, networking and handing out the 500 mix tapes heâ€™d produced for the trip.
Back home, Neal tracked down old footage of the rapper, met with his friends and family and followed Aura as he returned to his day job as a personal trainer. He captured Aura in private moments. Well, they would have been private, if not for the camera, Aura says.
The rapper admits his original intentions for doing the film were self-serving. So, he was nervous when he realized there might be moments in the movie when he wouldnâ€™t look cool.Â â€œBut then, it was too late, anyway,â€ he says.Â â€œHeâ€™s shooting it as a film and Iâ€™m a character, a real living, live character in that film.â€
â€œOmar Aura: On My Digâ€ tracks Auraâ€™s beginnings doing ciphers and rap battles in high school. It follows his relationship with other emcees in the Fresno scene, including Fashawn and the Grizzly City Boys. It questions the rapperâ€™s choices and possible missteps, Neal says.
Here is an artist with talent, appeal and drive who still doesnâ€™t have a record deal. Neal wondered why Aura wasnâ€™t more mainstream. Itâ€™s one of the questions he wanted to pose in the film â€“ to both the audience and Aura, himself.
â€œOmar Aura: On My Digâ€ might not answer the question right out, but it did give the rapper some perspective on where the grind will take him next.
â€œI can compete,â€ Aura says.
â€œItâ€™s just not going to happen staying put.â€
This is just a small chapter in Auraâ€™s life and career. If anything, â€œOn My Digâ€ is a film to be continued.
â€œIâ€™m still 1,000 percent committed to my music,â€ he says.