Radio-television-film student balances rapping career with film school

Lauren Zimmer

Troy Ogletree, radio-television-film junior, has more than 24,000 followers on Twitter. Ogletree is a rapper. He sings original songs, covers and remixes. After uploading a cover of “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore on YouTube, he gained a large following online. 

“In high school, I was too shy to perform because I didn’t know if it would be accepted,” Ogletree said. “But I kept writing, and that’s how I got into music. The responses online solidified that I could do this.”

Ogletree said he decided to pursue rap music because he admires the honesty and lack of censorship it possesses. His favorite rappers include Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar. 

“I love writing lines that people can connect to, and I like to make people laugh,” Ogletree said.

Ogletree said his lyrics are playful, but he wants his fans to know his messages are serious. He frequently raps about issues such as self-esteem and bullying. 

“A lot of people are depressed, and I want people to feel they aren’t the only ones going through the struggle,” Ogletree said. “I’ve been very blessed, but I want to use that to tell people it is OK and to keep people positive.”

Three times a week after school, Ogletree meets with Thomas Cardwell, computer science and music recording technology junior. Cardwell met Ogletree in an introductory radio-television-film course and realized they both had a passion for music. Cardwell is now producing Ogletree’s EP, “No Label,” which will be released next year.

“I’m from a more technical musical background and [Ogletree] has a completely different background,” Cardwell said. “When we collaborate with the song-writing process, we refine the sounds together, and I enjoy the rhyme of the language.”

Cardwell said it is crucial for an artist to gain recognition online.

“You don’t have to make a record with a label anymore because of the Internet,” Cardwell said. “The social networking aspect of producing is huge, and it’s just amazing.”

José Cruz, radio-television-film junior, met Ogletree during a radio-television-film course last year and is now the cinematographer for Ogletree’s music videos.

“I think the reason we work so well together is because we have the same goals and are in [radio-television-film],” Cruz said. “We sometimes have different styles, but we are very welcoming to each other’s ideas.”

Ogletree receives thousands of messages a day from fans. He said he is amazed that he came communicate with people from all over the world and that they take the time to listen to his music. 

“[My fans] are so nice, but I have to be careful of what I post,” Ogletree said. “Being a celebrity is not everything and not always glamorous. I just want to keep it as real as I can and just make a difference and impact people positively. I just think, ‘Can I tour and impact these people that are going to be leaders of the world?’”

Ogletree said his life goal is to inspire people through his art. While working on several art projects, Ogletree recently started acting. Despite this other pursuit, he would like to continue working on music.

“Music is important because — no matter what is going on — music is never going to die,” Ogletree said. “I think music is the number one thing people connect to. Everyone can listen to music in a second online, and it really makes a huge difference. It brings people together. If you take time to listen to music, it opens your eyes. It’s cool to think about.”