Quiet as kept, Omarion is still around the music scene. The braids are gone but the same love for singing the 26-year old showed as the front man of the teenage heartthrob group B2K is as strong as ever.

The Watts, California native who gave fans the 2006 hit single “Ice Box” is facing an exciting time in his life. While not quite the young guy in the R&B game anymore, he certainly isn’t hanging his mic or dancing shoes up anytime soon. To celebrate his resolve through the B2K drama, rumor mill and silent doubts, Omarion hooked up with DJ Drama to produce The Awakening. The 19-track mixtape showcases an artist re-energized and willing to experiment with different sounds, mainly hip-hop with features that include Method Man and Lil Wayne.

Omarion took time out to talk with XXL about his love for hip-hop, plans for raising his stock as an entertainer and promises you can expect him to create more music, videos and covers of memorable sounds from the 1990s (see “One In A Million” and “Come Talk” off The Awakening).—Jonathan Marshall

XXL: So is this your first mixtape? If so, why did you decide to take the mixtape route?

Omarion: Yeah, this is my first mixtape. Really I used to be opposed to the mixtape thing because the time set was so interesting from where I came from. You know I came from doing this when I was young and knowing if we wanna put something together for the fans, we put the product together and we sell it. But the mixtape is so where it’s at right now, so many new acts and young people and artists that even get in a position where their company doesn’t want to support them the way they need to support them, it’s been the route. I just sat back and I was like, "what would be the ultimate gift for my fans?" DJ Drama supported me on it. To me it’s not even a mixtape. I really went into the album format in my mind when I was creating it, man. It’s being well received and I’m so grateful that I’m able to give the fans something to cherish.

You mentioned DJ Drama. To add your name to the acts he’s reached out to, how much of a confidence boost is that?

I was out in Paris and I went to this club and I saw Drama. I was like, "what’s Drama doing here?" He’s one of the few DJs that I respect that goes around the world and really that’s what I been pushing. If I’m not in the states, then I’m in Paris. I’m in a couple different places promoting and just creating more awareness of who Omarion is. Really that’s the reason why I decided to go the Drama route. Drama is awesome at what he does. He really puts forth 110 percent effort. And he has an interesting audience. To throw something down not only introduces me in another light like records with Method Man where I’m rapping on it and its Method Man which is pretty much unorthodox. To me right now it’s all about the "it" guy. If you wanna get a certain amount of spins on radio you gotta associate yourself with people that are hot. To me that concept is so suite. When I say suite, I mean like the business man. The business man is like we need you to get attached to this. For me it’s about creating that excitement and aligning myself with people that actually respect me and appreciate my music.