Meet Holladay: A Genre-Breaking Bedroom Pop Artist

Words by Thania Garcia


Oscar Marcelo Carbajal sat one foot atop of the other, beside him studio equipment along with electric guitars rested in his dimly lit bedroom. Above his desk, pinned to the grey wall is a large Mexican flag. In this small bedroom in his North Hollywood home, the solitary comfort of Carbajal’s home can be felt vibrating through the walls. 

Carbajal, better known as “Holladay,” is a 19-year-old musician. His music is strongly inherited from his Mexican parent’s culture. His Afro-Latino father had his start in music with a band called DBS Mob. “I’ve always had music in my bones,” Carbajal said.

Rico “Key Styles,” Carbajal’s brother, served as a mentor, setting up an introduction to world of hip-hop and rap. In the beginning of his career, hip-hop beats and rap patterns composed most of Carbajal’s track lists. “Mas Chingon” and “Colors” were both released under the label “Silent Giant Entertainment," and were classified under the hip-hop genre, a genre forced upon Carbajal.

“Hip-hop is predominantly considered black music. Knowing that, I felt there needed to be brown representation in hip-hop. I did not do it for the love of the music,” he said. “Being involved in hip-hop meant I was around a lot of toxic things. There are artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole who speak truths but there is an excess of artists that have topics of dehumanizing women and money… I couldn't take it anymore.” 

Just this past year, Carbajal came out to his family and friends as bi-sexual. The masculine attitudes behind the hip-hop genre did not allow him to exercise his feminine sides. “After I stepped back from that genre, I stepped away from my hip-hop image and I was able to just be Oscar. In the process, I allowed myself to create music that I really felt and now I have a sound that isn't forced,” said Carbajal.

The itch of signing onto a label has lessened and the internet is, of course, the powerhouse to this revolution. “We are realizing we are vessels, we don't need big labels, they need us. We have the power,” said Carbajal. This genre of “bedroom pop” is being used to describe this freedom from large companies and restrictive genres. Artists record in the solitude of their homes, rather than at company recording spaces, in turn letting the musicians have full creative control.

Some might listen to “IWD4U” and conclude its sound as synth-pop with heavy jazz influence, but the young musician is still trying to find his niche. “In general, I say its R&B and its soul with Latin influence,” he said. 

In his early tracks, Carbajal’s lyrics were heavily focused on discrimination of people of color. His voice was representative of a hushed community. It is inevitable the words sang or rapped by the young artist hit home to many. “As a creative and as a person of color, its recognizable that my existence is already resistance…meaning I am a lover and an activist by default. This society made me that way and everyday I'm learning and unlearning,” he said.

In 2017, Carbajal was hospitalized for trying to take his life. Plagued with depression, he began to question the authenticity of the social constructs that had ruled his life. “From that experience, I found enlightenment. I recognized what the truth is and I came to my conclusions in a way that I felt comfortable. I feel like I'm finally in tune with my identity and my sexuality.” Finally stepping out of the shadows, Carbajal’s lyrics portray his struggles and the ultimate journey to self-love. Using metaphors of vulnerability paired with gloomy keys and Carbajal’s shaky voice make up the song “I Don’t Know How to Smile.” This musical change of pace is thanks to the many experiences that have driven his life. 

This past month, he released “Baby Boy,” a song about being in love with another brown boy. The lyrics serve to be another landmark for the destruction of machismo culture placed upon men of color. These songs and many more can be found under the name Holladay on the streaming apps Soundcloud and Spotify. 

Tapping the keys on his laptop with painted fingertips, Carbajal said, “We’re all each on a divine path, whatever religion or spirits you believe in you are giving power to your thoughts, slowly they begin to manifest themselves. Now I'm at a point where I'm just giving all my energy and power to it and hoping it works out.” 

Here’s a link to his latest release, “Una Cancion Para Ti (Baby Boy)” by Holladay:

You can find Holladay on Twitter @HolladayB and on Instagram at @hij0delsol.