July 28, 2008

O.C. - Word...Life (October 18, 1994)


Omar Credle, known as O.C. to the hip hop audience, is a Brooklyn rapper that has found underground success as both a solo artist and as a part of the hip hop supergroup Diggin' In The Crates (D.I.T.C.). Of course, by "success", I mean "critical success", since I'd be willing to guess that a lot of my two readers have no fucking clue as to who O.C. is.

He made his recording debut with his childhood friends Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch, who are best known as the rap duo Organized Konfusion, on "Fudge Pudge", a hit single from their self-titled debut album. Omar then secured a record deal with Wild Pitch Records, itself a sure sign of trouble, and recorded his debut solo effort, Word...Life, for release in 1994. Unlike the experimental direction Organized Konfusion was known for taking, Omar kept things simple, with simple beats and storytelling rhymes that should have put him in a more elite class of rapper, thereby ensuring his continued success.

If only his album hadn't dropped in the same year as Illmatic.

Thanks to the critical success of Illmatic, comparisons between O.C. and Nas were inevitable, with Nasir winning almost every argument. And while Illmatic is the superior album, certainly, Word...Life shouldn't be looked at as inferior product. Indeed, its breakout single "Time's Up", which attacks fake rappers (a common theme for most underground artists), is a indisputable classic recording which has been sampled literally four hundred million times for various tracks, even to this day. And the serious turns he takes with tracks like "Born 2 Live" and "Constables", combined with more humorous tales like "Ga Head", cemented O.C.'s place in the heart of hip hop, even though nobody went out to buy his fucking album.

I hope he's not bitter.

1. CREATIVE CONTROL
It's short enough to be a proper rap album intro, but in actuality turns out to be a one-verse wonder, in which Omar decries the notion of selling out. I'm pretty sure you have nothing to worry about, mate: personally, I don't ever see O.C. moving enough units to warrant mounting a plaque on his wall. And in most rap circles, that would be considered a good thing.

2. WORD...LIFE
The fact that O.C. mentions that he doesn't like to kiss chicks that have lipstick on, and then spends a couple of bars describing the type of lips he likes to kiss, is fucking hilarious to me. I was underwhelmed by Buckwild's beat and what passes for the hook, but Omar's lyricism (and attention to detail - those lips don't kiss themselves, you know) will have you hooked.

3. O-ZONE
I have a feeling that this track probably ranks amongst the favorites for both of my readers, but I didn't find it very memorable.

4. BORN 2 LIVE
After a very brief musical interlude, Omar spits over the same sample that Pete Rock and CL Smooth would later freak for their "Take You There" (about one month later, if I remember correctly). Considering the fact that I had heard the Pete and CL song first, I have to say that I'm nonplussed, but lyrically, O.C. blows CL Smooth out of the park.

5. TIME'S UP
This song is just one of those hip hop classics that every blogger harps about. And you know what? Max is going to join them, as in this case, all of the praise is fucking justified. Buckwild's beat is simple, but effective, and Omar goes in, spitting a seemingly unobstructed stream of hip hop quotables for the listeners to decipher. Nice!

6. POINT O VIEWZ
So, obviously, Just Blaze listened to the beginning of this track before crafting Jay-Z's "Public Service Announcement". Sadly, the beat switches completely before the actual song starts, and while the end results are pleasant enough, it could have been so much more.

7. CONSTABLES
A pretty compelling take on racial profiling by the cops, with a dope Organized Konfusion-produced beat and a well-utilized KRS-One vocal sample. At the very end, it sounds as if Omar fucks his entire concept up with some racial profiling of his own: to the untrained ear, it sounds like O.C. demands that somebody "give [him his] rice" before calling out "you dumb c----s", but let's be honest here, that wouldn't make any fucking sense, considering the song is about cops, right? Right. He actually says "give [him his] rights" and cries out "you dumb Jakes". How about that? Huh? Oh, and the song is pretty fucking awesome, as well.

8. GA HEAD
Over a Lord Finesse instrumental, our hero, Omar, relates a run-of-the-mill infidelity tale, in which he discovers his girl/wife is cheating on him with...another woman. (This was probably shocking back in 1994.) O.C. weaves the tale extremely well, diving into the mindset of a man that is unsure how to react to this bit of news, and even inserts some foreshadowing into his first verse for the two readers paying attention. Well played, sir.

9. NO MAIN TOPIC (FEAT PRINCE PO FROM ORGANIZED KONFUSION)
Over a beat that comes off as a sequel to "Constables", Omar displays a flow that is much more focused than he has shown us up to this point, which is impressive, since his verse is long. Prince Po's brief appearance towards the end is negligible, since it neither adds nor detracts from the overall product, but this track is still really good.

10. LET IT SLIDE
Meh.

11. MA DUKES
The sentiment is sweet (if I remember correctly, Omar's actual mother also performs in the background), but overall I can't say that this song was as memorable as some of the others on Word...Life.

12. STORY
O.C. spits a yarn about a drug dealer whose family is tortured and slain by Colombian drug lords while he's away in hiding. The attention to (graphic) detail is commendable, and Omar's final line can be interpreted as a twist ending, depending on how you interpret the world. This "Story" is pretty damn good, but if Omar isn't careful, he may end up the M. Night Shyamalan of hip hop storytelling, and that is not a good thing.

13. OUTTRO (SABATOGE)
O.C. actually raps his own outro. For that alone, this track gets a pass. But some of the spoken word at the end is reliably frustrating. Kris Kross would end up using this beat for their own "Tonite's Tha Night", notable for utilizing two spellings (one of them incorrect) of the word "night" within the span of three words, and nothing more.

The version of Word...Life I own is the reissue from its ten-year anniversary in 2004. Both of the following remixes are included with my copy: track 14 may have appeared on the original pressing of the disc from 1994, but track 15 is new to the sequence.

14. BORN 2 LIVE (REMIX)
Now that's more like it. Organized Konfusion steps in and reinterprets the track, giving it new life and a much better beat, although the hook, in its altered form, is much more depressing. Fucking knocks, though.

15. TIME'S UP (REMIX)
Didn't really do it for me. The original is far superior.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Word...Life is one of those albums that bloggers frequently throw up on their sites in order to prove that they have better musical taste than you. The thing is, they're right (in this instance, anyway). The production prowess of Buckwild, Organized Konfusion, and DJ Ogee should have meant that this disc would sell at least enough copies to earn O.C. a gold plaque: if that were the case, maybe he wouldn't be resigned to independent labels which nobody has ever heard of. O.C.'s lyricism is among the best that I've heard since starting Hip Hop Isn't Dead. Bold words, right? Well, one listen to this disc and you'll understand where I'm coming from.

BUY OR BURN? You should buy this one immediately. Find the reissue if you can: at least you will be guaranteed to hear the "Born 2 Live (Remix)" (the "Time's Up" remix, on the other hand, is completely useless). Why are you still reading this sentence? Get your ass to the store and buy it already!

BEST TRACKS: "Time's Up"; "Story"; "Constables"; "Born 2 Live (Remix)"; "No Main Topic"; "Ga Head"

-Max

15 comments:

  1. Another underrated Mc and album you just reviewed, Max.

    O.C. sounds a little bit of Rakim, and that is a good thing. He can flow and he had something to say.

    P.S.: Time's up is not "Meh"...

    -Kay-

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  2. Great review. Great album.

    "Word...Life is one of those albums that bloggers frequently throw up on their sites in order to prove that they have better musical taste than you."

    ^ So...True

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  3. This album became my "riding around in the car" tape as I weaned myself from Illmatic. Wild Pitch was always a sorry excuse for a record label so everyone knew O.C. wouldn't sell many units. But back in '94, if this had been released on Loud Records, it would have gone gold. It's a shame that classics like these rarely sell.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  4. Take the man's advice people. Buy this one right now and be born again.

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  5. -kay- - I never said that "Time's Up" was 'meh'. I didn't like its remix very much, but in its original incarnation, that shit rocks.

    Thanks for reading, everyone!

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  6. finnally ive been waiting for this review i knew itd be recommended a purchase

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  7. That's funny, Let It Slide is my favorite song on the album.

    It's like the 'Falling Down' of songs.

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  8. Let It Slide is also one of my favorites, but that's fine, I'm just happy you took the time to review this. Word...Life pretty much served as the soundtrack to the beginning of my freshman year of college, and so it'll hold a special place in my heart for a long time. Plus "Time's Up" is just fucking incredible.

    I didn't find O-Zone very memorable either, though.

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  9. Oh, and these two lines from "Word...Life":

    "By the way, do me a favor/
    Give it a chance if a nigga has flavor"

    They're essentially my plea to women worldwide.

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  10. Yes Time's up justifies all praise. Haven't really listened to the album but i trust you so i will!

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  11. I only discovered OC a couple of months ago after hearing PF Cuttin's "Da 4-Oh" tape, ripped here:

    http://rippedopenbymetalexplosions.blogspot.com/2008/09/pf-cuttin-take-swig-of-4-oh.html

    and though I have not listened enough times to this album and Jewelz to get a real feel for them, one thing I'm pleasantly surprised with is his singing. Not only does he have the decency to do it in tune, like very few other rappers that I can think of - the hooks that are sung more often than not actually benefit the song in some way, unlike very few other rap songs with singing in them.

    For a couple of examples I hate to mention Liquid Swords again, but possibly the low point of the entire album is the abonible sung chorus of 'Cold World'. Ghostface also does some cringeworthy crooning in Supreme Clientele.

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  12. My version came with "Word...Life (Remix)" instead of Time's Up (Remix) which I am grateful for.

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  13. AnonymousJune 10, 2011

    damn fam, how you don't rank word...life as one of the best songs on the album: you got a crazy hypnotic beat & some of the deepest lyrics omar ever wrote, WATCHU WANT MORE????

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  14. Dude.

    Seriously.

    Now YOU'RE suffering from the Ras Kass Syndrome!!!

    Every single track on this joint FUCKING BANGS!!!

    As perfect a hip-hop album as one can EVER find.

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  15. Good God, the Born to Live (Remix) beat is one of the best I have EVER heard. Good call!

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