November 21, 2008

O.C. - Jewelz (August 19, 1997)

Three years after releasing his debut, Word...Life, to critical acclaim and poor sales, Omar Credle (who portrays the rapper O.C. at parties) switched labels (from Wild Pitch to Payday) and released Jewelz, his sophomore affair. This disc was also met with critical acclaim and poor sales, but this time he managed to inadvertently get one of his singles to chart on the Billboard Top 100, which surely was a cause for celebration in the Payday offices. I believe they may have even purchased O.C. an ice cream cake to mark the occasion.

A lot has been written about O.C.'s bad timing, or rather, his bad luck with the release of Word...Life. Had his debut disc dropped in a different year than Illmatic, the magnum opus by Nas, his career would have been a lot different, guaranteed. Omar's way around a story ranks right up there with the best of them, and unlike Nas later in his career, O.C. actually had an ear for beats. Instead, O.C. is forced to live with his street cred and his highly praised affiliations with the Diggin' In The Crates crew, Organized Konfusion, and the Hieroglyphics. Yeah, poor guy, I know.

Jewelz was a slight departure from O.C.'s debut in that it employed more producers and guests. While this could be seen as the kiss of death for many sophomore projects, this actually worked in O.C.'s favor, especially since he was riding a career high as one-third of the trio that appeared on the DJ Premier-produced "Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers"; appropriately, one of the special guest producers was DJ Premier himself, the king of the New York hip hop sound. One of those special guests was the unflappable Freddie Foxxx, who was in the midst of a career resurgence himself, thanks to his aggressive delivery and memorable cameos in the late 1990s. As such, Jewelz is undeniably New York, so much so that I probably already lost a couple of readers, but hey, that's the risk you take.

Let's begin.

Although it's short, this instrumental intro is pretty useless. I could have skipped right to the next track and saved thirty seconds of my life for more important things, such as coke, whores, and Guitar Hero.

Omar rips the shit out of one of the most peaceful and melodic Primo beats in history. This shit is so fucking good that I'm left wondering why it's taken me so long to finally get back to Jewelz.

Omar reunites with his old running buddies Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch over a dark Primo instrumental that sounds three steps removed from Jeru The Damaja's "Me, Not The Paper". Oddly, for all of the fanfare, Organized Konfusion barely appear on the song itself, so for the two of you who were wondering how good Pharoahe Monch would sound over some Primo boom bap, keep those dreams alive.

This track was downright pleasant. That's all I got.

Ahh, the humble O.C. The song itself is alright, but Buckwild's beat is much more beneficial as a sleeping aid than as a vehicle for Omar to prove how much better a rapper he is than you are.

O.C. and Big Lamont attempt to rip shit over an uncharacteristically goofy Beatminerz track, one that sounds absolutely nothing like anything either rapper should ever consider being in the same room with, let alone rhyming to it. The hook is also very weak. Oh well.

Although you have to contend with an awkward hook that culminates with Omar and Freddie Foxxx (also known as Bumpy Knuckles) harmonizing together, this simple Primo track allows O.C. and (especially) his guest to rip out the throats of random motherfuckers on the streets, and then throws their own throats back at them in a most hostile manner. You're left wishing there was a bit more to the instrumental, but the punchlines still manage to reel you in: when Bumpy states "Just because I hate your punk ass, don't make you no player", I laughed out loud, and really embarassed myself in front of my wife, so thanks for that, guys.

This was the aforementioned single that hit the Billboard charts. It makes sense, given it's radio-friendliness, but I swear to you that I had completely forgotten what this song sounded like until right now, that's how memorable it was back in 1997. In fact, I've already forgotten what it sounded like, and I'm pretty sure it's still playing.

O.C.'s storytelling abilities haven't been diluted, and even though his theme (an encounter with a female) has been done to death, his descriptions make the track come to life. Well, that, and the Beatminerz instrumental.

I find it hilarious that Freddie Foxxx's alter ego is credited on "Win The G", but he opts to go with his standard rap name on here, even though he calls himself Bumpy Knuckles on the song itself and spits similar content. Regardless, the song is really good, but, then again, it's rare when Bumpy sounds weak over a Primo beat (although it has happened), and O.C. also proves himself worthy. Who's up for an all-O.C. and DJ Premier disc? Because it'll never happen, but you can start lighting those candles anyway.

I didn't care for this song at all.

I loved DJ Ogee's haunting piano loop, and O.C.'s lyrics are as tight as ever. The hook is pushing it, though. Interestingly enough, Omar makes it a point to give Jay-Z a shout-out: I wonder why these two never connected for a track. (Besides the obvious reasons, of course.)

Short and sweet, but I can't remember any of it.

Omar sounds alright, but this Beatminerz track sounds like reference noise for an instrumental to be inserted at a later date. I can't believe that Da Beatminerz have managed to only make one of three songs actually hit.

This was a pretty boring way to end your second album, even with Lord FInesse behind the boards.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Jewelz isn't as consistent as Word...Life, but O.C. has given us a solid sophomore effort. Lyrically, Omar is as good as ever, and the beats he is presented with are also at an advanced level, especially the DJ Premier tracks, which prove him to be one of the finest producers in musical history, not just in hip hop. There are missteps, sure, but most albums aren't perfect. Jewelz is entertaining as hell, though: it's so good, in fact, that you're left wondering what went wrong with O.C.'s career after this disc hit the shelves.

BUY OR BURN? Snatch this one up if you ever come across it at the store. When you support good hip hop, you'll feel better about life in general. As an added bonus, you'll receive a nice and sturdy plastic CD case, which you can use as a flat surface to separate the seeds and the stems on the fly, which will inevitably make you feel even better about life in general.

BEST TRACKS: "My World"; "M.U.G."; "Win The G"; "Stronjay"; "War Games"; "You and Yours"


O.C. - Word...Life


  1. sorry Max but I have to correct you about jay-z and oc hooking up for a song.

    it actually happened for Bonafide, a (possibly) 98 or 99 12" single, later included in omar's "hidden gems". (and also credited as hidden bonus track in third's oc's opus "bon apetit", fact that i can't verify due to my lacking of possessing the cd)

  2. I knew that you would come through today, Max. Oddly, I would recommend a burn of this album unless you find it at the used CD store for about $7.00. While it's a good entry from O., compared to his first effort, there's more skipable tracks on Jewelz. The Crow and Hypocrite happens to be my favorite tracks on the album. Oh yeah, here's a link to that OC and Jay collaboration:

    It could have been much better but I think Jay was scared. HA!!!!

  3. Good Review

  4. Nice review, Max. I love O.C.'s debut and while this has a lot of strong tracks on it, I just don't find myself playing it too much.
    Oh, and O.C. did do a track with Jay, but it's not great.
    Never got put it on an album though, as far as I know.

  5. Too me, this album perfectly walked the fine line between being something you would classify as "conscious" due to the beats and O's flow as well as "street" as to which I feel O obviously intended it to be.

    Personally, I liked the melodic vibe that this album had back when I brought it in 97' (This have the receipt) at 17 years young and love it even more now at a mature 29 year old.

    I disagree with some of commentary in regards to tracks like Jewelz (which was my favorite track on the entire album), The Crow (which is an acquired taste I'll admit, but dope nevertheless and is geniuenly cohesive with the landscape of the album) and finally the intro (which is still ill and in the vein of a Pete Rock interlude. If other readers out there haven't heard it, it's has the same fell as the intro on Group Home's Livin' Proof album).

    Overall, a dope album and in my personal opinion, better track for track than Word...Life. Yeah I said it, lol.

  6. His name is Omar Credle, not Cruz.

  7. Jeff - noted and updated. Don't know what the hell I was thinking, somehow getting OC mixed up with AZ, which can kind of be seen as an insult to both parties, really.

  8. Mr. XCaliburrNovember 24, 2008

    Jewelz a boring track? Get the fuck out of here dipshit!

  9. I gotta say thank you because the "ice cream cake" line had me laughing my ass off for a good two minutes. I also gotta say I'm glad I stumbled upon your site because I enjoy your brand of humor and you can count me in as your third reader moving forward.

  10. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessNovember 30, 2008

    The link between OC's career and Illmatic got a little stronger recently when Nas mentioned in The Source's anniversary issue that he originally intended to name his debut album Word...Life. Nas chalked up OC's usage of the title to great minds thinking alike but MC Serch was behind both projects and may have taken the title with him. OC using Word...Life was definitely beneficial to Nas as Illmatic is a much more memorable title.

  11. wohh hold up there the beat to "dangerous" was tight as hell and O.C. and L came out pretty dope on that track so get your shit right and listen to that song again

  12. Cheers for the recommendations Max
    I now own both Jewelz and (which I think is a great title by the way).
    Time's up and You and Yours are fantastic songs. Max you should check out A+ featuring Prodigy 'Gusto' which fucking bangs, and its beat is sorta similar sounding to those two in my opinion. Anyway, your blog is great


  13. In contrast, I thought The Crow was an absolutely fantastic storytelling masterpiece, and Win the G boring shit-talking garbage.

  14. Critically, this album makes Word...Life look like Doggystyle. Doesn't get the respect it deserves.

  15. Great album. The Big L track is one of the best ever. ^The Crow is an awesome track foreshadowing current events. Give it another listen you negative $#^@&!*.

  16. Every bit as good as his first joint.

    The only slip up was the Big L joint. Da Beatminerz disappointed me with the beat. These two deserved some Dah Shinin' shit.

    Now THAT would've been awesome!!!!!

  17. You, my friend, are batshit crazy if you think the title track is boring.

    Lord Finesse has never disappointed me in the mid-90's. A fittingly stellar finale to a massively underrated sophomore album of a massively underrated MC.

  18. Dangerous is a BANGER!