August 3, 2010

My Gut Reaction: O.C. - Bon Appetit (July 10, 2001)

Welcome back to our regularly scheduled programming.  You probably noticed that I never actually popped up in July to provide any sort of reprieve from the flood of Reader Reviews: that's because I value my rest.  But since my pseudo-vacation is over, it's time to clear up all of those compact discs that are sitting around my computer and pissing off my wife.


Omar Credle, who records both professionally and sarcastically as the rapper O.C., never caught the breaks that other artists in his generation had.  Financially, anyway; dude had street cred for days, but he couldn't sell any copies of his first two projects, Word...Life and Jewelz, even if he offered them for free whenever you super-sized your extra value meal.  Other in the industry were paying attention, though: how else would he have managed to mold the goodwill spurred from Word...Life (especially the classic title track) into the effervescent Jewelz, which built upon the D.I.T.C. blueprint with columns and buttresses installed by the likes of DJ Premier and Freddie Foxxx?


In the four years that fileld the time between Jewelz and his third effort, Bon Appetit, however, he threw the truck into overdrive, with all of his famous friends falling out of the bed once he hit a sharp right.  His old friends Prince Po and Pharoahe Monch (of Organized Konfusion) are nowhere to be found, DJ Premier has gone A.W.O.L., and most of his Diggin' In The Crates brethren decided to wait out the stormy weather.  (This was an especially troubling sign, as D.I.T.C. had released their first group effort, known as either Worldwide or simply D.I.T.C., just one year prior, and they seemed so happy back then.)


Also missing from Bon Appetit: O.C.'s fans.  Working for his third record label in as many albums, Omar decided that now was the time to actually try and move some units from store shelves, and he recruited producers Buckwild, Ahmed, and Lord Finesse to craft instrumentals that would appeal to hip hop heads, both those in the streets and those standing in line in those same streets waiting to get into the club.  Poor reviews, lack of promotion from the label (JCOR Entertainment), and just plain bad mojo resulted in Omar bricking yet another solo album; his fourth effort wouldn't even see a release in the United States, he was that poor of an investment.  But that's a story for another time.


Although Word...Life and Jewelz are must-haves for your collection, I never bothered with Bon Appetit until now.  And I have to say, I'm not encouraged by recent interviews Omar has given where he refuses to apologize for the album, indicating that he's proud of how well it holds up and how it will eventually be appreciated for what it is.


Fuck.


1. INTRO
I quite liked the music on here, as it makes Bon Appetit sound more like a 1970s cop show than a rap album. It also doesn't overstay its welcome. Weird.


2. BACK TO CALI (FEAT A. BLESS)
Already I can understand the general apathy towards Bon Appetit. Buckwild's beat sounds like the result of trying to reconstruct the comments of a close friend who swears that he heard an original West Coast instrumental in his dreams last night: it comes across as an imitation of something that never existed in the first place. And O.C. isn't even the first person you hear on his own fucking album. A. Bless takes to the mic like a toddler takes to driving his first sports car: he can't even reach the pedals. By the time Omar gives listeners the briefest of hints that he's the same guy behind “Time's Up”, the song is already a lost cause.


3. SOUL TO KEEP
If your friends are really calling you “Mush”, Omar, then those guys aren't really your friends. The short skit before the song appears to have nothing to do with this Buckwild-produced piffle, on which Omar actually seems to hesitate right in the middle of the word “motherfuckers” at one point. (Readers may point out that O.C. was simply trying to fit the word into the beat. I can see that, but it still sounded like the work of an amateur.) Our host sounds as though he believes himself to be fully incapable of carrying an entire album. What the fuck happened after Jewelz, man?


4. DR. KNOW
I'm not sure what Omar was trying to accomplish with “Dr. Know”. Did you want to sound like yet another obscure artist who isn't deserving of any attention, as they bring nothing new or interesting to the table? If so, then you've succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. This track is a motherfucking mess. It took everything I had to not simply skip ahead to the next song. Which is sad when you consider that this is the only production effort from Lord Finesse. Groan.


5. BOUNCE MISSION
This was just...strange. Omar's obvious bid for the mainstream is ill-advised, as Ahmed's beat isn't bouncy enough to win over that particular audience, one which wouldn't necessarily be looking out for O.C.'s next project anyway. The rhymes are also dumbed down to such a degree that there is no possible way that this guy is the same one that released Word...Life. There are brief flashes of his past lyrical brilliance, but honestly, O.C. lost me when he started talking about cum shots. And I was rooting for the guy, too. Shit.


6. BON APPETIT (FEAT TL & UNI)
This title track is of no consequence. It features two unknown guest stars who, admittedly, don't sound all that bad, bit even with that ringing endorsement, they both apparently went back to their day jobs, never to record again. Buckwild's instrumental also sounds like a literal approximation of the phrase “I don't care”. And then there's our host: Omar admits during his verse that he doesn't have to explain himself to anybody, so my hope that he would eventually shed light as to why Bon Appetit sucks so fucking much right now is thrown out the window. Just like this CD would be, had it not been for the public library and their stupid insistence on patrons returning shit.


7. DOIN' DIRT
Generic sounding Ahmed beat aside, this is the first time on Bon Appetit that O.C. has sounded like his old self, the man who has a way with a story. There isn't much substance in the tale itself: it's more of a warning mixed in with some advice (he even tells listeners that you shouldn't drink alcohol, as you need to stay sober in order to pay attention to what's going on around you), but it still works. Also, his line near the beginning, “Kicked him in the dick / Now his fuck game's ruined” was pretty funny. This wasn't terrible.


8. GET IT DIRTY (FEAT D-FLOW & PARTY ARTY)
What should have been a home run for Omar (as he is the main attraction, he should have easily outshined a couple of D.I.T.C. weed carriers) turns into a ground double, with the next player at bat being the guy who is addicted to sleeping pills. O.C. sounds just as good as the late Party Arty (he of the distinctive Twin Gambino-esque voice) and D-Flow, and that's not how the natural order of things should be. Buckwild's beat, which plays for far too long before Party Arty kicks in, also doesn't help matters, as it seems to force an aggressive theme that none of the rappers involved feel comfortable with. This wasn't bad, but it also wasn't very good, either. I suppose if you look at it as a sort-of companion piece for “Doin' Dirt”, you may derive some enjoyment out of this.


9. UTMOST
Buckwild's beat sounds like an afterthought, as though O.C. realized that his song-structured braggadocio required musical backing to become remotely palatable. For something that is supposed to be Omar's celebration of (his) life, this track makes his mere existence come across as unappealing. This may sound harsh, but when a rapper brags about how great his life is, he's supposed to make the listener want to live vicariously through him, unless he's just being ironic, which O.C. most certainly is not.


10. RESPECT THA DROP
This Buck-crafted tale comes the closest to residing in the same fucking universe as (at least) Jewelz. Omar's brief tale brings the storytelling back to the forefront, with a minimum of shit-talking (although, this being a rap song, it's still present, of course). The beat is dark and minimal, allowing for O.C.'s imminent takeover. This was entertaining as hell.


11. WEED & DRINKS (FEAT AG)
Omar's D.I.T.C. bestie Andre the Giant praises the value of marijuana while Omar sticks with his firewater. (Kind of strange that he would promote alcohol use when he just told listeners a few tracks ago to stay sober, right?) Why do those two vices have to be mutually exclusive? This is the happiest O.C. has sounded on the entire album: I suppose A.G.'s presence forced him to step his game up. This is the most entertaining track on Bon Appetit thus far, but since the album is almost over, I don't have high hopes for the rest.


12. PARADISE
Yeah, I've pretty much given up on Bon Appetit at this point. There isn't anything inherently wrong with Buck's beat, except that it is a poor fit for our host. Did you hear that door slam? That was the last fan O.C. had left, leaving the room because he just couldn't take this shit anymore. Mush, you have officially chosen the wrong path: please follow the trail of pebbles located near your feet to the land of irrelevancy.


13. PSALM 23
O.C. ends Bon Appetit with a touching one-verse salute to the late Big L, and then uses the actual outro to chastise those who followed D.I.T.C. from day one (ha!) just to bail on them as they started to see some mild success. I've heard worse rap album outros, and since O.C. keeps it brief, I'll give it a pass. This is his second tribute to Lamont Coleman: the first one appeared as, um, “Tribute” on the D.I.T.C. album Worldwide. And with that, we're done.


No, wait, apparently we aren't done yet. “Psalm 23” leads immediately to a hidden final track.


BONAFIED (FEAT JAY-Z)
The biggest surprise on Bon Appetit isn't the presence of a bonus track, it's the special guest star on said bonus track: it appears as though even Jay-Z was paying attention to Omar Credle after Word...Life. He only provides the (kind of meh) hook, which sounds as though it was recorded during the Reasonable Doubt era, but hey, he actually says O.C.'s name at one point, so that counts for something, right? Even without the curious cameo, Omar finally lives up to the hype on this track, where he sounds like his old self (again, probably because this sounds like it was recorded a long-ass time ago). It was nice of Omar to pull this out of the vault for his remaining fans; I wonder if Hova is even aware of this album's existence, since he damn sure isn't seeing any royalty checks from an album that sold zero copies.


THE LAST WORD: I appreciate the fact that O.C. is happy with how Bon Appetit has aged: life is too short to have any regrets. However, it's also too short to continually live in denial, so as much as I hate to break it to you two, Bon Appetit is a terrible album. Aside from a handful of flashes into a past life, there isn't much here that could convince anybody that this O.C. is the same guy who recorded hip hop classics in the past. A late surge (in the form of the hidden track) isn't enough for Bon Appetit to avoid its ultimate classification as a shitty effort. I only found a handful of its tracks to be deliberately aiming for a pop audience, so I'm not sure where all of the “sellout” talk came from, and besides, part of O.C.'s job is to sell albums, so trying to win over a new fanbase isn't always a bad thing (unless you outright switch up your sound to do so, of course): O.C.'s problem is that nobody gave much of a fuck about him in the first place, so there was never a newer fanbase to cater to. All Bon Appetit does is make Omar's supporters seriously consider selling their copies of Word...Life. You two would be better off if you pretended this album never existed.


-Max


RELATED POSTS:
Catch up on O.C.'s other efforts by clicking here.

8 comments:

  1. this is a bad album but word life and jewels and classics

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  2. djbosscrewwreckaAugust 03, 2010

    Good review, I think you picked out the decent tracks. The bonus track Bonafied is solid.
    Doin' dirt and Respect tha drop are okay, and I think Soul to keep is okay. Psalm 23 is really good, feels totally out of place on the album. When I got this I thought (hoped) that it might be a grower. It wasn't. He definitely isn't selling out, but OC is showing inconsistency with this album. Word Life and Jewelz are great - that other album you mentioned, called Starchild, is worse than this one.

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  3. oc's first two albums are great im not sure what happened after that.. although i liked to oc and ag album from last year oasis

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  4. Good review Max!

    The only thing I really liked from this album was "Bonafied". The rest was meh.

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  5. Starchild is much, much better than this haha

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  6. ah yes, a painful reminder of the 4 year wait after Jewelz and with the high expectations that I had when Bon Appetit dropped.

    Needless to say I wish I kept my reciept

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  7. all of ya'll cats are closed minded what ya'll wanted o.c. to do ?????????? keep making the same two albums over an over???????? bon appetit was no where near a sellout lp it sounds like ya'll just want to criticize an tear down instead of keepin an open mind ttthts why the game iz the way it iz now too many consumers wanna b a&r's instead of supporting people like oc ...this album was the blueprint to jayz's album the blueprint do your homework muthafuckas..........

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  8. I rediscovered this recently and I think O.C ahead of his time! This album is niiiice!!! Same with Smoke and Mirrors!!!

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