Having Madlib the Beat Conductor as an older brother is a highly unenviable position. Quite possibly the most prolific and (in my opinion) the most ingenious beatcrafter on the face of the planet, Madlib’s sonic wizardry has left indelible imprints on the minds of music enthusiasts worldwide, seething slabs of mad genius that are as mercurial as Madlib’s hyperactive imagination. As a consequence, the indie press has continually overlooked Oh No’s equally potent concoctions in favour of his older sibling’s. A true shame, for Oh No’s work holds its own against that of his lauded brother- it was the solitary saving grace on the new LMNO joint, it single-handedly saved Frank N Dank’s Dilla-light foray on Needillworks and it has propelled Medaphoar into the top 10 lists of indie rap heads the world over. With the sequel to his sublime Disrupt Chronicles mixtape, Oh No attempts to win the ears of the cynics and sleepwalkers who have neglected his talent up to this point.
Opening with a head-nodding shuffle that is certainly reminiscent of Madlib’s Quasimoto work, the intro had me quivering with anticipation, expectations that were more than fulfilled by the bass-heavy stomp of Kali Wild’s “The Knock”. Rarely are songs so aptly-named, this song thumps just as hard as Jaylib’s “The Red” or anything off the Wildchild album. Surprise number 2- Oh No actually manages to make the typically snooze-worthy Grand Agent interesting. “Behind The Wall” positively sparkles, layering inhuman amounts of bass with hyperactive, staccato synths. The criminally overlooked Kazi grapples with the blaring, frenetic “Have You Seen”, as his stop-start, off-kilter flow caresses clattering cymbals, maracas and a pulsating bassline. Oh No flexes a hardcore battle beat with Parable and Ason Loyal on “Forever Infinite”, a blistering composition that veils a haunting melody with Oh No’s trademark filthy, fuzzed-out low-end and complex percussion, before flipping the script completely with a much cleaner, crisper track on “Authentic Hip-Hop”. Declaime AKA Dudley Perkins, Grand Agent and Lil’ Dap (what on earth is he doing here?) wax poetic over a gloriously kitschy Addams Family-sounding keyboard loop on “Welcome 2 Reality”, highlighted by Declaime’s fascinatingly off-beat, dispersed delivery. Of further interest is the lo-fi reworking of Large Pro’s “Radioactive.”
Perhaps I am merely speaking from a personal perspective, but I cannot begin to quantify my appreciation for Oh No’s sound, or more broadly speaking, the Stones Throw sound. This entire recording radiates a true grassroots/garage ethic, like everything was recorded with a 4-track and left unmastered so the grittiness and murk of the bass-laden compositions is allowed to shine through. The drums are raw, the bass bumps with true menace, and the sound’s gutterer-than-thou philosophy makes you wanna throw a hoodie on, pop the hood and assume b-boy stances. The warmth of the mix transports you to basements of dusty vinyl and old equipment, as opposed to state-of-the-art studios supported by extravagant budgets. This music is unrepentantly underground, and it should elicit bouts of head-nodding from even the most jaded head.
While the work on display here is not quite on the same calibre as, say, the recent Medaphoar singles, you really cannot go wrong with anything bearing this gifted sound wizard’s signature. While I expect that Stones Throw detractors won’t find anything palatable here, as the label’s trademark sound bleeds all over the mix, the legions of rabid ST fanatics and those who’ve been up on Oh No from day one will find this collection a tantalising prospect.