I’d be lying if I said Otayo Dubb’s brand of hip-hop was in itself original or distinctive. Self-described as “blue collar” music over down tempo beats, on its face it is similar to exactly what is popular right now. That’s not to say music about everyday life is the only thing that is popular at this moment, but it certainly is a lot more popular to be a “regular” guy in rap music right now. In fact, that seems to be the ONLY appeal of many of the so-called rap stars with a buzz today. Where I wouldn’t be lying would be when I said that Otayo Dubb’s music showcases more passion and skill than most of the music you hear today. Years ago, when hip-hop was still a sustainable lifestyle, it’d be very easy to imagine Otayo Dubb as one of the frontrunners of the movement. Unfortunately, in today’s climate, hip-hop is a business first and a lifestyle second. The result of this shift is that rappers have to concentrate much more on paying the bills and much less on socially relevant issues. Fortunately for us, rappers like Otayo Dubb are able to parlay their struggles into motivational, uplifting music that provides a funky soundtrack to our own lives.
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The first thing that grabs your attention when listening to “Cold Piece of Work” is the production. While impressively handling the production on six tracks, Otayo Dubb also enlists the help of Fatgums, Off-Balance, Keelay, 6Fingers, Defizit, MK, and CAV3. I won’t pretend to be familiar with any of those producers outside of Keelay (from Keelay and Zaire), but given the solid beats found on this album they should all be recognized. Down tempo beats tend to invite boredom quicker than a road trip with no music, but on “Cold Piece of Work” the producers find a way to infuse the steady tempo with energy and variety. The self-produced “Oh Oh Yeah” gets its attitude from an uplifting piano sample and cheerful vocals on the hook. “A Lil More” finds Fatgums looping a similarly cheerful vocal sample and pairing it with a feel good bassline to tie the track together. “Only Ones” takes things in a completely different direction as Defizit invokes the spirit of Pete Rock through the use of jazzy and mellow horn and piano samples. “Show You The Door” carries a similar vibe, but this time it’s CAV3 who composes a soulful blend of cascading pianos.
With a consistently good musical backdrop to work with, Otayo Dubb is able to give his full concentration to the lyrics. While not distinctive or different stylistically, Otayo Dubb’s commanding voice and crisp flow get the job done and present his lyrics with the necessary force. “Jerry McGuire” starts the album off and presents us with its recurring theme:
“Walk in the door, I hope it ain’t too late for me
I know these niggas spitting all lies and make believe
About time to hear some words from the regular soul
Step aside, let the real come and rep for us
First solo, but it used to be a duo
They hating on your first before they go and give you kudos
Guess I gotta go and try to take it
Make it work is deeper than just a statement
So close to the ceiling, that I can taste it
Watching people lose from their own frustrations
At the bus stop waiting for my destination
Could take me longer, fuck if they label me conscious
Cause I ain’t talking over people’s heads
You a prisoner in a box from words you don’t express
Sometimes I wish I could of went and took the dummy route
But what I know won’t allow me to dummy down
Done waiting on these dudes who was not around
A strong team in my mist, I get huddled around
Still there’s no love lost for my brother though
Don’t take for granted who has your back when others don’t
Cause it’s real life when this rapping’s over
The 401Ks are our raise, no alimony
What started out as a dream, built a laboratory
What started out as a fiend, built a category
Hustle hard and blue color is the ethic
Even downloaded you still making an investment
Cause this is really only the beginning
On my Jerry McGuire tip, like who is coming with me”
At its essence, “Cold Piece of Work” is about men (and women) who face life’s every day struggles with optimism and still try to make a positive impact on the work around them. The attitude is overtly positive, but the music is not preachy or corny in any way. “Motivate” finds Otayo and San Quinn giving us an uplifting anthem for our personal grind of choice. “Where Do You Go” is a reflective joint that finds Otayo reflecting on the rappers that influenced him and whether current rappers will be able to provide similar guidance to the youth. “Only Ones” is a storytelling joint where Otayo vividly depicts the struggles faced by black women, aspiring emcees, and young people looking for guidance. Regardless of the subject he tackles, Otayo does a great job of bringing each song back to the hopeful, uplifting them of the album.
Overall, “Cold Piece of Work” is a well executed album with an uplifting message. While other acts come off as exploitative when it comes to the blue collar struggle, Otayo’s music exudes honesty and genuineness. Those characteristics alone aren’t enough to make good music, but when combined with solid production and Otayo’s carefully crafted verses the result is an ear-pleasing album with a commendable message.