This is a deeply personal album to O.B., and it would be a disservice to him to not allow him to put it in his own words. Instead of writing an intro for him, here’s what O.B. had to say:
“This piece presented before you was meant to be a sort of time capsule. Written during a week of one of my lowest points in life, I sought out to encapsulate my thoughts of escaping existence into musical form. If there is a higher being of life, or a God, then this is my offer. Our thoughts, our passions, our motivations, our souls, our dreams, our positives, our angst, our lives. I don’t believe in a monotheistic ‘god’, but I do believe in a spiritual force embedded in nature that connects all of us to one another. This force I refer to as ‘Allah’. Through Allah, indeed all things are possible and it’s the miracles he’s bestowed upon me that allowed for the conception of this album.”
If this were a college philosophy class I’d want to debate a few of the ideas O.B. offers in the above soliloquy about the nature of our existence. Since this is an album review and there’s not a woman or man standing in front of a group of young and eager minds (plus some non-eager ones who are just trying to fill an elective) lecturing on the finer tenants of philosophical thought I’m putting it to the side. In the broader strokes that have nothing to do with our perception of reality as we know it, O.B. is stating that he was at a personal crossroads in his life, and the “Celestial Offerings” that came from it are him pouring his heart and soul into music for a release. If you’re expecting an easy rap album full of partying and sex, this then is not the offering for you.
“Let my inspiration drift from your lips
Your hips and toes, splits fingers and wrists
Searchin under sheet surface for some purposes direction in lady
Drownin from decades of swimmin in your estrogen crazy”
I’d be lying if I said that “Lost in Thought (Redux)” doesn’t make me catch a ghost of a certain Illadelph rap group/band from the early to mid-1990’s. I credit that as much to Nu Vintage on production as to O.B.’s verbiage, as he doesn’t much resemble Black Thought or Malik B vocally, but the way he melds himself into the music instead of imposing himself upon it does have stylistic similarity. For most of the album O.B. manages to impress me to this degree, which makes the failures all the more noticeable. I suspect “Fraudulence” was a skit meant to make fun of hip-hop and R&B dickriders who copy the styles of popular artists, but it’s a tedious two minutes that’s probably only made worse by me having a censored press copy. That also directly effects the following track “Party and Bullshit,” a song that even without censoring seeks a little too obvious, and a little too much like being lectured to.
As I said though most of this album is impressive, and reflects the soul-searching introspection O.B. was feeling at the time he chose to pen it. O.B. is extremely goal oriented, stating on “Dreamland” that he left “deadbeat written on my past life and the tombstone,” meaning he has no time to not be achieving his goals. Ordinarily a song called “First Class Flights” would come across as an exercise in flaunting, but for O.B. it’s a BraveStarr produced anthem that’s a metaphor for achievement. The strong percussion of the Reese Jones production on “Jawn” is wisely allowed to stand on its own for the first 20 seconds, but then proceeds to explore the dynamics of interpersonal relationships between men and women – offering no easy answers.
Culture Kev is a frequent guest star on the album, lacing three tracks with his presence, which strikes me a little odd given I expected more of a solo album given what it means to O.B. and what inspired him to record it. I suppose if he’s going to collab’ with a group of varied producers to achieve that vision though, guest rappers aren’t that much different – just a more obvious manifestation of “not O.B.” one can see. The album’s best moments are when O.B. is “spittin’ propane” as he does on “Steady Sittin'” though, and really help me connect to the spiritual essence he describes as existing between us. The connection occasionally falters, or gets disrupted by static, but I think that what he has to offer here is worth listening to.