This is a little unusual. When RR gets two reviews on the same album, it's more often than not a mistake or a writer snafu - i.e. somebody wrote it without checking to see if a fellow staffer was covering it or I somehow got two promo copies and mailed out BOTH of them. This time though it's no mistake. My man Patrick Taylor did exactly what he was supposed to do for the week of Nov. 24th - he received O.C. & A.G.'s "Oasis" and wrote it up for the website. As contributors go P is one of the most solid and reliable we have, so I thought nothing of assigning him the album, thinking it would all be copacetic. I made three mistakes though, and herein I own up to all of them.
1.) I assumed P was well familiar with DITC's long history in hip-hop. He wasn't.
2.) I assumed P received a full-length copy of the album. He only got a sampler.
3.) I assumed P had enough to go on for a review anyway. Turns out that he didn't.
On behalf of RapReviews.com and all of our loyal readers, I apologize. I realize a lot of you were upset with last week's review. I offered P a chance to revise the review once I obtained a full-length copy, but he was understandably dismayed at the negative reception the review got and felt he'd only be digging himself in deeper (no pun) by tackling it again. I offered the chance to several staffers to cover the album the full length themselves, but suddenly "Oasis" was the hot potato nobody wanted to hold. Everybody was afraid of the wrath of our site's loyal readers. That's either a compliment or a concern, but if you're checking out this review right now you deserve the credit either way. The voices of the people have been heard, they're not satisfied, and they want the legendary O.C. and A.G. to be given their proper respect. I want everyone to be perfectly clear though that this new review is in no way an indictment of what Patrick wrote, and furthermore in what may be the one and only time this will ever occur we will keep archived two SEPARATE reviews of the album. P's review has been retitled to reflect the fact what he received was only a sampler, while I will be the one to take this hot potato nobody wanted. I've been burned before so I can take the heat.
Now to give both men the acclaim they deserve, here's a little background on O.C. and A.G. for first time listeners. Andre the Giant a/k/a A.G. has been rapping for nearly 20 years now, his name a reflection of his stature on the mic rather than actual height. As one half of the legendary Showbiz & A.G. team, Andre broke on the scene when their song "Soul Clap" went from underground hit to mainstream airplay, and was subsequently re-released on their much beloved and timeless hip-hop classic "Runaway Slave." It's no understatement to say this album ages like a fine wine, only getting better as the years go by, as even the interludes had classic beats so good they got recycled for songs by other artists, while rappers who showed up for one verse cameos became legends in their own right. Big L started sending garbage MC's to the graveyard on "Represent" so in effect "Runaway Slave" is the reason I followed L for the length of his far too short career. Make a list of the 100 rap albums you should own and it must be on it. Make a list of the 10 albums you'd want to be stranded on a desert island with and it still qualifies.
Much the same can be said of O.C.'s "Word...Life." Matt Jost got as close to a perfect ten in his write-up as you can without giving actually giving it out, and Omar Credle deserved every bit of it. 15 years later "Time's Up" is still the definitive anthem for true lyricists, as O.C. angrily and poetically dismissed all other rappers as lacking "the minerals and the vitamins, irons and the niacin" to even be holding a mic. The beat hammered home his point as Credle took studio gangsters apart surgically, exposing every single fraud they perpetrated about being street thugs. "Word...Life" could have fallen far short of the high expectations this single created and instead delivered in excess of it thanks largely due to Buckwild, who along with O.C. would eventually be recognized as full-fledged members of the same DITC crew that Showbiz & A.G. belonged to. It was a natural fit given DITC's lyrical and musical don Lord Finesse contributed on production to this album, but even more natural given the mutual love all the members had for dope beats and dope rhymes. As a unit DITC seemed like they should be the unstoppable titans of New York hip-hop. This made it all the more surprising that it was another SIX YEARS after "Word...Life" before the Crates Crew finally released an album together - by which time integral member Big L had already left the physical and moved on to the spiritual.
There you have it. The respect and esteem I hold both A.G. and O.C. in is among the highest of any artists in hip-hop... and yet both have had problems over the last 15 years. Part of it was the music industry being unable to market their hardcore raps properly. Even when the beats bumped their works were perceived as too intellectual for the clubs. Ironically if either one tried to dumb down their beats or rhymes to gain that audience it failed miserably - all they achieved was the loss of loyal fans who thought they had fallen off or sold out. Successive solo albums by either artist got progressively harder to find at retail, and were it not for online retailers who catered to hardcore hip-hop heads some of them might have gone totally unnoticed. Looking to restore their reputations after years of missteps, mistakes, poor marketing and widespread sleeping by the masses, O.C. and A.G. took the natural step that made sense given their respect for each other and for the DITC crew - get together for a group album again. This time it's not the whole posse though, it's just the two men with short acronyms going in for the long haul. "Oasis" is their time to get their rightful due. Things start out incredibly hot on the Statik Selektah produced title track, as scratches and samples rise and fall over a sparkling backdrop and pulsing bassline. Credle steps up to bat and he's immediately doubling down:
"The O is for not an option, keep your stereos locked in
Young and old rappers duckin and dodgin
The A, part of my attribute, none are above me
Test my amplitude, I'm amped to do it
My brain telekinetic, flow high octane minus ethanol
Fools left behind I leave 'em weepin short
S for years dwellin for years in the trenches
Knowin the game is fixed by dough pigs and piglets
Schindler's List, swastikas, the plot thickens
Shortcomings politicians hide truth to dwarf niggaz
I is me, yet there's no I in team
Brothers strung off the DNA, me
Show A'ness, another S, stimuli
All bases covered for fakers and criminals"
After O.C. stakes his claim to the album's name, A.G. comes in to knock the ball out the park:
"You lack the minerals and vitamins, irons and the niacins
I am just repeatin, what O.C. was speakin
You know me, don't be believin your press clips
She came wit'chu but you ain't who she left with
I got a ring of women that got a thing for sinnin
Got wings for winnin 'til I can't fly no higher
So fire inferno, burn slow the sour does
Our love unbreakable, rare cats like sabretooth
Criminal leviathan, spittin through the wire and
Kanye even say that, Andre's on fire and
You can go and ask your favorite rapper about me
This year, move from top five to top three"
Over 17 tracks of lyrical and musical hotness, O.C. and A.G. do not disappoint for either their old fans holding out hope of a return to glory or their new listeners looking for the hot shit. The Lord Finesse produced "Give it Back" is a throwback to the classic Crates hip-hop sound, the Showbiz produced "Young With Style" blends a simple clap rhythm together perfectly with a light guitar riff so both members can mack even as they are perplexed the honies don't know who Big Daddy Kane and Slick Rick are. He also kills it on "Boom Bap," a song that lives up to KRS-One returning it to the forefront almost two decades ago. As good as it is "Put it in the Box" is even better, with E-Blaze giving A.G. the breadth and depth to spit his trademark lackadaisical flow perfectly. He also produces for the whistling "God's Gift," which may be the best definition of how these two rappers spit possible, but it's also A.G. telling everybody to use their own gifts to the fullest potential. It may seem strange to close the album on a song named "Pain" but nothing is painful about the journey from start to finish on this album. Peep how A.G. and O.C. refuse to let up lyrically even on the final track:
A.G.: "I used to live in the fast lane like Chamberlain was my last name
Ball hard like every game is my last game
I know pain, know crack cocaine
that flow through my nephew's veins, he's only six
Phony chicks kill my vibe
So I tied the knot, now hip-hop is my only bitch
I'm feelin bitter cause they said I killed my nigga
But I'ma force white men to call me mister
This is history, one of the best in this century
But Vibe and XXL don't mention me
On our grind, overtime, fuck the nonsense
Punch the clock so much it's unconscious"
O.C.: "Everyday struggles
Move at the speed of a shuttle in a traffic jam - things are slow
A while back I told my brother Show
Within my soul I had suicidal thoughts, I was ready to go
All at once the weight of pain swooped down on my brain
Followed by uncontrollable cryin - thought I was goin insane
I fell to my knees, the type to never show weakness
My dude had a grievance, peep it
We haven't talked for two years, out the loop I was buggin
Figured I had to do what I do
Career on hold, my paper got low
So-called friends from my hood to me are now foes
Demons front and center gets nasty like a microwave dinner
Wifey's diagnosed with a physical dilemma
I try to stay strong by refusin to fall
So mentally I need to lean with my back up against a wall"
It gets deep on "Oasis," but don't be afraid to jump in for a swim. While the sampler version of the album only scratched at the surface of what O.C. and A.G. had to offer the world, the full length album reveals all the potential that both artists have to be soulful and thoughtful is still there. The years may have slowed them down a little bit but by working together they offset each other's weaknesses and amplify each other's strengths, making "Oasis" an album very much worth your time and effort to find.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: December 1, 2009