The liner notes for “Moving On” are quite clear about whose project this is. “Produced by Oakley Grenell. All music written, arrange and produced by O. Grenell unless stated below. All vocals and instrumentals recored by O. Grenell.” Okay we get it – this is an album by an O.G. for an O.G. Who exactly is Oakley ‘O.G.’ Grenell though?
Here’s what we do know. Grenell hails from Christchurch, New Zealand. His father before him was a successful musician who had already sold over 100K records when the budding ‘O.G.’ was only 10 years old. To put that into perspective, you only need to sell five thousand records to go “gold” in New Zealand, so that would be like going gold 20 times over in the United States. Pretty damn impressive. With that kind of musical pedigree the younger Grenell certainly had not only the right heritage but a rich environment of sound to grow up then, much like Nasir Jones did at the feet of Olu Dara. Grenell taught himself to play guitar and moved on to making beats, starting with Pro Tools and continually expanding his horizons from there. To put a bottom line on it this ‘O.G.’ is a musical producer and not a rapper, DJ or beatbox. His contribution to the arts is making the beats to get things started.
The arts certainly need more competent producers, let alone dope ones, and listening to Grenell’s “Moving On” I definitely feel he falls somewhere between competent and dope. The loping electronics and growling bass of “Day in the Life” featuring Dynamite MC are fine by me. There’s a light airy rasta sound to “Bam Bam” featuring Wacklar that could be the vibe at any party or social gathering. “Roots Rock” is aptly named since the jazzy fat and nasty sound reminds me of The Roots, and New Zealand lyricists KP and Switch definitely set it off on the mic. Grenell doesn’t seem to be pinned down to any one sound or style in his production. “Calling International” breaks out a jazz and R&B groove and Charmed 1 is a fresh female voice in rap. “We Don’t Play” has the heavy boom bap of a melding between DMX and Sizzla. “Experience” favors piano keys and funky sax horns while factoring in the occasional scratching. They’re all enjoyable experiences and props to the ‘O.G.’ for producing them.
To be honest though I’m somewhat confused as to what the ‘O.G.’ really intends with this release. Does he want to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a star in his own right? He’s certainly got musical talent behind the boards enough to be a very good producer, but very few producers ever rise to superstar status above and beyond who they produce for. Every Pete Rock and Kanye West are flanked by a dozen competent to above average beatsmiths who will never be household names. ‘O.G.’ seems obsessed with letting us know this is his project, while it’s patently obvious from any song featuring a guest that vocals are not what Grenell does best. The songs worth repeat play on “Moving On” all feature someone not named Grenell providing lyrical contributions. Then there’s the title “Moving On” itself, which implies the ‘O.G.’ is going somewhere when neither I nor most of you reading this review will be aware of where he’s even been. I think it’s safe to say Grenell has a future both in and outside of his native New Zealand, and could wind up being a bigger star than his father was on BOTH fronts, but what I hear on “Moving On” is a lot of potential that could be best harnessed and focused if he doesn’t try to be the star of his own projects, something that didn’t really work out well for RJD2 and probably won’t for Grenell. We may all wind up “Moving On” ourselves if that’s his intent.