Some artists truly do get better with time. Jay-Z and Masta Ace proved that last year. Quietly, O.C. may be showing 2005 what hes made of. At the top of the year, O.C. released the import, Starchild, but only 20,000 copies were made available. Still, the work was strong enough to attract Pete Rock and 9th Wonder for a potential re-release down the line. If that wasnt enough, O.C. is closing the year with his rougher, street side, Smoke and Mirrors. O.C. calls himself a hypocrite, the streets call his Mush, and Hip-Hoppers just call him dope.
AllHipHop.com wanted to look at one of the valedictorians of 94s freshmen class. We explore the immense pressures that Brooklyns native son has been against. We look at his duel writing styles, his vulnerability, and even get a look at Os criticism against himself.
It takes all kinds, goes the line. For ten years plus, O.C. has been giving us both Guns and Butter. Pay respects to the two sides, the two albums, and the limitless ability of a true Hip-Hop icon.
AllHipHop.com: Wheres O.C.s head at right now?
O.C.: Im basically back in the mix, man. Ive been recording, just happy. Im in a happy place now, thats how they say it, right? My mind is focused, its clear, good.
AllHipHop.com: Thats good, because a lot of people from your era are bitter.
O.C.: Its too easy to be bitter. I was before. Im not bitter anymore. S**t wasnt fun, thats why I took some time off. My father always said, If you aint havin fun with something, leave it alone. Go back to it if its meant. I wasnt havin fun. My man [Big L] is dead, we had plans. Pun and Joe was doing they thing. Its just a whole lot of things played into the equation. My crew [D.I.T.C.] made it [possible] for a lot of people to eat, and we eat but we not eatin like we was supposed to be eatin. Like Jay said, My foots at the door, but I keep droppin the key. Thats how its been with Diggin and our separate projects. We get to that door, and we dont have the key-maker. We cant get in that door. Im in a happy place. Im not gonna do it bitter.
AllHipHop.com: I thought that Starchild was one of the most exciting records thats come out in 2005. It was ready for a while, and it was on limited release, and Im surprised that youre still happy? I was angry at that one.
O.C.: Nah, I mean honestly, Starchild wasnt ready, it wasnt finished. Mahlon [Williams, executive producer] jumped the gun a little bit. We gonna keep it gangsta. I told him that putting an album out overseas, in Japan, was a bad move. Thats one of my biggest markets. If you start a tidal wave in one place, its gonna move til it calms down. Right now, for what its worth, the record not being finished, people like you call it classic, incredible Im like wow. Its a good thing. It makes me feel. But I know its not 100%.
AllHipHop.com: Whats it missing?
O.C.: A whole lot. The vocals to me, theyre not mixed right. Nothing is mixed right. You cant put a test record out in Japan. Come on, thats D.I.T.C.s biggest market. Anything you put out there is considered an album. You cant do a leak thing. People considered that a record. So I gotta say, its an album. Its not an album in my heart, but its an album because its in a package.
AllHipHop.com: Will we ever see it distributed majorly in the US?
O.C.: Definitely. It kinda conflicted with an album Im doing through Emporium, which [The Hieroglyphics] put me on. Imma put that album out, which is called Smoke & Mirrors. Thats a whole other thing. The Starchild thing, Imma go back and revamp it. For people like me and you who understand music, you got the fans and then the diehard fans who decipher and pick apart records. You cant put out an album and not work it, and perform it, and tease people with it. If one of my favorite artists put out a record, and I dont see him do it after supporting him so long Imma be like, F**k you, because you depriving the people of what they want. They [arent just] consumers.
AllHipHop.com: Okay, so what about Smoke & Mirrors? I heard a few songs off it, and I think this is your street record, whereas Starchild was your insightful record. You, like Buckshot, seem to have several audiences. Are these separate albums used to cater to different audiences?
O.C.: Yeah, definitely. Smoke & Mirrors, I put it to you like this, its hypocritical.
AllHipHop.com: Ive never heard an MC describe their work that way.
O.C.: Its hypocritical because what people fail to realize is that us as artists are human beings. I make mistakes like anybody else. I got so much flack for the Bon Appetit album. To me, I dont care what you or anybody say, its a good album. People expect me to do Times Up over and over. I cant duplicate something that was done already. So, I dont duplicate the same formulas. As Mike Tyson said, That s**td be ludicrous, B. My point is, I know Im a hypocrite with certain things. I talk about certain things and dont always follow up with em just like anybody else. I want people to see the vulnerability in that. Im an artist, but Im a human being first. Im not apologizing for anything I do. I made two different records, totally.
AllHipHop.com: How difficult was that creatively?
O.C.: Its not hard at all. The Starchild record, Im dealing with different producers. Different producers give me different moodswings. Im not gonna rhyme over a Pete Rock joint like I would do a [Lord] Finesse track. Even if its the same subject matter, its gonna be done in different tastes. The albums is gonna be night and day.
AllHipHop.com: How did you link with Hieroglyphics Crew? Few wouldve paired you with them or their label.
O.C.: Initially, they approached my partner, Mr. Dave. I think its a mutual respect. People dont understand these cats right here, they are what you would call real chitlin circuit ridas. They ridin this Hip-Hop s**t to the max. Im on a tour with them in July and August. The spots that Im hittin are spots that Ive never seen in my life, and I done been all over the world. Im talkin Boulder, Colorado. Spots thats necessary. People dont realize that Master P and them sold they music because of those spots. They not just sellin records in Louisiana, they sellin all over. I never been in these little one-horse towns. Those are the spots that count. I havent been on stage by myself in a minute.
AllHipHop.com: Wow, thats interesting. Because of your clarity and the way you can manipulate the crowd without being crazy, I think you have one of the best live shows in Hip-Hop. How can somebody like yourself get rusty?
O.C.: You know what? I went overseas maybe a year and a half ago with Pharoahe [Monch]. Pharoahes stage show is phenomenal, [as is] Talib, Mos. They got the DJs, but they also got the back-up singers and some stage show. I gotta step my game up, man. People are showin me love and still buyin my records. For me to come on stage and just walk back and forth and not give a performance for their money, thats a smack in the face. See, Im my worst critic, man. I did B.B. Kings with Finesse [recently]. With me on stage, people tend to stand there and watch. I dont know if its hypnotism or they dont like the show its one or the other. To this day, I love and appreciate what I do. I got the best job in the world. For people to wanna come see me? Little me? Come on man, thats the biggest blessing God could me. Appreciate. Thats not a big enough word.
AllHipHop.com: Your verses are dramatic. Youve got this line on the song, Memory Lane that just blew me out of the water: Destined to get the cars, the fly clothes, I stand froze, thinkin back to the snow, makin angels. Making snow angels sounds soft to people, but we all got something like that in our youth, and we all want that back.
O.C.: I found myself in that mindframe maybe in the past ten years. Im 34 now, I aint even ashamed of my age. I dont look my age. I look younger than most of these cats. I just look at it as being a human being. I had the cars, I had the jewelry, but I also had fun with my cousins comin up. Man, I still think about s**t like that. Thats my makeup. Its not that I go back on purpose because of the beat. What does it for me is memories. Memories make me who I am. Its something in my past, but its something that happened. I remember layin in the snow, makin angels. My mans, my friends, they was there. I can remember seeing cats come through the block in a nice Cadillac and s**t, being sarcastic, Yo, thats my car. Theres vulnerability in everything I do, cats just gotta look into it.
AllHipHop.com: Thats what Hip-Hop needs right now. You said it in Times Up, its all a façade. Everybody is fronting.
O.C.: Yo B!, the only cat on a major scale that does it, is Nasir. I cant diss dude. We not the same people, we dont do the same type of records but we do. Nas, his plane of writing down whats in his mind, its incredible. When you listen to New York State of Mind, it brings you there! Thats one of the major elements of being an MC is to bring someone into your world. KRS said it, When this clown jumps up to get beat down, broken down to the very last compound, see how it sounds? A little irrational. A lot of MCs like to use the word dramatical. Dont use that word, if you cant evoke that in a rhyme! Rakim did it, Nas does it, Slick Rick, Ghostface, Scarface, Jay. The Hip-Hop game is strictly, whos the roughest? Thats tiring, man.
AllHipHop.com: On Smoke & Mirrors, do we have any historic collaborations?
O.C.: At first, I thought about it. But Im tired of hearing compilation records. Im not gonna be a hypocrit to that extent. I reached out to AZ, it was no problem. I probably coulda reached out to Hov, these cats is from my era. I coulda reached out to Nas, Buckshot. You know what? Next time round. But me, Finesse and A.G. is gonna do a song thatll wrap the album up in late July.