Hidden Gems

Artist: O.C.Title: Hidden GemsRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jake Paine

Through defunct labels and poor distribution channels in his 13 years of releases, it could be argued that most O.C. albums are rare treasures. However those that have collected the Brooklyn/Queens MC’s work will find <i>Hidden Gems</i> (Next Mill) to be an accurate extension of the introspective introvert and predictable “Mush” character he adopted later. Compiled throughout his career, these 16 tracks unearth some brilliant ‘90s D.I.T.C. production in addition to quality rhymes.To this day, O.C. has struggled to top the praise for his 1994 Word…Life debut. It comes as little surprise that “Ozone” and “Snakes,” both products of this era, steal the show. The first finds O.C.’s tone making unusual shifts as his careful tongue carves over a charged Jazz Fusion collage. “Snakes,” with its yelling chorus seems like a likely cutting room floor holdover from the emotional but sedated album. In the middle, Hidden Gems cues the DJ Premier produced masterpiece “Crooklyn” [really "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers"] from The Crooklyn Dodgers '95 collective (with Chubb Rock and Jeru) along with several previously released D.I.T.C. tracks.A decade later, O.C.’s post-‘96 direction deserves more appreciation than the scoffs Bon Appetit was met with. The rarest of several Jay-Z collaborations, “Bonafied,” suggests O.C., like AZ or Mic Geronimo, is a talented MC who could keep up with the swag of the shiny stone late ‘90s. The remix to last year’s “Emotions,” along with two new concoctions “The Inventor” and “Yes Sir” fail to break new ground, caught between the O.C. of ’94 and ’99, without definitive production.Hidden Gems lives up to its name—for about five songs. The rest is readily available or simply repackaged. Still, for new fans whom have discovered O.C. through his current Hiero association or simply cannot obtain the out-of-print material, this suffices. Like the Lost Tapes release from the MC that O.C. was constantly compared against throughout 1994, Hidden Gems would not be released if not made by a valued Hip-Hop voice.