The Disrupt

Artist: Oh NoTitle: The DisruptRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Kenny Rodriguez

Music runs in Oh No’s veins. With an R&B vocalist for a father, a former Dizzy Gillespie trumpeter for an uncle, and Madlib the Beat Conductor as an older brother – the Oxnard, CA artist was pretty much predestined to be a musician. But along with those influential blessings comes the underlying curse of great expectations since being the prolific Madlib’s sibling is certainly a daunting role to live up to.

With his debut release, The Disrupt (Stones Throw), the rapper/DJ/producer Oh No opens himself up to a barrage of comparisons and scrutiny from Madlib-crazed critics. But as the album progresses, an underlying distinction emerges between the two siblings: namely, marijuana is to Madlib what video games are to Oh No.

A self-proclaimed video game connoisseur, Oh No’s passion is immediately evident in his music. To give you a hint of what The Disrupt sounds like, take the avant-garde beats on Madvillain’s Madvillainy (or even the sub par Jaylib’s Champion Sound), process them one-by-one through a digital grinder of keyboard synths and computer tings, and then sprinkle a dash of soul-jazz samples to perfection. And so the first single “The Ride” flaunts an electronic spiral of 8-bit Nintendo blips, while “On The Way” is a Space Invaders-inspired anthem amid tinny laser blasts chirping in the background. When not utilizing arcade sounds, Oh No is either breaking amps on the bass-heavy “Stomp That v.2” and the speaker-rattling “WTF,” or laying soothing neo-soul grooves on “Getaway” and “I Can’t Help Myself.”

Oh No is as equally eclectic on the microphone. “Take Another (Blunted Conversations)” finds him immersed in a hallucinogenic convo with a blunt of premium Cali bud, pestering and insisting: “Take a hit, and I’ma crown you a king / as long as you smoke, you’ll shine like a diamond ring, bling!” A young thug’s karmic street tale unfolds on “Seventeen” and “Break,” while on the booming “Every Section” Oh No points a finger at corruption in the government, the media, and the world at large. Although his rambunctious, semi off-beat flow gets better with every listen, Oh No is clearly more skilled on the MPC-2000 than on the mic.

The Disrupt is unlike anything heard in a long while, but it’s exactly what’s missing on the radio dial: experimentation and originality. Teetering between quality and dissonance, this is what happens when an avid video game addict traps himself in a recording studio: off-the-wall robotic bleeps, explosive bass lines and synthesizers galore that bring back 1988 memories of Ninja Gaiden, Contra, and Megaman (if you’re too young to remember any of this, ask an older sibling about it).

Although Madlib lends a hand here-and-there on the beats, and while his musical influence is obvious throughout, Oh No’s style both on the mic and behind the boards is all his own. It might take a few listens to realize it, but The Disrupt/i> is what bored Hip-Hop fans have been anticipating.