Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sailing the Ocean Orange, part 1

When Brooklyn's Natural Resource exploded on the scene in '96 with their kick-ass song "Baseball," the underground scene fell promptly in love with What What. She, in turn, immediately recognized and jumped onto that momentum, turning it into a successful solo career with a new name: Jean Grae. Natural Resource, sadly, only managed to put out one more 12" before seemingly being forgotten about completely. But Natural Resource was a hit-making unit thanks to more than just one member. Ocean also made a two-prong assault on the solo scene, which was sadly overlooked.

Ocean's first 12" came out on Natural Resource's home label, Makin' Records in 2000. Technically, you might point out, that's actually before Jean put out any of her own music, but remember, she was doing all those 12"s with Herbaliser way back in '97. Now... ok. I'll make one more point about Ms. Grae, and then I'll shut up about her, because this post is meant to be about Ocean. You may see this 12" listed online as "featuring Jean Grae," but if you look on the label, she's not credited (you guys know you can click to enlarge all my scans, right?). That's because she is on here, but only doing backing adlibs behind one of the verses. It's a good addition to the song, the element works; but if the only reason you pick this is up is to complete your Jean Grae collection, you're gonna be disappointed.

But there's plenty of other good reasons to pick this up. Chiefly that Ocean was a clever, underrated MC who comes with a slick flow over a nice, head-nodding beat here. There's just one song: "The Usual," but it comes in two distinct versions, "Sober Nights" and "Intoxicated Nights;" and you get Clean, Dirty and Instrumental mixes for both. Lyrically, they're both the same: fun (but surprisingly angry) day-in-the-life type rhymes, where our narrator has clearly opted to go the intoxicated, rather than sober route. But the instrumentals are completely different - though they do evoke a similar atmosphere - one produced by Run Run Shaw (another alias of Jean Grae, so much for not mentioning her again!), and the other by a guy named god's CHILD, who I've never heard of; but I gotta say his version edges out the other one. It's really hot, and I'm surprised you didn't hear more DJs using this for freestyles and radio junk back when this came out. Some of the rhymes are funny, but both versions are really all about just how fresh Ocean sounds riding over the dope beat(s).

I don't know what else to say besides that this sounds really nice. It's a completely worthy entry in the Natural Resource oeuvre, with a Fugees-in-their-prime vibe. So if you've slept on this, do yourself a favor and go find a copy. It's an undeserved neglect, but the upside is that Ocean's releases are not hard to track down at all, and for cheap. 8)


  1. I saw this record a bunch of times, years ago. But I never picked it up because I didn't know who the hell Ocean was. Now I know, so if I see it again, I'll check it out. Thanks, man.

  2. I heard he joined the FDNY. Someone should get back in the studio. Talented dude.