Monday, June 3, 2013

Raw Factor 1.0

It doesn't scan that well; but the label
is actually a cool, reflective silver.

Don't get me wrong, "Raw Factor 2.0" was a good record, which I recommend... but it seemed a little bass ackwards to be getting 2.0 before getting the original. I'm pretty sure most of my readers know the story, but just to briefly recap: Omniscence is an ill, lyrical MC from North Carolina, who signed to East/West Records in the mid 90s. He put out a couple hot singles, got "Rhyme Of the Month" in The Source... but ultimately, the album never dropped. It was called Raw Factor and it was completed; but it never saw the light of day and fans have been holding the torch for this album over the decades. Well, finally, Dope Folks Records is putting it out... over a series of 12" singles. The first of which, titled Raw Factors, has just arrived.

So we have here the first three songs to be carried over from Omni and producer Fanatic's reels. And let me tell you, they have come out strong. even if you've downloaded the mixtape Omni released online years ago, you haven't heard these songs. There actually seem to be multiple, somewhat different mixes with mostly the same tracks but also some unique ones, floating around out there, all containing blends and snippets of songs from the ever-unreleased album. I've been going through all the ones I can find, and I'm pretty confident none of these three songs were ever included in any of those mixes - so these will be completely new to your ears.

Strictly speaking, however, only two were completely new to my ears.   You may've caught a post I made years ago about an Omniscence promo EP... a tape sent out to journalists in advance of the album that contained six songs that, at the time, everybody assumed would soon be featured on the upcoming Raw Factor album. Well, the last song on that 12", "Was It Just You," is the same as on that tape: "a smooth, cool out groove with some nice reggae verses at the beginning and end" (follow that link for a more substantial write-up with lyrics, etc). It's the same version... same beat, same rhymes, same hook. Now you can finally own it for yourself; I think you'll like it.

The other two songs are completely new to me, and what's more, I think they're two of his best cuts compared to any of the material from the mixtapes, singles, promo tape or anywhere else. "If You Got Beef" and the title track - finally we get to hear it - are two raw, freestyle tracks with Omni just going hard over some rugged beats. The punchlines he's so known for are definitely on hand.... but there's an edge here, further amplified by these two instrumentals, which are possibly the grittiest in his catalog. And he has a core of respectable authenticity that reminds me of Big L, as opposed to most "punchline rappers" who can come off as corny, bad stand-up comedians when they fill their songs with cheesy jokes, awkward similes and pop culture references. This 12" is a monster.

Now, coming with only three songs does seem a little light... how many volumes is it going to take for us to get the complete album? Eight? Yeesh. But this way, we do get the instrumental versions (all three are included on the B-side) that we never would've gotten had this album actually come out from East/West back in the day. So it's ultimately it's a superior product. And no matter how they organize them, come on, they're gonna be essential. After all, we've been waiting for this 1996.

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