Friday, September 10, 2010

O.C. Demos Restored and Released

"Fudge Pudge" was large in 1991. It was a crazy song with an incredible bassline, crazy freestyle rhymes and some fresh piano playing for the hook. Though not technically their first release, it was definitely most peoples' introduction to the bugged and beloved crew, Organized Konfusion. So after the single, we all rushed to the album, only to discover, "oh, that guy who kicked the illest, final verse isn't actually part of the group? Well who was he?" Of course he was O.C., and in 1994, our expectations were met and then some with his stellar debut single, "Time's Up," on Wild Pitch.

But that's a long gap between 1991 and 1994. Surely something had to've been going on behind the scenes during all that time... Surely he was must've been meeting potential producers and managers, shopping demos, and recording some pretty dope music, right? Well, of course he was! In fact, he was signed to Serch's production company along with Nas. And now, thanks to No Sleep Records, they've finally been released on wax! O-Zone Originals is a 6-song EP featuring all previously unreleased songs recorded in 1993, plus a bonus radio promo he recorded for Stretch and Bobbito, also in 1993.

So, let me start off by saying that, despite these being demo tracks, the sound quality is excellent (with one possible exception, which we'll come to). This isn't some dodgy Maxwell cassette ripped onto vinyl; these must've been mastered from the original DATs or something, because they're loud and crisp. It's limited to 200 copies, and as you can see above, comes in a nice sticker cover. Okay, now let's talk about the music!

We start out with two hot tracks produced by Buckwild: "Outsiders" and "Would You Believe?" "Would You Believe" brings a succession of hard, deep jazzy samples (and those early 90's sleighbells are in full effect!), but to be "Outsiders" is the winner. This is a pure, hardcore cut with that classic street jazz DITC are the masters of when they're at their best:

"There's a lot of real fake brothers, quick to ride us.
All they wanna do is divide us.
I'm hip to it, fella. Well, you better decide
How you're livin', or you're gonna get taken for a ride.
Yeah, it's a threat, with no guns involved.
Fellas inside of my crew will do a nice, clean job.
I can't stand snakes and connivers;
My crew consists of strivers and survivors.
As far as I'm concerned, you can terminate
Your whole damn effort. I'm on to it,
But I'm acting like I never knew it.
Like a parasite, they wanna get inside us.
Sorry, There's no room for outsiders!"

Next up is "Kick a Rhyme for the Record," produced by two guys named Mark Pearson and John Mcgann. I'm not gonna front: I have no idea who those dudes are, and that just adds to the unusual feeling here. Yeah, this one's a little unorthodox... it's got OC kicking a really dope rhyme over a cool bassline and hand-clappy beats; but it features these weird... I don't know, a keyboard set to some kind of horn setting, I guess. It's definitely unusual and I could see it ruining the song for a lot of traditionalists, but I dig it. It's fun, a little quirky, but the bass and percussion keep the proceedings from straying too far from "real."

And side A plays out with that Stretch and Bob promo, with back-up vocals by MC Serch. It's a quality rhyme, albeit purely promotional for the hosts, over a surprisingly smooth beat by DJ Eclipse. And it sounds professionally produced, not like one of those Wake Up Show on-air freestyles. But it's short and ends abruptly. Still, it's definitely a cool inclusion, and the production fits in surprisingly well with the rest of the EP.

Flipping it over to the B-side now, we get one more track by each of the previous producers: Buckwild, Eclipse and those Mark and John dudes. Actually, only Mark is credited on the label, but the promo e-mail No Sleep sent out lists both of them. Anyway, their second track is tight and more conventional than "Kick a Rhyme:" a rough bassline and a nice horn sample on the hook. These guys aren't name producers, but it's definitely up to par with everything the known producers' contributed, and better than a lot of the tracks on Word...Life.

Eclipse's second track, "That Bad Motherfucker," has a funkier vibe. It's more upbeat, but still has a nice, plodding, head-nodding tempo with lots DITC-style samples and some fresh scratching by DJ Riz. The lyrics have more of a clever, playful wordplay to them, too; more like something you'd expect from Big L than O.C.... It's kinda more what you would've expected after hearing "Fudge Pudge" than the more serious O.C. we've gotten used to.

Finally, we end with Buckwild's third effort, "Sugar," a narrative rap about a girl named Sugar. I prefer the freestyle or braggadocio rhymes to the story stuff (though this one's amusing), but the star is Buckwild's beat. It's a pretty unique track, that shifts between different sample sets, that's both peppy and grimy at the same time. Unfortunately, this is the one "possible exception" in sound quality I mentioned before. The bass is ultra-deep, and is maybe a little distorted... you do notice it when you raise the volume up. I don't know if this is a fault in the mastering here, though; or just in the original recording. I saw it mentioned on the DWG forums, and it wasn't hard for me to "find" the issue they're referring to; but I have to say, it really doesn't bother me. It all sounds pretty clean to me, even turned up loud. Maybe I've just listened to too many Hobo Junction songs where the engineers intentionally "broke" the bass, but I personally have no complaints - it doesn't break here, it just overwhelms the rest of the song more than it was probably meant to. And overall, this whole EP definitely sounds a lot nicer than your average demo pressed onto wax.

So, yeah. I can't really do this EP enough justice. It's a great release, and as a whole, maybe even better than Word... Life (though "Time's Up" is still his #1 song, of course); it's really that good. Unfortunately, at just 200 copies, it sold out in only six days of being announced (hey, don't get mad at me; I tweeted the news on day 1!). So if you didn't pre-order it, be prepared to either wait a long time for a good opportunity or pay through the nose. But don't worry, I won't end on a downer; here's something that should cheer you back up. In No Sleep's initial announcement, they ended by saying, "This release is part one of two unreleased O.C. EP." So keep your eyes peeled!

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