O.C. – Word…Life (October 18, 1994)

The first time I heard Omar Credle, better known to the world as O.C., was on Organized Konfusion’s “Fudge Pudge” and again a few years later on “Let’s Organize” (which also featured Q-Tip (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check)) off their STRESS album. While I don’t recall being super impressed by either of those cameos, O.C. was able to get Wild Pitch’s attention, as he would sign with the independent label and release his debut album, Word…Life in 1994.

O.C. would invite Organized Konfusion to produce a few tracks on Word…Life, as well as his DITC bredrin Lord Finesse and a few other lesser known producers, but the bulk of the production would be handled by an up and coming producer named Buckwild (who also produced some of the stronger tracks on Artifacts debut album Between A Rock And A Hard Place). Word…Life didn’t sell well, but it was a critical darling that the critics and the streets equally praised and adored.

Let’s revisit Word…Life and see how it’s held up over the past 25 years.

Creative Control – O.C. kicks the album off with a jazzy after-hours Organized Konfusion produced instrumental that he uses to spit one quick, but potent verse over: “The slept-on phenomenon, the mic be in my palm and arm, many want to hold me back ’cause I’m coming on strong, subject matters are struck, my imagination is wonder, I’s underestimated by sons of bitches, who had power to sign me but fronted, wanted stuff I didn’t fit into my phonics, so they uninvited”. This is a dope intro that sounds even more impressive on wax than reading about it.

Word…Life – Now that our host is all warmed up, it’s time to get to work. For the title track, Buckwild lays down a motivating mid-tempo groove built around a dope piano loop, as O.C. scolds women for wearing lipstick (“I dig lips with natural juices, soft and lickable not rough and ruthless”), asks the fans to give new jacks a chance (“by the way do me a favor, give it a chance if a nigga has flavor”) and flexes on some emcee shit as well (“Crushin’ competition, dustin’ opposition, down the toilet gonna flush your composition, your scribes are weak, therefore, can’t speak, for self against the man with the true mystique, I got so many ways to flip phrases, flip those, passin’ licks over the heads of my foes”). Brilliant.

O-Zone – This is probably my favorite instrumental on Word…Life. Buckwild lays down hard boom bap drums and adds a dope drowsy horn loop to it, all capped off by a warm vibraphone loop that gives the whole thing a warm, fuzzy and melancholy feel. As he states at the beginning of the final verse, “O.C.’s in his zone” and he continues his lyrical onslaught on these fire tracks.

Born 2 Live – This was the second single from Word…Life. After a short, sweet and beautifully soulful interlude, Buckwild uses the same Keni Burke loop that Pete Rock would also use the same year (see “Take You There” from Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s Main Ingredient album) for the backdrop, but BW’s has a more somber feel, opposed to the feel good vibes of PR’s. O.C. uses it to tackle the difficult subject of death, as he reflects on a few of the people he’s lost, including a kid from his hood when they were shorties: “He just received an award for Little League Baseball like an hour before, plus, he didn’t even get to see the summer settin’, dyin’ all young at the age of seven, it opened up my eyes, ya’ll that the flesh is weak, as a kid thinkin’ shit like that was mad deep”. From the production to the content, this is a well-executed song.

Time’s Up – This was the lead single and the statement song that put O on the map and got niggas attention. Buckwild builds a bananas backdrop that O.C. completely obliterates, as he takes aim at “those who pose lyrical but really aint true”. Our host wastes no time (no pun intended) and from his opening line he goes in: “You lack the minerals and vitamins, irons and the niacin, fuck who did I offend, rappers sit back, I’m ’bout to begin, bout foul talk you squawk, never even walked the walk, more less destined to get tested, never been arrested, my album will manifest many things I saw, did or heard about, all told first hand, never word of mouth”. Yeah, I know…our host kind of contradicts himself with the “heard about” and “word of mouth” thing, but the rest of his rhymes from beginning to end are razor sharp, and Buckwild’s banger is just as potent. This is an undeniable classic. Would you put it on your top 20 hip-hop songs list? It definitely deserves to be mentioned in the discussion.

Point O Viewz – Before the actual song begins, Buckwild loops up the illest organ sample I’ve ever heard for a short interlude (you’ll probably recognize it from the instrumental for Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement” off The Black Album). Then he drops a feel good melodic groove (with a co-production credit going to Prestige) that our host breezes through, effortlessly displaying his lyrical mastery and command of the English language.

Constables – A “constable” is a peace officer with limited policing authority. I’ve never heard the term used other than for this song’s title, so I guess O.C. was just trying to impress us with his vast vocabulary. O takes the dark Organized Konfusion produced track and addresses a subject that’s been plaguing America since its inception: police harassment of black men. Our host is fully aware that all cops aren’t bad, as he states in his second verse “some cops are cool and some are just downright dicks”, but he’s clearly aware that there is a problem. O.C. does a pretty solid job of rockin’ the slightly off-kilter drum pattern (the KRS-One vocal sample sounds sloppy to me), but overall this one is not nearly as impressive as the previous six songs.

Ga Head – Lord Finesse gets his only production credit of the evening, as he churns out a solid backdrop for our host to share his suspicions that his girl’s cheating on him. To O.C’s surprise, it’s not another man that has his woman open, but another woman: “she did a switch, to go down on a bitch, had me thinkin’ another man changed her pitch, another woman’s been beatin’ my time, another sister not a mister she lovin’ mine”. O.C.’s story telling abilities are solid, but again, this song is a slight step back from the first half of Word…Life.

No Main Topic – This is the first real mishap on Word…Life. DJ Ogee gets credit for the noise impersonating an instrumental, while O.C. rhymes in a super low tone with a slight distortion on his microphone, making it difficult to understand our host. I’ve listened to this song at least a hundred times through the years and I still have no idea what the hell O is saying. Prince Paul jumps on at the end to spit some freestyle rhymes, only adding insult to the already injured song.

Let It Slide – After a dope emotional interlude, Buckwild drops a super jazzy backdrop that reeks of nineties east coast hip-hop, and I love it. Our host uses it to share of a few different episodes that he had to swallow his pride instead of letting his anger get the best of him and smoke a fool for getting out of line: “I wonder why, chumps want to pick on I, they be settin’ it off and I be lettin’ it slide, I don’t know what they be seein’, but one time in a conflict I flipped, turned into an unstable human being”. I love the everyday Joe real-life persona and content that O.C. gave us on Word…Life.

Ma Dukes – Buckwild lays the feel good backdrop as O.C. invites his mom to sing the adlibs at the beginning, end and in between verses, hence the song title. O.C. doesn’t spit his strongest rhymes on this one, but sometimes, like he says on the song’s final verse, “it’s a vibe”, and about letting ma dukes shine. Damn, I miss my mama.

Story – Decent filler material.

Outtro (Sabatoge) – Buckwild loops up Faze O’s “Riding High” for O.C. to spit one solid verse over, while Prince Po preaches speaks on the song’s intro and outro.

Born 2 Live (Remix) – Organized Konfusion provides the instrumental for this remix that uses the same lyrics as the original with a slightly different hook. The instrumental suits O.C.’s lyrics perfectly, as it has warm, cold and melancholy qualities warring with each other, which all correlate to the feelings you experience when mourning a loved one. Rest in peace, mama.

O.C.’s flow might not have been as sharp and polished as Nas’, but lyrically he rivals the Queensbridge King on his debut album, and it could be argued that his content on Word…Life has stood up better over time than Illmatic’s. Buckwild (and Organized Konfusion) blesses O with a brilliant batch of backdrops for the first half of Word…Life, and even though the second half is pretty decent, it pales in comparison to the masterpiece that the first six songs are. Cut out four of the last eight songs and Word…Life goes from being a really good album to Illmatic status.

-Deedub

 

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2 Responses to O.C. – Word…Life (October 18, 1994)

  1. willmiami76 says:

    Great review! I liked the album but honestly “Jewelz” was a better and more cohesive album than Time’s Up. You forgot to mention the late great DJ Roc Raida of the Xecutioners did all the cuts on this album. Which I didn’t find out until a few years ago. Also Times Up was sampled on DITC’s “The Enemy”. I heard an interview OC did on Youtube. Which I can’t find to put the link up. That he said that him and Nas were supposed to do a song together for Word Life. But Nas never showed up to the studio.

    • deedub77 says:

      What?? A Nas and O.C. collabo back in ’94 would have been epic!!!! I have to revisit that Jewelz album. He had some heat on there, but I remember it being a bit uneven.

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