O.C. is a man who needs no introduction. With arguably two classic street albums under his belt - Word…Life and Jewelz - O.C. has long been revered as one of New York City's premier lyricist. Even though he was shunned by the mainstream in the 90's, O.C. has withstood the test of time and has gained a cult following of fans. With O.C. releasing two albums in 2005 - Starchild and Smoke & Mirrors - the D.I.T.C. legend reintroduced himself to a whole new audience. O.C. and Low-Key chopped it up before the New Year about his successful comeback year. Phony Hip-Hop fans beware, because O.C. is about to bring the real.
MVRemix: Your new album, Smoke and Mirrors, is on the same vibe as Starchild - being more introspective and soulful, rather than hardcore - so how would you describe your mind state while recording those two albums?
O.C.: Shit, I couldn't even tell you man. I don't even look at them like the same type of albums. Smoke and Mirrors is more of a collection of songs from the past two years that I put together. To me, its just a compilation of songs - in my head at least. I don't know if that makes sense.
MVRemix: And Starchild was more of….
O.C.: That was somebody else's project. Well, somebody paid me to do a project and actually, the album you hear is not even a complete record. I don't even like the record.
MVRemix: Really? Why is that?
O.C.: Really. I know it could have been much much more, but people like it. Still, that doesn't make me content with it. But he put it out prematurely and as long as people enjoy listening to it, that's cool. But, I would rather be more than safe than sorry with putting out records. But it is what it is.
MVRemix: How did you relationship with Hieroglyphics form for this album?
O.C.: They bumped into my partners Lamont and Mr. Dave - like I said, I was already recording songs. So my name came up, as my partners ran into Domino and Casual, and they were like, "What's O.C. doing?" So we told them we would hit them off with some songs and see if y'all feel it. But Domino and Casual were like, "We already know what he can do." But we wanted to be sure and we hit them with some records anyway to let them know what we were doing. It was the respect factor, because they are a label, so I felt I had to give them the same respect as a Sony or Columbia. So it’s a good relationship financially, and it’s a good relationship period. I just came off a 43 city tour with them, so its very good.
MVRemix: What did you see in them, as a label, that other places could not offer?
O.C.: Freedom. With them, like I said, they are artists, but a label at the same time. So they have been through the same struggle I went through. I recorded this album out of my own pockets, so that showed them my independence. They have been through the same things as me - as far as dealing with Jive - "Give us a radio record" - and all the hoopla.
MVRemix: How was the tour with Hiero? What was that experience like for you?
O.C.: It was crazy. I been all over the world, I'm on my third passport now, but I have never been in half of the states we ran through on this tour. I never did the South or Midwest - actually, I think I did the Midwest years ago with Goodie Mob, Shyeim and Mic Geronimo. But it was like - in and out of St. Louis, but this was a whole different world for me, as opposed to going overseas. This was foreign, believe it or not. It was crazy, and at the same time, its 10 years later, and it’s a newer generation. So you may have had one or two people who knew me, but for the most part, in them regions, they didn't know who the hell I was.
MVRemix: Does that affect your stage show? I mean, when you know people don't know who you are, does that bother you at all?
O.C.: Na, that's a good thing. Whether people in my position want to admit it or not, when you are not putting out records for a while and you come back five or six years later - people don't know you. But that's a good thing - for me at least, because I'm reinventing myself. Not reinventing as far as trying to get a whole new image or look, but I mean that I'm a new artist all over again. For the people who do know me, they know what's up. But to the industry standards, you usually only get four years - in their mind - out of a record contract. Then after that, they are ready to drop you or move on so they can see what the next new thing is. So it was a good thing that people didn't know me. They associated me with Hiero throughout the tour, and as you know, these dudes have a big following. We were playing for two thousand people a night. So that was a good thing for me - promotional wise, anyway.
MVRemix: Which city or area do you think was the craziest?
O.C.: I gotta say the Southwest and Oregon. I seen spots like that in movies and shit - westerns and shit (chuckles). So to go out there and see them react to Hip-Hop was wow! It was crazy. A lot of skateboard kids - so it was crazy. And to look back on my career now, I was selling a hundred thousand records from New York to probably North Carolina - maybe the West Coast. But if I was going to them markets 10 years ago when my first record came out, I would have probably had a Gold record or close to eight hundred - close to platinum.
MVRemix: On the Smoke and Mirrors "Intro," you state, "A victim of my own poison, I must admit, whatever toilet I sat on…" Can you elaborate on how you are a victim of your own poison?
O.C.: The album is basically - like you said - if you listen to the intro, I say, "Its urban legend, if you stare into a mirror for too long, you get lost." That is talking about the industry, because if you let the industry hypnotize you, then you are going to try and make the type of records they want you to make. That is where most artists get lost. Then I say, "See things your mind never seen before, the theme is within rationale, urban legend, Smoke and Mirrors for me and my consumers, just to have it out." That means, everybody who puts out a record, nine times out of ten, wants everybody to say their record is dope - blah, blah, blah. But that is not the case. You can't expect everybody to like everything you put out. In my case, I'm being hypocritical and contradictory in the record, so listen to the record and listen where I am being hypocritical and contradicting. Because I'm saying this on purpose so y'all will be like, "Oh, I see where he is contradicting himself. Or I see where he is being a hypocrite." And basically, I'm a human being. But for some odd reason, people don't look at artists as human beings. Its like we aliens or something. But that was basically what that whole situation was about.
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"...to the industry standards, you usually only get four years - in their mind - out of a record contract. Then after that, they are ready to drop you or move on so they can see what the next new thing is."