US and Canadian Underground Hip Hop coverage including Rap plus Soul - exclusive interviews, reviews, articles
O.C. - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Starchild In The World Of Smoke And Mirrors

March 2006

O.C. personifies epitome the perseverance of an underappreciated, independent, & underground hip-hop emcee. Born as Omar Credle in Brooklyn (New York), O.C. was given the chance to rhyme on “Judge Pudge” by Organized Konfusion (Pharoahe Monch & Prince Po). O.C.’s debut album, “Word…Life” is regarded as a pure hip-hop classic. Every classic album has a classic single. Released on Wild Pitch Records, the “Word…Life” LP included O.C.’s signature song, “Time’s Up”. Using a Slick Rick vocal sample and a hypnotic bass line, O.C. rocked the mic with an individuality and hardcore street sense. The LP included other gems like “Born To Live”, “Ga Head”, and “Point Of Views”. The stellar production was handled by Buckwild, Lord Finesse, DJ Ogee, and Organized Konfusion. Gritty & aggressive, “Word…Life” is a perfect representation of early 90’s hip-hop. These early days created the foundation of O.C.’s career.

O.C.’s sophomore effort, “Jewelz” was considered somewhat more commercial. The first single, “Far From Yours” featured Yvette Michele singing the R&B chorus. Regardless of one song with an R&B hook, “Jewelz” possessed tight production and skillful performances. DJ Premier (from Gangstarr) produced the magnificent tracks “My World”, “War Games” (featuring Organized Konfusion), “M.U.G.” (Featuring Freddie Foxxx), and “Win The G” (with Foxxx as Bumpy Knuckles). Lord Finesse, Buckwild, and DJ Ogee also contributed production efforts. After almost 10 years, many people have gained a deep appreciation for the album’s flows, lyrics, and beats. In 1997, some thought “Jewelz” to be a more commercial album that showcased a flashy side of O.C. If “Jewelz” was released today (in 2005), the underground hip-hop lovers would consider the LP as a modern classic.

Every hip-hop artist has a crew and O.C.’s membership in the Diggin In The Crates crew has supported him in a myriad of ways. D.I.T.C. is one of the most respected collections of consisting of producers in the world. The various members have contributed to some of the biggest hits in hip-hop. (Many people do not even realize that some of the massive hits were produced by D.I.T.C. members.) Producers in the crew include Buckwild, Showbiz, and Diamond. The emcees of the crew are O.C., Fat Joe, Big L, A.G., and Lord Finesse. While each member is unique, they share an intense chemistry and deep-rooted love for hip-hop. Their debut album, “D.I.T.C.” (released on Tommy Boy Records) included classic tracks like “Ebonics”, “Day One”, and “Thick”.

The tragic death of Big L forever changed D.I.T.C. and O.C. In the song, “Tribute” (from the “D.I.T.C.” LP), O.C. performed a heart-rending verse about the last time he heard Big L’s voice on his answering machine. After Big L passed, some say, O.C. has never been the same. How could he be? As a friend and fellow hip-hop solider, O.C. will always keep the memory of Big L alive through the power of music.

O.C.’s following LP, “Bon Appetit” (released on JCor Records) included D.I.T.C. production, but was panned by critics and fans. “Bon Appetit” remains “the most hated album” by O.C.

O.C. redeemed himself in the eyes & ears of his fans when he released the magnificent “Starchild” LP on Grit / Nocturne Records. Although O.C. claims that the album is not the finished product, “Starchild” includes the thick production and skillful performances. The LP was produced by Locsmif, Vanguard, and Soul Supreme. Fans may not recognize Pharoahe Monch’s voice when he sings the hook for “Evaridae” (the LP’s only guest spot). Known and appreciated by only the true fans, “Starchild” is considered to be the “Word…Life” of the new millennium.

A new chapter in the life of Omar Credle began when he signed to Hieroglyphics Imperium. Married, sober, and mentally refreshed, O.C. released “Smoke And Mirrors” on Hieroglyphics Imperium. The East Coast emcee linked up with the West Coast crew that gave birth to legendary emcees like Del The Funkie Homosapian, Souls Of Mischief, and Casual. Like the hip-hop albums from the golden era, “Smoke And Mirrors” has one person handling the production for the entire album. Mike Loe’s electronic sound creates a glossy yet raw background for O.C.’s performance. While the album showcases a mature emcee, his confidence is prevalent on songs like “My Way”, “I’m Da Boss”, and “Challenge Y’all”. Just like the O.C. albums of the past, “Smoke And Mirrors” includes songs that are fueled with emotion. The introspective nature of O.C. can be felt in “Emotions”, “Going Nowhere”, and “This Is Me”. In many ways, “Smoke And Mirrors” is similar to his “Bon Appetit” LP. Even though many of the underground fans loved “Word… Life” and “Starchild”, they may have to give “Smoke And Mirrors” a few extra listens to fully appreciate the album. Regardless of the music, “Smoke And Mirrors” by O.C. is symbolic of the underground bond within underground hip-hop as well as an emcee’s perseverance.

Most emcees can only wish to have a career last as long as O.C.’s. Omar Credle has not only maintained a successful underground career, he made the music he wanted to make. Like the 1st song on his debut album (“Word…Life”), O.C. has kept his “Creative Control”.

MVRemix: What goes on?

O.C.: Can’t call it. I’m packing for this Tokyo trip.

MVRemix: How are the Japanese audiences different from the audiences in the United States?

O.C.: Well, I’m a star over there, to put it technically. I’ve always been.

MVRemix: They have a different appreciation of hip-hop.

O.C.: Yeah, overseas, period. I’m a Joe Schmoe over here, but overseas is a different story.

MVRemix: Tell us about your new 2005 album, ‘Smoke And Mirrors’, released on Hieroglyphics Imperium.

O.C.: There is really nothing to tell, as far as that it’s no big mystery about how I did the album. I’ve been doing records over the past two years, prior to thinking about releasing it. It was just therapy for me. I really wasn’t trying to make records anymore.

MVRemix: Why weren’t you trying to make records anymore?

O.C.: I just felt like I was doing it for nothing. I didn’t feel that mad love. You know, Big L was gone. We buried people who weren’t emcees in our crew too, over the past few years. We just felt that there was a black cloud over the D.I.T.C. thing. Just personally, I was dealing with personal problems. If you listen to ‘Smoke And Mirrors’, the album will tell you.

MVRemix: In the album, you state that you are now sober. When and why did this moment of clarity happen?

O.C.: I stopped smoking weed and cigarettes. I do drink red wine. That’s a new thing for me right now. I’m trying to be a connoisseur of red wine. I’m trying to know about Cabernet and which Merlot should I drink with dinner. I lost weight. I’m just taking care of myself. I’m 34 now. I may look the same, but my body is not the same as a 24 year old.

MVRemix: Hip-hop is an industry that tends to focuses on the younger generations. As a hip-hop veteran, how do you think you have matured as an artist? Has your age changed things?

O.C.: I feel like age comes with wisdom and wisdom comes with age. I always felt that, for the past 10 years, there have been artists from my era who are still holding it down. Dmx, Jigga, Nas, Snoop, and them are not really old-school.

MVRemix: When I think of the term old-school, I think of Melle Mel, Sugerhill Gang, and Afrika Bambatta.

O.C.: Yeah. The youngins, who look at me and know me, think of me as old-school. You know and I know that, after 4 years, if you aren’t selling many records or a key factor in the industry, you are old. You’re out of here. The people from my era are the ones who are still holding it down up to this point. I look at it like it is anybody’s game. That’s what I always say.

>> continued...

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"I just felt like I was doing it for nothing. I didn’t feel that mad love. You know, Big L was gone. We buried people who weren’t emcees in our crew too, over the past few years. We just felt that there was a black cloud over the D.I.T.C. thing."