Few artists in Hip-Hop, or the greater music industry both young and old can boast the drive and tireless work ethic of O.C. Since 2017, the veteran Brooklyn emcee has not only dropped several acclaimed solo projects Same Moon, Same Sun last year and this year’s A New Dawn: 2nd Phase respectively; but a critically acclaimed collaboration album with Demigodz emcee/producer Apathy on Perestroika last fall as well. With nearly twenty-five years experience under his belt the D.I.T.C. alumnus has consistently delivered underground hit after hit, all without compromising his sound or musical vision and integrity. Having worked with some of the most talented emcees and producers that the genre has to offer over the course of two decades and with twenty years worth of albums, EPs, side projects and features the Flatbush, Brooklyn emcee has consistently time and time again proven himself to be one of the best, most consistent artists in the genre and more than worthy of the the praise and accolades he is often lauded with by both Hip-Hop heads and his own musical counterparts alike. Now, barely a year after the release of Perestroika as well as his own solo LP, O.C. has returned to mic with yet another ambitious collaboration project. This time with the help of DJ/Producer/engineer PF Cuttin, one half of 90’s rap group Blahzay, Blahzay and renowned New York mixtape legend. Together the duo brings forth their debut album Opium, a play on the two’s newly formed groups namesake O.P.M. (O.C. PF Cuttin Music).
While the album marks both O.C. and PF Cuttin’s first full-length collaborative project together, Opium is by no means the duos first venture working together. The Brooklyn bred emcee and producer first worked together back in 2016 on the song ‘Genuine Article’, a single off of Queens rapper Truth’s debut album From Ashes To Kingdom Come. That effort not only featured a who’s who list of veteran and underground emcees, producers and DJs, but was also entirely recorded and mixed by PF Cuttin as well. Later that same year, the two would work together once more on the song ‘Beneath The Planet Apes’, which would mark the inception of O.P.M. and eventually make it onto the final cut of Opium’s track listing as well. Fast forward now nearly two years later and what O.C. and PF Cuttin have finally delivered is nothing short of a no holds barred, no nonsense, back to basics, true school endeavor. Laced with raw, dusty, pounding boom bap production and expert scratching laid down by PF Cuttin himself. Together what O.C. and PF conjure up on Opium is a to basic project that stays true to the streets and one that no true, self-resecting HipHop Head could possibly resist.
Needless to say, clocking in at just under half a hour and with little margin for error, the nine track album is all business and no filler. From the second listeners first hit play Opium makes it clear from the jump that this effort is a project catered strictly to lovers of the underground and classic New York style boom bap production and complex lyrical discourse. O.C.’s time tested rhymes and delivery compliments its accompanying sonic landscape and is more than at home over PF’s production. In essence the project boasts some of the most energetic and raw, gritty beats O.C. has rhymed over in recent memory. While O.C. has never strayed too far from his musical roots, having worked with the likes of both Apollo Brown and Apathy for joint projects such as Trophies and Perestroika, both whose production pays homage and builds upon the blueprint of classic East Coast style Hip-Hop production; PF’s production on Opium vividly and distinctly recalls that of old New York. A past, bygone era of Hip-Hop where in-house producers helming entire albums was the norm and where O.C. cut his teeth in the infancy of his career back in the 80’s and early 90’s. The end result being a short but very genuine sounding project delivered on both ends by both O.C. and PF Cuttin. Likewise, O.C. and PF decidedly keep the guest appearances on Opium down down to a bare minimum, only featuring emcee The Real Shakar respectively throughout the album’s brief nine track entirety.
The album’s opening track ‘Sit Yourself Down’ opens with a smooth, elegant pion sample, scratched by PF Cutting and layered over classic, pounding boom bap drums where O.C. takes the lead crafting a track that perfectly sets the mood letting listeners know what kind of ride they are in for on Opium. ‘Sit Yourself Down’ is quickly followed by ‘Moonshine’, another album highlight which features a bluesy guitar sample layered over kicks, snares and precise cuts expertly performed by PF. Notably, the track has even caught the ear of past collaborator and friend DJ Premier who has regularly played the track on his live weekly radio show Live From HeadQCourterz on Sirius-XM’s Shade 45; another testament to the songs funkiness and catchy rhymes supplied by O.C, and PF Cuttin. ‘Beneath the Planet Apes’, the first single put out by the group nearly two years prior as aforementioned, boasts some of the most atmospheric production showcased on Opium. Featuring samples from the film series the track takes its inspiration from, the track is another shining example of O.C.’s impeccable ear for production and a perfect instance of chemistry between emcee and producer which assuredly led to the eventual blossoming of a full-length collaboration album between the two. This being said however, the album’s crown jewel is by far without a doubt ’88’. Coming in at roughly the the halfway point on Opium, ’88’ is a funkdafied explosion of nostalgia; an uptempo throwback track which invokes the era of O.C.’s youth as he reminisces about Hip-Hop’s culture of yesteryear and growing up in a turbulent and tumultuous 1980’s Koch era New York. Reminiscent to the organized chaos production utilized by Bomb Squad era Public Enemy, the track is easily the highlight of Opium delivering what is without a doubt the most high energy cut laid down by the two artists. With O.C. dropping nods to 80’s fashion such swatches, Salt-N-Pepa and other 80’s pop culture; while PF expertly cuts vocals on the ones and twos from some of the heavy weights of the era such as BDP, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Biz Markie, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane and Public Enemy. On top of being one of the most lively and fun tracks on the album, ’88’ is nothing short of heartfelt sendup and homage to the year and era that undoubtedly was a pivotal, defining moment in the lives of both emcee and producer. The album’s ninth and final cut ‘Searching’ featuring a soulful Dionne Warwick sample ends on Opium on a proper and reflective note. Fittingly, the song is not only a expression of O.C.’s love for the music which he has worked tirelessly building a career in for the past twenty-five years; but also a reflection of the hard, difficult times that arise as well when throughout the course of an independent artist’s career and the grind that keeps them going as much to seek more work and craft new art. As veteran artists who’s lived it all and seen it all, the track serves not only as a reflection of O.C.’s career but a signal to look to the future as well as both artists continue to push the boundaries and break new ground in their careers.
While O.C. may not be the most celebrated or widely recognized emcee in the game, or even amongst his own New York based contemporaries; with albums like Opium being just one of many under his belt in the span of less than a year O.C. has proven himself to be by far the one of most consistent in the entire genre. O.C.’s work ethic and genuine love for the music outshines most contemporary artists less than half of his age, and it shows in every aspect of his music from the big picture to the most tiny, detail and nuance. In a genre that often times unkind to its pioneers, where many veteran artists have been regulated to the status of legacy performance artists O.C. continues to boldly produce new and exciting material that seemingly only exceeds and surpasses the bar set by his prior work. While Opium may lack the encompassing concept and ominous atmosphere of Perestroika or cerebral self-awareness of Same Moon, Same Sun, it is easily one of the most energetic of O.C.’s releases in recent memory and more than makes up for it in the fun and replay factor. At just under a mere half an hour, the nine track album is without a doubt just as potent as it’s namesake suggests. If anything, Opium is yet another testament that O.C. hasn’t lost an ounce of his creativity or lyrical ability over the course his two plus decade long career. Even in an era where joint collaboration albums between veteran emcees and producers has made a comeback and resulted in a backlog and over saturation of phoned-in uninspired projects, both O.C. and PF Cuttin through their raw talent, creativity and skill manage to distinguish themselves and their project in a sea of others all attempting to ride a similar wave. With more than two decades in the game and no signs of slowing down in sight and with yet another solo project in the works; a third and supposedly final entry in the Same Moon, Same Sun trilogy slated for release later in 2019, it is guaranteed Opium will not be the last that we see of O.C. now or anywhere remotely close in the near future.
Opium is available now to stream on all digital platforms, with CD and special vinyl and cassette copies available for pre-order on the group’s webpage TUFFKONGRECORDS.COM.
Full Album Track Listing & Credits:
1. Sit Yourself Down
3. Beneath The Planet Apes
5. Easy Work
6. Get In Line
7. Higher Learning
8. O.P.M (Feat. The Real Shakar)
All songs written by O.C. (Omar Credle B.M.I.)
*Track 8 additional vocals by The Real Shakar (Broomfield Shakar Kareem B.M.I.)
All songs produced by PF Cuttin (Felix Rovira B.M.I)
*Track 9 produced by O.C. (Omar Credle B.M.I.) Co-produced by PF Cuttin (Felix Rovira B.M.I)