Thursday, November 26, 2009

O.C. and AG Review/Fiasco

I reviewed O.C. & A.G.'s Oasis album last week for RapReviews.
Or rather, I reviewed a four song sampler. I had gotten the sampler a month earlier from their PR people. I'm not a fan of album samplers. I understand that labels use them to avoid people leaking/pirating their music, but how am I supposed to review an album based on four songs? And if you want to build excitement for an upcoming release, send me a couple MP3s. Most of the PR firms I have contact with do an excellent job of this. Whatever. The point is, I had four songs to work with, the typical press release about how this was a classic by two hip hop veterans. The whole thing got my Irish up, especially owing to the mediocre rhyming on the first song of the sampler, "Think About It." It was standard bullshit hip hop posturing, by two jokers I had never heard of before. I mean, I knew who Showbiz and A.G. were, but that's all I knew, and I didn't have a clue about O.C. I was honest about my ignorance in my review:

I'm not familiar with A.G. or O.C., I've never listened to Showbiz and A.G., and I don't own anything by the Digging in the Crates Crew (D.I.T.C.). Not because I have anything against them, understand, but we've just never crossed paths. Finally, I'm not a huge fan of the hardcore East Coast style of rap that O.C. and A.G. specialize in. I respect it, but It's not my thing. My copy of Mobb Deep's "The Infamous" is collecting dust on my shelf, and the few spins I've given the new Cormega is enough to convince me that while I admire the man, I'm not a fan.

Here's problem 1: Showbiz and A.G.'s debut, Runaway Slaves, is a classic. I mean, a classic. If you don't believe me, check it out yourself. And O.C. has done some much-respected stuff himself. Not knowing who they are is like a rock critic not knowing who Big Star are. Yeah, they are obscure, but anyone who is hep should know about them. So I'm a fucking noob. So I don't know everything about underground NY hip hop from the early 90s. Yes, there are holes in my musical knowledge.

Problem 2 is that they aren't hardcore hip hop, or at least not in the same vein as either Cormega or Mobb Deep. Mobb Deep are more like NY crime rap, and Cormega, I don't know what the fuck he is...lyrical street rap? Whatever, they aren't the same and I never shoulda compared them. What I meant was the hardcore NY bluntness, where they hit you with their rhymes like a bat to the head, with little flourish or finesse. NY rappers can be as unforgiving and cold as the city they are from, and as a Cali native, it ain't always my bag. It's why the first Only Build For Cuban Linx never worked for me. It's like having a conversation with a cold-blooded killer.

Anyways,the bitches and money rhymes on the opening track rubbed me the wrong way. As I said in my review:
The lyrics on "Oasis" sum up what I don't like this kind of rap. They are all about how hard the MCs are, how much money they have, how much pussy they get, and how they will fuck up your effeminate faggot ass. It's all presented as bluntly as possible, like a hammer to the skull. Gotcha. You have nice cars and pretty women. Check. You know it's 2009 and not 1999, right? "Young With Style" is about having freaky sex, and "2 For the Money" is about all the money they have and the many, many things they spend it on.

I concluded my review by saying:

When they put some effort into it, like on "Put It In the Box" and "2 For the Money," O.C. and A.G. deliver solid if unremarkable hardcore hip hop. I'm not impressed by their tales of bitches and dollars or their deliveries, but I know that there is a fan base out there who thinks I'm an idiot for not liking this. Then again, they probably are planning on buying it anyways. I can't speak for the whole album, but after hearing these four songs, I'm not going to go out of my way to pick it up.

I gave it a 6.5, meaning good but lacking, and rating the beats a 7.5 and the rhymes a 5.5. Not a horrible score, but goddamn if people weren't pissed off about it. The emails came the morning the review was posted. I knew I was in trouble when the hip hop blogs started saying that Oasis was the pick of the week. Uh-oh, this wasn't some obscure little band that no one cared about. I had just picked a fight with some respected artists. No, I had just shit on some respected artists, and admitted I was totally clueless to boot.

The emails started coming to RapReviews. I'm posting this one, because I think he nailed a lot of the issues with my review:

"First of all the kid ain't even reviewing the album, he's reviewing a 4-TRACK SAMPLER of the album and secondy the reviewer says in the text that he's not a fan of DITC, never heard Show & A and don't even like hardcore New York hip-hop at all. So why in the hell should he be the one who review the album?? he clearly can't make a decent judgement on the album which means bad press for OC & AG. now if it was someone who was familiar with this group and thought they fell off, then fine, but THIS is a fucking joke, he even says the lyrics are all albout pussy, beating people up, etc, when it's a partly very conscious record so again it's bad press for a new album from OC & AG, and it's not at all justified."

I got one in my inbox too, a little more blunt:

If you don't like that type of music why are you reviewing it? If you think Word...Life by O.C. is too hardcore then your ignorant ass has no business on a hip-hop website. O.C. is not even in the same realm as Mobb Deep, the comparison was awful. Go listen to the latest Lupe album and then maybe your simple self can boast about how great his "message".

I'm sure the album isn't anything special but you have no business reviewing anything on a site dedicated to listeners of hip-hop.


Here's the thing: any time you write a negative review, the haters will come out, and the wonderful anonymity of the internet allows people to be pretty fucking rude without fearing any consequences. That's life. That comes with being an internet music critic. I wrote a negative review of the new Jamie T album, and a pissed off fan wrote a pissed off comment on Blogcritics. Whatever. It's a mediocre album. That's life.

But with O.C. and A.G., I was in the wrong, and that sucks. I wrote the review based on a couple songs, and going about it with the wrong mindset. I was feeling pissed off and cantankerous, and getting off on my own snarkiness. It was more like a blog post than a review. Had it been Lil Wayne, it wouldna been a big deal, because I would have been one little voice among many. But for a more independent/underground release like Oasis, a shitty review could possibly have bigger impact (although in this case, only to start intense forum posting about what a clueless jackass I was). The label quickly sent a link to the entire album, and I've been listening to it's pretty damn good, in fact, the kind of solid, effortless underground hip hop that NY knows how to deliver. The two MCs prove themselves more than able, and the few songs about flossing are countered with tracks that tackle much realer subject matter. So I'm an asshole.

The flipside of this is that my review was re-labeled "Sampler," and Flash wrote a much more thorough, much more knowledgeable review about the album.

And I've learned a valuable lesson: if you are gonna be a dick, you better be right.

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