ZIF Exclusive Interview: O.C. & AG

In a year full of resurgence from some of Hip-Hop’s past leaders, a lot of rap fans have somehow slept on OC and AG’s November release, Oasis. Despite my time constantly scouring the clearance racks, as well as knocking the new releases of 09, over the past two weeks I have found myself consistently turning to this album. While both MC’s have been working together for a long time as members of the groundbreaking Diggin’ In The Crates crew, this was their first opportunity to work on a project as just the two of them, and the result is what most D.I.T.C. fans have come to expect: intelligent wordplay paired with serious production, which creates an overall tone that is both reminiscent of New York’s Boom Bap era as well as embracing of modern times.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with both O and A about the new album, their taste in music, E Blaze, the newest member of the D.I.T.C. crew, and a lot more. They’re both real cool guys, with an incredible amount of experience under their belts, that has developed into quality insight about the game. Yet don’t get it twisted, by no means are they living in the past. These two are true hip-hop artists, and as such they plan on continuing to develop with the times. Peep the interview to hear it in their own words.

ZIF: 2009’s been a big year for groups from new combinations like Slaughterhouse, KRS and Buckshot, to favorites like Method Man and Redman doing another album together, De La Soul with a new project, Souls of Mischief with a new project. So what do you think makes Oasis stand out?

O.C.: I mean, I never looked at it that way as far as it standing out, we just went in with the notion of just having fun. You know, just putting down our pain, our sorrow, our happiness, joy, you know, whatever the song tells me to do. You know what I’m saying? And, we really didn’t think about what nobody else, you know, was doing as far as other albums. We just went in and had fun man. Like, it’s been a long time coming as far as like anything Diggin’, as far as like the Diggin’ compilation. You know what I’m saying? I mean this is really an amazing product for me and A. This was maybe, Big L and Show was putting in the work before he passed away, so me and Big L was about to do a record together. And you know, unfortunately it didn’t happen. We put in a couple of songs and you know, we moved on after that. A was busy doing a few projects, you know, and I was busy doing a few projects out in Cali with Souls, you know Hiero. We finally came together, me, him, Show, and Finesse and we just sat down and was like, “Yo man, what’s up? What y’all wanna do?”

ZIF: How would you describe the overall feel of the project?

O.C.: I mean, it’s just. Overall this a feel good project, at least from my perspective, because you know, with everything that’s been coming out, in the past few years man, it’s just like for me. Like I’m a fan of Hip-Hop. So, when I pick up people’s albums, you know what I’m saying, all you really getting is like compilation records. Like, you got soloists coming out, but they got 11 features. You know what I’m saying? I mean, not trying to sound like an old school cat or anything like that, but I know for me if you pick up a Rakim album, you pick up a KRS album, you pick up a Slick Rick album. You know what I’m saying? You know it just made me feel like damn, like, they, they put their work in, and they didn’t need, it didn’t take 7 or 8 features to make people notice they record. They did it on their own, you know, with the helps of their peoples or whatever, but for the most part man, I enjoy an album that’s, you know, solely put in work by the person who’s recording it. Not, no 20 features on it, and you know, 17 producers you know, going all over the place. So we just kept it real in-house, and you know, we didn’t do the feature thing or nothing like that. We just wanted to make a good record.

ZIF: Yeah, I mean, I feel like that’s something that has always been a trademark of anything with the Diggin’ In The Crates. It’s mainly the MC involved, and when there is a feature, rather than having it be, you know, a verse sent through the mail or internet, or anything like that, you can tell that you guys are really vibeing off each other, and that it’s kinda like a family affair.

O.C.: Yeah I mean if you look at, not to cut you off, but if you look at any previous albums from any of us like, it was always in-house. You know what I’m saying? You know with the exception of maybe a Premier. You know what I’m saying? Somebody like that, which is family. You know what I’m saying? But you know, we always really kept it in-house man. I always kept Buck for the most part on my records or, you know, Finesse would contribute, Show would contribute, O.Gee. You know what I’m saying? The only person I probably really didn’t dig into was Diamond, you know what I’m saying, and that’s just something that didn’t happen, but it’s gonna happen in the future.

ZIF: Speaking on that a little more, after all these years, what is it about the relationship between yourself and the rest of the Diggin’ In The Crates crew, that’s allowed you to continue enjoying making music together?

O.C.: I think we’re not the traditional group that came together first and recorded an album together, and tried to do solo records. We all came in as a duo or as a solo, and we turned around and did the, you know, the Diggin’ project, you know, after L passed away. I think for me man, it’s just, it’s something that we bring. You know we, it keeps us grounded, in a sense, that we didn’t have overall crazy success as far as name records and stuff like that. I think that shakes up a family. When you got money that, you know when money plays a part, you start having to divide and conquer. You know, people have other managers in their ear. You know what I’m saying? For us man, it’s really a brother thing man. It’s really brothers. We just brothers from different mothers, but we all blood, like we brothers. No matter what, if we get upset, if we juggle, whatever the case is, we brothers.

ZIF: So moving on to the production end of the album, one of the things about all of your projects is that you’ve worked with a who’s who list of some of the most renowned producers in general. You know from everybody in Diggin’ In the Crates: Lord Finesse, Showbiz, Buckwild, Diamond D to like you mentioned earlier, DJ Premier, you were on that Pete Rock, Soul Survivor, A.G. had DIlla on his last solo, you worked with Da Beatminerz, you know etc… How do you go about beat selection for an album? Because you always know when you’re going to buy a Diggin’ In The Crates album, that on top of the lyrics, that beat wise, the music is going to be equally satisfying.

O.C.: Well, I mean, like all the, all the producers you mentioned you know, as far as Beatminerz, Premier, you know what I’m saying, we was all recording in D&D. You know what I’m saying? So this is where everybody, everybody you mentioned is basically like extended family and stuff like that. So you got Mr. Walt, he walking out of they room into our room, Prem walking into the room while we recording. So you know what I’m saying, they add-on when they listen to things that you know me or A or whoever’s recording, you know. I guess it’s just a natural selection like, “Yo I got something to add to that”. That’s Prem. On Prem’s part, he’ll listen to a joint and be like “Yeah, yeah, I got something to add to that” or, “I got a scratch” or, “Yo, this beat I just did last night, would fit perfect with the album”. So, it was just more of a flow through the studio, you know what I’m saying, with everybody being in there at the same time. And actually, it’s like, it’s an accident. You know what I’m saying? It’s sorta like an accident. Cus everybody was in doing their own records, but everybody contributed to each other and helped each other out.

ZIF: In terms of working as a duo for this album, how was the beat selection process? Was there ever a time that you were liking a beat that he [AG] wasn’t feeling, or vice versa? Is that how the solo tracks came about? How does that work, having to choose beats that both of you are excited to rhyme over?

O.C.: Well you hit it right on the head. I mean some things I didn’t like. Vice versa somethings A didn’t like. If you listen to a few of the solo joints on the album, with the exception of probably “God’s Gift” and “Everyday Life”, certain things on the album, A probably came in late, or I came in late, so we just didn’t make the record. Or, it was just something that, you know, maybe he wasn’t vibing and I was. You know there’s really no problem with that. Then you got Show, you know coming in, he’s the executive producer on it, so it’s like, you know, we all grown men, he really didn’t have to watch over us or nothing like that. You know what I’m saying? Because we all do this, this is what we do. But like I said in the previous answer, like it’s more or less a joint that Prem or Show hears, or somebody hears, and he like “Yo, I got a perfect joint within the whole spectrum of what y’all recording already”. So it’s really not a hard process man. Like, we’ll probably do a lot of songs and just pick. You know what I’m saying? That’s basically it.

ZIF: On this album, in addition to the regular beat producers that’ve been hooking you guys up for years, you got a relative newcomer handling a lot of the production: E Blaze. And he did a really good job of standing up with the vets, and showed a lot of range from triumphant in “Keep It Going”, to cool and laid back with “Supreme Squad” and “Everyday Life”, to real gritty with “The Pain”. Tell us how you guys got together and started working with each other.

Keep It Going

Supreme Squad

O.C.: First of all, E Blaze is from Paris, and I think he lives in Canada now. He’s a French producer, and he was up here beat shopping in a store somewhere, and to make a long story short, him and Show bumped heads, and I guess he introduced himself, told Show what he does, and Show took him under the wing and started bringing him to the studio. And when he played his stuff, it was just like a natural fit. And if you know, everybody brought somebody in to Diggin’. You know what I’m saying? Buck brought me in, Finesse brought Show and A together, Diamond brought in Fat Joe. You know what I’m saying? So, I think the whole premise of Diggin’, what a lot of people really miss is that, you know, we always try to add-on and not just keep it closed and “Yo, this our crew, we got a circle and we ain’t trying to let nobody in”. If you got some tight shit, we gon fuck with you. That kid definitely got a future right there. E Blaze is part of Diggin’, he’s a Diggin’ In The Crates member now. You know what I’m saying? It only made sense man, like he’s hungry, it’s just all crazy, and it just made natural sense for us to keep messing with him.

ZIF: That’s whats up. Are you guys going to be touring in support of the album?

O.C.: Yeah definitely, we got two tours almost in place so far. One for the states and one for Europe of course. You know that’s like our major market. So we looking at probably late February, March, April or something like that. You know, I mean, if you peep out, we really didn’t do no crazy marketing or promotion scheme. We kinda took it back to the Show and AG thing, where they did it out the trunk of their car, and just let people go find it. You know what I’m saying? That’s the whole premise behind Diggin’ In The Crates.

AG enters the conversation

ZIF:Going back to when you were younger, I like asking people, can you ever remember that first hip-hop track, or first hip-hop experience where you were like “Damn, this is something that I need to start listening to” or “This is gonna be my genre”? You know like you were found.

AG: Not really. It’s been with me since I can remember. From the family members, I used to always have to hang with them so, Hip-Hop, like for as long as I can remember I can remember Hip-Hop. I don’t remember the first song that changed me. It was always a part of what I was doing regardless.

ZIF: Growing up did you listen to other music beyond it [Hip-Hop], or was that pretty much the staple?

AG: Of course. The soul music that our parent’s were listening to, that’s what we knew. You know what I’m saying? [We knew] some of those record by heart, back and forth, because of our parents. So there was always some type of music, and we’re not in the position where, growing up, we could listen to the music we wanna listen to. We gotta listen to what the radio was playing. You know, we come from an urban environment. We’re from where pop music, rock music, we had to listen to what came to us. I think that’s how Hip-Hop was made. Because it kind of represents what we doing, and I think that’s how it came about, but before that we had to listen to all types of music. One thing about people in urban areas, we can’t afford to be racist. I mean our favorite TV shows was other types of TV shows with white kids on em. This is what we had to listen to… I mean watch. So the music is the same way. So we were very much trying all types of music.

ZIF: In this day and age now, with the internet, where so many different types of music is available to constantly be listening to, when you find yourself sitting down and listening to music beyond you and your crew, what kind of things consistently hold down a spot in your rotation?

O.C.: I mean, I listen to everything man. I probably have, ahh man, a lot of soul music. You know what I’m saying? A lot of Jazz. You know what I’m saying? I listen to everything with my ipod, so I listen to a lot of different rock. You know what I’m saying? And it basically gives me ideas. So when I listen to a lot of stuff that’s on the ipod, that’s how I zone out.

AG: Me personally, I’m listening to other music more than I listen to Hip-Hop now.

ZIF: Finally, we are getting close to closing out the first decade of the millennium, do both of y’all have some highlights over the past 10 years?

AG: (Laughs) Is that a question?

O.C.: I mean I don’t have no highlight reel in my dome. Like, I just, I move ahead. So I don’t really think about what went on in the past or stuff like that.

AG: The past is gone and tomorrow ain’t here. So I’m just worried about what I’m doing right now. Of course, you know, when other people look at it, they can definitely find a lot of highlights from both of our music over the past 10 years, but that’s not what kept us here, by looking at our highlights and smelling the roses. You know, we just want to keep it moving, keep it going, and pushing along. You know, if we have to talk about our highlights, then there’s not much more work to be done.

ZIF: Lastly, although you just finished the Oasis project, is there anything else fans should keep their eyes and ears open for?

AG: Yeah, the next one.

(Laughter)

AG: The next O.C. and AG album. That’s something we both looking forward to doing, and I’m really excited about that. As far as other projects, you know I got a project with Sadat X and DJ Jab from Fat Beats, called Trinity, and that should be out April or something. I’m looking forward to that. Me and Show is gonna go back to the studio and start working on some shit. O.C. of course will be a part of that. So we just keep, instead of doing the traditional artist nowadays, I think next year will be our first year where collectively me and O are probably gonna put out 4 or 5 projects together or separate or whatever. It’s about that time to keep it going that way. We can definitely put out an album every few months.

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