Excellent theme albums (and working with DOOM) seem to run in the family of producer/MC Oh No (AKA Michael Jackson(seriously)). His older brother Otis Jackson Jr. is better known as Madlib, whose 2004 collaboration with DOOM, Madvillainy, is one of the best rap LPs of the last fifteen years. And now it’s Oh No’s turn, the younger Jackson given the opportunity to dig through the archives of Dolemite blaxpoitation mastermind Rudy Ray Moore, creating the beats that wound up becoming Ohnomite.
While the album is full of features from important names in indie rap (Chino XL, Roc Marciano, A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, and 17 others), it’s the man with his name in the title that deserves the most attention. Half of the production duo Gangrene (with The Alchemist, who features on the excellent “Real Serious”), the unfortunately lesser known Jackson brother’s beats here are gritty, lush, and pack a punch. The swanky horns, rich vocal samples, and clacking drums on “Let’s Roll” kick start aggressive verses from Damani, while the sub-bass warps and twinkling analog synths of “Hallucinations” work with Prozack Turner’s paranoid, drug-focused rhymes. The DOOM-featuring “3 Dollars” stutters and jumps, pulsing with a repeated reference to Moore in both the lyrics and sample, not to mention an excellent verse from Oh No himself. The album consistently works with the energy that the features bring him, without ever betraying his own individual style or the theme of the disc.
While Dolemite may have been the jumping off point, it certainly doesn’t sound like a reinvisioned soundtrack. The gunfire and vocal samples of “The Guns” are a revelation (along with Guilty Simpson’s concussive verses), and the laid-back noir groove of “The Hitmen” adds in flourishes of spacy weirdness. The wild synths of “You Don’t Know Me” work with Rapper Pooh’s insistence that “I don’t plan to be different, just better than the everyday rapper.” But the fact of it is, Oh No and guests are both better than the average and also very different. There’s a consistent intensity and power in Oh No’s production, an ability that should lead to mass attention and even more work from this already prolific artist.
Essential Tracks: “Hallucinations”, “The Guns”, and “You Don’t Know Me”