“I ain’t gonna front, man / my rhymes are getting better...” - OISD, "JIMINY"
Sometimes I listen to Tanya Morgan and wonder why they don’t move me more.
On paper, they’re the type of group I naturally gravitate towards -- common man content, gimmickly deficient, at least one member with an appealing octave, sonically similar to other cats I already like. Check, check, check, check, check....
Mathematically I should love them.
To be clear, it’s not that I dislike them. I certainly don’t think they’re wack. I honestly believe they’re great for Hip Hop.
They never subtract from The Culture, outwardly pimping it for financial gain.
Rather, they only add to it.
The fact that they are talented enough to have a voice in and build a life around they’re music -- never manipulating that power for the greater evil -- is proof positive that they belong.
I respect that. I forever respect that.
The problem is that I inherently compare them to other “Native Tongue” offshoots. Other derivatives that put the pieces together just a little bit better. Specifically, Little Brother.
Its not that I don’t dig their beats. I just dig 9th’s more.
Its not that they can’t rhyme. Its just that Phonte rhymes better.
Its not that their concepts aren’t tight. Its just that Little Brother’s are tighter.
Hip Hop is a sport. Its competitive. Every element.
Been that way since Clive Campbell first figured out to how to maximize the sound reverberating from his Dub system, out-blasting the speakers across the hall.
So its impossible for me not to compare. And that comparison is the basis of the most important measure for any music maker: Replay Value.
Does whatever sound you’re putting out make people want to listen again? And again? And again? And again?
Its completely subjective, varying from ear to ear. Completely personal.
And personally, Tanya Morgan gets me to 6. Seldom 7. Never 10.
I say that to say this, O.I.S.D.’s debut LP, Leaders Of The True School, is sonically impressive.
J.O., EyeQ, Khid2Che, ShowTyme, and J.Monopoly provide an undoubtably polished offering revolved around old school/Golden Era production, references and rhyme schemes, delivered with a modern twist.
Every beat is straight flame -- or Fuego Sauce in OISD speak.
The C. Jonah produced, brooding, bounce heavy “Jiminy” is an instant standout, and J.Eazeemayxdabeats laced “Sidekicks-N-Flykicks” lovely with an ill Notorious BIG cut and emphatic horns that provide immediate cause to put your drinks in the air.
The chopped and screwed, Jay-Z sampled “Recession Report” diversifies the album sonically and contextually as the crew opines on the recent financial crisis.
“Billions from civilians is what Bernie done Madoff.”
“Untitled” is arguably the most potent cut and one of the few instances where the crew lyrically spit personal, heartfelt rhymes.
From mic to plug, the LOTTS is extremely well produced. There isn’t a suspect beat here.
And that is the problem.
The production is too good...overshadowing the Emcees.
While the beats are Fuego, the rhymes are mostly pedestrian. Lines like “My flow is rare, like blue hair” and “So Top 10, n***** gotta give me two fives” water down the content, failing to consistently match the top shelf, boom-bastic production.
Considering that OISD spends 70% of the album kicking cypher rhymes -- braggadocio raps -- rather than mixing in stories or concepts, the lyrical short comings are more apparent.
Add that to the fact that the LP's throwback theme can be immediately polarizing (either you love it or hate it depending on when you were born and how you feel about their flip on the original versions) and far from brand new (“Hipster” rappers like The Cool Kids drew loads of attention in the mid 00s with a similar angle) -- and suddenly that all-important Replay Value measure is jeopardized.
The upside is that the members of OISD are all reasonably young (all between 20 and 22 years old). So it will be interesting to see how their sound evolves as life inevitably affects their art.
Like Tanya Morgan, all the pieces aren’t quite there.
However, these five cats have correctly assembled a large enough portion of the puzzle early enough in their careers to be excited about their promise, their future.
Leaders Of The True School is a dope listen and worth the download.
Even if it rocks harder as background music.
DOWNLOAD LEADERS OF THE TRUE SCHOOL HERE