O.C. (Omar Credle) and A.G. (Andre the Giant) are integral artists in helping to shape the sound of Hip-Hop during its golden era. A.G., as well as O.C., are also members of the legendary Diggin’ in the Crates crew. In the fall of 2009 the two emcees teamed up to release a joint album called “Oasis.”
I had the great pleasure of interviewing O.C. and A.G while they were promoting Oasis. It was one of my first high-profile interviews and also one of my all-time favorite interviews. My discussion with O and A felt less like an interview and more like friends shooting the shit about something that we all love – Hip-Hop.
TRHH: What made you guys decide to get together and record an album?
O.C.: Basically, it was something that was in the making since Bon Appetit. Me and A did a song on my third album called Weed & Drinks. In between that time A had projects going and we were both on the road, so we never really got around to doing it. When we had down time down the road we sat down and decided that we were gonna work on the record.
TRHH: Talk about the beats that E-Blaze made for Oasis.
A.G.: He brought a brand-new fresh sound. E-Blaze is from France. Him and Show hooked up and started working on the record. His sound is synonymous with what we do. He basically spearheaded the production on the album. We started working on another album and he’s going to be a part of that, so E-Blaze is definitely a fixture of Diggin’ in the Crates. We’re just trying to add on and keep it going. One thing you know about D.I.T.C is everybody was put on by somebody else, so we have to continue that tradition.
O.C.: I don’t really go by labels and titles, but this has been our core audience. We never gave ourselves that label but there’s nothing wrong with it. At the same time, we’ve had records that have been played on commercial radio. A dope song is a dope song, that’s how I look at it.
A.G.: A backpacker was just a dude back in the day that had a knapsack with his spray cans in it and his rhyme book. A backpacker wasn’t a cornball dude, it was a dude who might see a clean train that day and tag it or feel like writing a rhyme. What was in the backpack is what we’re representing. It’s not that we still carry backpacks or that we represent a certain type of sound that’s so far underground that people won’t deal with us. If you listen to the song that’s what it’s saying–don’t get it twisted thinking we’re something else.
We’re actually street dudes, but the art of Hip-Hop comes before all of that to us. That’s our soul. The term backpack has gotten so saturated and worn down that people don’t associate it with anything positive. But it’s nothing but positive, it’s a dude who had the true art and the culture of Hip-Hop. The culture of Hip-Hop wasn’t just rapping. It was going to the jams, B-boying, and graffiti. That’s what the backpack represents and we still have that in our hearts.
TRHH: What changed in Hip-Hop that made DJ’s, graffiti artist’s, and B-boy’s obsolete while emcees were pushed into the forefront?
O.C.: Corporations, man. Corporations put their hands in the mix. There are things on record where they said that this form of music ain’t gonna last. Look at it now. Once the corporations saw that there was a dollar in it they took it to a whole other level. Growing up, I always looked at the DJ first. I been to park jams and the emcee was his sidekick.
A.G.: The emcee was the hype man.
O.C.: Now it’s the other way around. People don’t really know this, but that’s what it is.
A.G.: Back then every group was a true group. There was a DJ, a producer, an artist, and some groups had dancers. It came to a point where the solo selfishness came in. Dudes was like, “I just wanna rock, I don’t need a DJ, I could play the CD.” Like O said, that’s corporate shit right there. To promote the group better they needed a front-man and the front-man should be the guy that’s talking.
TRHH: I’m from Chicago and you guys just performed here at The Shrine with Lord Finesse and Diamond D. I missed the show because I was at the Bulls game watching Kobe drop 42 on us. Talk about what it’s like to perform with other members of the D.I.T.C crew.
O.C.: For me it’s a blessing that we’re one of the last crews still together. Brothers go through their little things with each other, that’s how families do. But for the most part we’ve been each other’s crutches. For me to get on stage with my compadre’s, it’s a gift, man. It’s a blessing for me, it keeps me going.
A.G.: When you’re on stage with three other dudes that bring it exactly how you bring it and your biggest song is the same as his biggest song it’s like a mirror. I can’t even lie, for part of the show I turn into a spectator. You gotta be like, “Hold up, I’m up here too.” In Chicago we did an hour on stage and only did our popular songs. To know that our body of work collectively is so strong and to be on stage with legends is great. O said something to me in the hotel like, “Yo, dudes is geniuses that we don’t fiend for the fame.” It could be a whole different situation if that’s what we aspired to be.
We aspire to represent what we saw like the park jams. If I get far away from that I’m getting far away from myself ’cause I’m synonymous with Hip-Hop. I’m from the Bronx and I saw this from the inception, I can’t disrespect it by trying to take it somewhere that the forefathers didn’t have in mind. There’s nothing wrong with being creative and pushing the envelope, but you should still have the same raw elements. We always have a DJ to cut it up and dig into every other aspect of Hip-Hop including the one we do.
TRHH: Speaking of DJ’s, whose idea was it to put DJ Premier on the single Two For The Money?
A.G.: We needed scratches!
O.C.: Yeah, we needed scratches. We got a studio next door to Premier’s HeadQuarterz studio. Preem is a dude that walks around the studio and says, “Yo, let me get on that!“
A.G.: Preem is definitely a person that is so comfortable with his body of work that if he likes the music he will ask to get on the song. He ran up on me and O because he was supposed to do a joint for the album and said he would get us on the next one. When we needed scratches for Two For The Money and Premier was in the next room, who better to ask?
TRHH: What inspired the song God’s Gift?
O.C.: That’s my favorite record. I wish I was on that record, B.
A.G.: To be honest with you, it was going through trials and tribulations. It was feeling like Cinderella Man in a way. A lot of shit doesn’t always go the way you want it to go, but at the end of the day I’m blessed with this talent. I’ve traveled the world a numerous amount of times. When I arrive in certain places it’s like these guys have been waiting their whole lives to see me. It’s like taking the good with the bad. Sometimes you have to go back to the same situation you came from.
A lot of people that I’ve been around aren’t here right now. For me to still be here I have to go inside and ask why am I still here? Why did a friend of mine get killed right next to me and I’m here? Why is my man doing 40 years and we used to hang together every day but I’m still here? The answer to that is it’s a gift from God. You’re here for one reason. I’m here to be a voice for my community, to witness and experience all of this tragedy so I could express it to the world and let them know what’s going on. I see myself as a narrator for my community.
I can’t do something else if I wanted to. This is what I will do for the rest of my life, there’s nothing else I’m gonna do. It’s something that’s instilled in me from birth–Hip-Hop. It affected me. I was born simultaneously with Hip-Hop. God’s Gift to me is no matter what trial and tribulation you’re going through to always try to get over the hump. If you fall 7 times, get up 8. You can’t do that without being a spiritual person and in tune with the universe.
TRHH: On the song “Pain” you say, “I’m one of the best this century/but Vibe and XXL doesn’t mention me.” Why do you think you’re slept on?
A.G.: I know I’m slept on.
TRHH: But why?
A.G.: It’s a lot of reasons. Some of it is on me, some of it is on the fans, and some of it is on the game itself. As far as me, I don’t really like the spotlight that much. I grew up a shy kid and Hip-Hop made me overcome all of that. I used to have a speech impediment. I had dyslexia, Hip-Hop made me overcome all of that. It built up confidence in me, but at the end of the day when you take away the shell I’m an introverted person. I’m not that outgoing like that if you’re not my peoples. That’s one of the reasons why I’m slept on because I don’t put myself out there like that.
I came out in 1989 with Lord Finesse. My first album was 1990-92. There was no internet back then. There was no mass media back then. I’m saying that if my body of work was judged accordingly with the artists who started in this internet era it would be a whole different situation. Bar for bar and line for line that’s what I put my all into. I’m not talking about music, I’m not talking about songs–I’m talking about lyrics. Bar for bar I know I’m slept on.
Look at the lists that Vibe or XXL put out with the top 50 MC’s and they may have me or O at 36 or 34 and I’m looking at the people they have ahead of us and I’m like, “You really didn’t listen to my shit.” I study lyrics, I argue all day about Hip-Hop with my friends, my family, or with a stranger. This is what I do and I love this. I listen to everybody, I investigate. Me and my crew are at least top 10 or 20. The people that you like were inspired by us and that’s good enough for me. I just had to make that comment in the song.
TRHH: Something happened where lyrics stopped being important to people.
A.G.: Corporate America made our music dumb. People don’t take the time to catch the double entendre, the metaphor, the hook, or the deep lyrics. They don’t have an interest in that. They aim to make our seeds ignorant and dumb so they give them ignorant and dumb music. I’m not saying all music is ignorant and dumb, but there’s definitely an aim directed at our youth to not pay attention to real things that are going on.
TRHH: A couple of years ago there was a show on VH1 celebrating Hip-Hop and KRS-One said that the Showbiz and A.G. album “Runaway Slave” was the best Hip-Hop album of all time. Did you see that?
A.G.: Yeah, I saw that.
TRHH: Well, how does that make you feel? You may not get the props from new rap fans but when a legend says that it must feel great, right?
A.G.: There’s a saying and I don’t mean this literally but, “I can die now.” I grew up in the Bronx. I used to go up to B-Boy Records and wait for KRS-One and Scott La Rock to come out. This is the first superstar in my eyes that I could actually see. Lyrically he’s one of the greatest ever, so for him to say that Runaway Slave is the best Hip-Hop album of all-time it’s like, I don’t give a fuck what nobody say now [laughs]. This is thee nigga that represented the South Bronx. I’m on the Bronx tip and for another Bronx dude to recognize that? I’m good, man. It don’t have nothing to do with the rest of the world. I’m trying to pick up where he left off and for him to say that I’ve reached my mark. I’m good.
TRHH: Do you guys have any plans to hit the road to support Oasis?
O.C.: No question, man. We going to let this year fade out and at the top of the year we’re heading out. We have stateside dates planned and we’re hitting overseas. We gonna rock until we finish up on the next record. We’re gonna keep it flowing.
A.G.: If you have a conversation with us you can hear the songs and even the title of the songs in our conversation because that’s what we’re representing. We’re not the type of dudes to make songs about something that’s not even going on in our lives. Oasis was even more special because I listen to it every day and when I listen I go, “That’s O!” You can’t beat that. A lot of rappers when you meet them in person aren’t even the same people they are on their records. They will tell you, “I’m just doing that for record sales.” That’s dope and I respect that as a business man, but as an artist in my mind you get demoted. What do you mean that’s not you?
TRHH: O.C., when will we hear the next O.C. solo album?
A.G.: That’s what I wanna hear [laughs]!
O.C.: I’m really wrapped up in O & A.G. right now. Once we get started wrapping up the second record then I will start. I got music right now that I’m listening to, but I don’t want to break the concentration on what we’re doing.
A.G.: We’re focused on this so much right now. We know what we have and we’re not going to let it go. In the past we may not have fought for what we wanted but right now…
O.C.: That’s exactly what it is, man. The O.C. album is coming in 2010 but we gotta take care of the business at hand and everything has to fall into place together. When you hear an O.C. record it’s gonna be A.G. on there. It’s going to be a new inception of Raekwon and Ghostface.
A.G.: Big ups to them too because that Raekwon is the best album I heard all year. Big ups to Edo and Masta Ace too.
O.C.: Edo and Masta Ace joint was crazy!
A.G.: That Raekwon put me in a zone. If that can come back everybody can start making true music with real hard beats. Shit got too sweet to me. It’s nothing wrong with making your concepts about what’s going on, but it’s got to be some raw real shit. I’m not just talking melodically, I’m talking about concepts. Everybody’s got a dance with their fuckin’ song. That’s cool but everything ain’t for everybody.
TRHH: I feel exactly the same way. Raekwon’s CD made me love music again…
A.G.: See what I’m saying? That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to win the world or be billionaires. We wanna make you fall in love with Hip-Hop again.
TRHH: From Oasis, to Masta Ace & Edo G’s Arts and Entertainment, it’s been a lot of good music coming out in the past four months. It’s a good time for Hip-Hop.
A.G.: If you notice it’s the artist’s that really love the shit. We’re not so new. You gotta have some type of experience in this game or in your travels in life. Some of these young dudes aint never been through shit, so it’s hard for them to grab my attention with what they’re doing. We’ve been there and done that–we seen ’em all. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five was dressing wild! If you ask me, Melle Mel was Andre 3000 thirty years ago.
TRHH: Sure was.
A.G.: When people start coming up with things that they think are fresh to the table, son, we’ve seen it already. You’re going to have to be very exceptional in this day and age with all of this mass media to turn my head. Me and O was talking, we like the Drake dude a lot ’cause them bars is tight! Give me something that I can go with. Don’t leave me like, “I don’t like the dance, I don’t like the beat, and these niggas ain’t talking about shit.” Leave me with something where I could say, “He spit some shit on that joint,” even if I don’t like the beat. Like “Contagious” on the Oasis album, all of my young dudes love that song. If the music is presented in their face they will know what it is.
It’s just not being presented and they’re being brainwashed by other shit being thrown in their face all day, but it’s part of a plan. Dead Prez, Public Enemy, where are those types of groups? You telling me in this whole world with six billion people nobody is feeling like shit needs to change? Nobody feels that way? Nah, it can’t be like that. You’re just hearing the dudes that don’t say that. And the guys who do want to say that aren’t being promoted, distributed, interviewed, or picked up by labels. As a Hip-Hop community we’ve lost ourselves. When we controlled it, it was going in a nice direction. We let it get out of our hands and now it’s being pimped.
TRHH: I went to a show in 1991 and on the same show I saw Public Enemy, Geto Boys, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Naughty by Nature, Queen Latifah, Kid ‘n Play, and A Tribe Called Quest. Many different styles…
O.C.: Different flavors, man. And none of them groups that you mentioned sound alike.
A.G.: None of them, O! And if you also notice all of those groups have their own producer, that’s another thing. When you have 14 tracks on your album and it’s done by 11 different producers…
O.C.: You’re all over the place.
A.G.: It means you have no sound. So, when your next album comes it’s going to sound different from that one. People don’t know what they’ll get from you! A lot of the production used to be in-house. Look at Diggin’ in the Crates, Tribe Called Quest, these types of groups had a sound and the producer in the group was like, “Nah, I got this.” Look at N.W.A, Run-DMC, the greatest groups have their own sound.
A.G.: Yeah, Wu-Tang. Now it’s like, “We wanna get that producer for this sound.” So, you might have 10 other rappers with the same beat, the same type of hook, and the same R&B dude singing it ’cause he’s hot. That’s not what this is about.
O.C.: And ten other rappers on their album, man. I’m tired of buying compilations, man.
A.G.: [LAUGHS] Yeah 14 songs and 11 features.
O.C.: It’s crazy, man. That’s why we didn’t put nobody on the record, man. We just wanted to do it by ourselves.
A.G.: We’re not feeling ourselves or hating or none of that. The truth is the truth. We like the younger dudes and some of the new music.
O.C.: We’re fans of the music, man.
A.G.: If you don’t appreciate something and don’t take care of it you’ll lose it, man. That’s what’s going to happen with this whole culture if the artists don’t start standing up as individuals. Back then the artists were the ones who were smart but weren’t with the school shit. They were the class clowns but smart. They weren’t conformist and weren’t with the structure. I learned a lot of my shit in life from listening to rap music. From different artists like Rakim, KRS-One, and Kool G Rap–we learned from them. You not learning nothing right now at all. My nephews and nieces are learning some bullshit. They’re learning how to be a disloyal person and think about yourself.
The whole hood is starving, but as long as I got money, good! That’s not what we’re talking about. Hip-Hop as a culture has values, B. I can imagine what other audiences and genre’s think. Let’s keep it real, certain white people must be listening to the music like, “What the fuck is that?” It wasn’t like that before, man. The majority of our fans are white. Wherever we go…I will just say non-minorities because when we go to Europe, or Japan, or China we get treated over there like these artist’s over here. They get to hear the record and they aren’t manipulated like the people over here.
O.C.: They know more than the kids over here. Like where it came from and where it started. Overseas they take it to heart.
TRHH: I tell young dudes all the time that Ghostface is nice and they say, “But he ain’t got no money.”
A.G.: And that’s an illusion! Come on, man, dudes is touring all year and putting out solo projects on independent labels. They got it twisted. They skipped the part about hard work. Working over a period of time you can still get to where you want to go instead of jumping in today and being gone tomorrow. When you love something, money shouldn’t have nothing to do with that. If you’re broke or rich or if I’m working at McDonald’s I would still be nice. This is what’s in me. I didn’t become a part of this because it was making money. When we decided to embrace this culture, it wasn’t no money involved in this shit.
O.C.: One thing that bothers me is a lot of cats are talking about, “Even though the recession is here I still got it.” It’s like you’re so smart you’re stupid, because if this is really a recession going into a depression your money is going to wither, too. Your money is going, too. It’s going to affect everybody. “Even though the recession is here I still got money,” nah dog. If it gets worse your money is out of here, too. We’re all in the same boat.
A.G.: Yo, how many artists do you actually see representing in their community trying to help instead of moving out? If we did that we could control this whole game. They got us thinking about individualism. I have an Italian friend who’s a die-hard Hip-Hop fan. He’s from the Bronx and has been a part of this culture from day one. He said, “I don’t listen to the mainstream stuff because you feel bad after you listen to the music because they talk down at you instead of uplifting you.” That stuck with me real hard because this is someone from a different point of view. I had to look into that right then. Why would I want to listen to someone telling me, Yo, I got 7 figures but you’re going to work in the morning? “You need to try and get on my level, but you’ll never make it” Who really wants to hear some shit like that? We need to hear someone say, “I came from this, and this was going on in my house, but I made it to this,” that’s uplifting! It might be a raw story in its essence, but it’s uplifting.
If I listen to your CD and you’re this dude with all this money and I’m back in this reality–it’s a detachment from reality. That’s why my dude said, “I don’t listen to that shit.” I listen to artists that when I’m at work let me know; damn I can still do what I gotta do ’cause this dude was at work at one time or vice versa. I hope our music can uplift someone and that’s why we make our references. Me and O was like, we have to give homage to those that came before us. We have to! Without them what do we have to shoot for? We went the same traditional route that was there. These guys was trail blazers who said “Fuck that, be you, and do this.” Why we can’t extend that to have the next young person say, “I can be true to myself, I can have morals, I can be honest, and still make it and bring my crew along.” That’s why so many groups break up, money. Diggin’ in the Crates, we go through our trials and tribulations, but we still here because we still represent the same thing. You’ve got the individualism in and when success comes it’s hard for that to stay together.
TRHH: Will there ever be another Show and A.G. album?
A.G.: We working on that right now. It’s going to be a slow process because me and O are focusing on Oasis. I just got off the phone with Show and trust me, you’re really gonna love the Show and A.G. shit. It’s like Runaway Slave all over again–the same process, the same formula, the same way we recorded.
Purchase: O.C. & A.G. – Oasis