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After hip-hop’s golden era of the 90′s ended, a lot of rappers found themselves trying to adapt to new standards set by commercially-relevant-yet-street-saavy acts like the Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, and Snoop Dogg. Soon, every New York emcee was trying to carve out the next “Hypnotize”, resulting in a lot of our favorite emcees releasing lackluster singles and misdirected LP’s. After releasing his classic debut, Word…Life – with one of the greatest hip-hop singles of all time at the helm (“Time’s Up”) – O.C. followed up an arguably perfect album with Jewelz. While O.C.’s sophomore release undoubtedly had it’s share of raw bangers buried within (hence the title), it was led with a pair of crossover attempts, the forgettable radio single “Far From Yours” with Yvette Michelle, and the uninspired jacking of Sugar Hill Gang’s “8th Wonder” for “Dangerous” with Big L. Looking back, these two singles were better than what today’s major labels shovel at radio, but despite giving O.C. some quick sales, neither were the national hit singles he needed. Like many other rappers of the era, this set Omar Credle on an unfortunate path that would not allow him to recapture the magic that was found on his debut.

O.C. touches upon this on Trophies’ final track, “Fantastic”, recounting the last five albums of his career, all which have led to this point. He admits some slip-ups along the way, suggesting things got back on track with the release of the little heard Starchild and Smoke & Mirrors. While both LP’s were reviewed solidly, O has struggled to strike the chord found on his Buckwild-helmed debut. Trophies seems to remedy that – putting O.C. back in prime form – thanks to the wall-to-wall production from Detroit producer Apollo Brown and ultra poetic lyrics from O himself.

Being the work of one producer, the album is perhaps O.C.’s most cohesive yet. There are no radio-ready “singles” interrupting the flow of the record, there are no guest appearances, no requisite DJ Premier tracks, and most of all, no bullshit. As mentioned on “Fantastic”, there couldn’t be a more honest rapper than O.C. – a simple blue collar worker that likes to smoke his pipe after a hard days work (“Another One”), or one that pays homage to his favorite rapper ever – The D.O.C. – in a revealing cover of “The Formula”.

And it’s O.C.’s knack for constructing such incredibly lucid poetry that makes him easily one of the greatest emcees currently holding a microphone. O doesn’t go for cheesy punchlines, thug bravado, or finger-waving preachiness; instead, he describes the world around him with Blu-Ray clarity. “Nautica” for instance, speaks on the destructive nature his own flow, driving an extended metaphor of hurricane-like proportions, which will go over the heads of many. The same can be said for “We The People” – where he lambasts neighborhood folk for worshipping the villain, or “Caught Up”, which examines how far young ladies will go for fame.

O suggests on “Fantastic” – “Take away the music / Listen to my acapellas / my shit is art / with texture and colors…” While a true statement, all of this could not be possible without the production of Apollo Brown. Brown’s classically driven, sample based hip-hop production brings something vintage – yet not dated – to the table, as he creates bittersweet backdrops for O to rhyme atop. A newcomer to the game, Apollo has struggled a bit to get the same amount of props as other underground stalwarts like Preem or Pete Rock, but this may be the album that later defined a turning point in his respective career. All in all, despite being among both the midnight hours of the indie hip-hop movement and well past that of the golden era, O.C. and Apollo Brown have teamed to truly create something special with Trophies.

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13 Responses to "O.C. + Apollo Brown – “Trophies” – @@@@1/2 (Review)"
  • Karma Gotbeats says:

    I will be checking this album ONLY off the strength of this review–O.C. hasn’t put out anything worth listening to since the early 2000′s imo.

  • Dayz says:

    One of the best Hip Hop LPs released in many many years! This is an instant classic that I will be listening to 20 years from now, it is that good. I don’t get hung up on LP of the year or any silly titles like that, this is a classic LP and timeless, BUY it now if you haven’t already!

  • DJ Pizzo says:

    @josh “…O.C. followed up an arguably perfect album (meaning Word…Life) with Jewelz.”

  • darootsfan80 says:

    This album is sick! I didn’t even know it was in existence until I stumbled across it picking up the new Large Pro album (which is surprisingly decent too). I missed O.C., and I actually think Jewelz was damn good too…I didn’t see it as that much of a drop off from “Word…Life”.

  • Chad says:

    Nothing except Nas has come out this year that comes near this. This gets 5 from me, and I’ll tell you why, nothing that I’ve heard in the mainstream or ‘major’ labels this year qualifies as ‘special.”. In 1998, Mello Music Group would’ve been an indie label with a major hookup. What happened in 1999?

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