When we last heard from Oh No, the rapper/producer was having his funky way with the catalog of composer Galt MacDermot (composer of the musical Hair) whose material he sampled for his 2006 LP Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms. Now he’s back with a project just as conceptual and creative and even more awesomely wacky. On his third full-length release for the foolproof Stones Throw, Dr. No’s Oxperiment (a nod to his hometown of Oxnard, CA), Oh No had the opportunity to pillage label GM Egon’s collection of rare psych-rock and funk vinyl from Turkey, Lebanon and Italy. There are no guest MCs in the house, no catchy hooks. In fact, there are no vocals at all, save what was sampled and a few briefly spoken interludes. The music here speaks for itself, and Oh No knows how to make it crazy eloquent.
Growing up in an artistically visionary household surely shaped his sophisticated ear. Oh No (ne Michael Jackson – really!) is also Madlib’s younger brother and while their work shares a level of high quality, the similarities stop there. Oh No has been making music since he was 11; just picture the “Everybody Hates Chris” moment of Daddy Jackson (as in Otis Jackson, soul singer of the 70’s – really!) grounding his boys from the turntable after discovering some of his precious vinyl scratched beyond repair.
“Dr. No’s Oxperiment” may be mostly instrumental, but in no way is it background music. And although the samples are exotic, the beats are always unmistakably hip hop. Prog rock guitars, ambient bird noises, sensual vocal loops, trilling flutes and quixotic synths layer dreamily over hardcore beats that would not be out of place behind the lyrical musings of Jay-Z or M.O.P. One of the 28 tracks sounds almost like an instrumental Boney M outtake (“Exp out the Ox”), where another sounds like a lost Dr. Dre production (“Ohhhhhh”).
If not for Egon’s collection and Oh No’s talent, most of us would never be able to hear these precious little nuggets of sound, but this Oxperiment is no museum piece. Listening to this is not only a funky education, it’s also a funkin’ good time.