Oh No apparently thrives on setting up roadblocks for himself. Wether he confines his sampling material on a project to a specific geographical point of origin (Ethiopium, Dr. No’s Oxperiment) or a certain artist (Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms), his self-inflicted boundaries keep a project cohesive while still allowing him to freak a sample either way he sees fit. And boy, the man born as Michael Jackson (no relation), better known as Oh No, sure knows how to chop a sample. On his fifth solo album, the Disrupt gets an open invitation to dive head first into the archives of Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite, to grab whatever strikes him as usable. And even though Dolemite samples have been used abundantly in hip-hop’s past 30+ years, one of the most noticeable and fervent digger of the material being his own brother Madlib, he still manages to come out with a barrel full of dirty, dusty, slappin’ boombap-funk wholly his own.
To spit some smirk-enticing vocals to these beats Oh No opens up his Rolodex for a guest list that’ll have any rap purist salivating. Evidence, Erick Sermon, Phife, Roc Marciano and DOOM are just a few names among a slew of emcees stepping in to rock a verse alongside Oh No himself. While everybody on the project spits well, ranging from decent to awesome, the diversity of the features becomes the Achilles heel of the album as well. Ironically, the overabundance of friends spitting braggadocio and/or gully rhymes makes the lyrics lack in a variety of subject and grow a wee bit stale at about halfway in. A few less emcees or a more prominent spot for the head of the project could’ve infused the album with an individual personality and leave room for a couple concept-driven tracks. In short, less faces could render it less faceless.
Thankfully, Oh No drops in ‘Ohnomite Jazz,’ an excellent slab of funky horns and subtle piano keys over a pulsing live-sounding drum, exactly at the right time to stave off tedium. There are a couple instrumental tracks like that dropped throughout that give the project a nice flow, providing a breather in what otherwise would be a non-stop barrage of tough guys. Like Tribe’s Phife Dawg says on ‘Dues ‘n Don’ts,’ a beautifully laidback track full of sound advice “every move you make ain’t thorough.” Good thing not every track is either.
But with a solid crew on deck and Oh No’s mean work behind the boards, which despite admirable emceeing is the real star of the show, the album makes up in funkdafied bangers what it lacks in thematic variation. Ohnomite won’t break the mold when it comes to rap albums, but it sure will move your neck.