Oh No: Disruptive Behavior

When Oh No says, “Life in the Ox is like life out of the Ox,” on the “I’m Here” intro off The Disrupt album, he’s lying. There aren’t too many places the size of Oxnard, California that can claim to be the home of such forward-thinking talent as Oh No and brother Madlib, in addition […]

When Oh No says, “Life in the Ox is like life out of the Ox,” on the “I’m Here” intro off The Disrupt album, he’s lying. There aren’t too many places the size of Oxnard, California that can claim to be the home of such forward-thinking talent as Oh No and brother Madlib, in addition to producer Kan Kick, Stones Throw lablemates MED, Dudley Perkins and Wildchild, Lootpack’s DJ Romes, and Beat Junkie Babu of the Dilated Peoples. “Stones Throw is Ox City,” says Kan Kick. He’s not lying.

Everyone grinds in Oxnard, and on Stones Throw, but Oh No may go harder than them all, following his Disrupt debut with the conceptual Exodus into Unheard Rhythms, released last month. Exodus is largely constructed from the music of composer Galt McDermot, the man behind the sounds of Hair and Cotton Comes to Harlem, who also led oft-sampled drummers Idris Muhammad and Bernard Purdie in sessions for his own Kilmarnock Records label.

A.G., Buckshot, Posdnuos, and Wise Intelligent of the Poor Righteous Teachers lent Oh No a hand on Exodus, along with Stones Throw family and a host of others, helping the style-shifting rapper and producer take his place at the head of the sophomore class. With his video resume growing alongside his discography, he’s already on that next level that everyone talks about, but few know how to reach. Oh No just creates – much like brother Madlib. It’s all in the family, but it’s all in the 805, too. The 9-3-0-33RD. The Ox.

AllHipHop.com: What’s good in the Ox? Last time I talked to you, you were getting on your video…

Oh No: Basically, I got some video equipment and did a video with Dudley Perkins for the Galt McDermot song “T. Biggums” with Georgia [Anne Muldrow]. Stones Throw liked it, so I ended up doing another video for Roc C. Cats around town have been seeing it, so now everybody wants videos. I didn’t really want to do it, but I was like, “I’ll do it.” It’s kind of cramping my style. I thought it was something I could do real quickly.

AllHipHop.com: That’s a lot of work though, especially when you’re cutting it yourself.

Oh No: Yeah, I do the editing and everything. The last two videos I did, I knew what I wanted, but it was somebody else’s stuff, and they wanted their little things in it, so it’s more like work than something that’s fun. [laughs]

AllHipHop.com: Are you trained for this, or is it something that you learn as you go along?

Oh No: I’m learning as I go along. I took it in high school, but I didn’t really didn’t apply it to anything. [laughs] I would do ghetto videos though, with a regular camera and Adobe Premiere. No one taught me. I just figured it out. But when I got some money, I got Final Cut [Pro] and the Mac and all that. I’m the camera man, director, producer, all of it.

AllHipHop.com: The Galt McDermot project – you got a lot of cats coming out on that and showing love.

Oh No: I just wanted to work with all of the artists that I looked up to and are doing big things right now, trying to make things happen. Like A.G., my man DJ Design hooked me up with him and I ended up doing a couple of beats for him. I’ve always dug A.G. When I produced his songs, he ended up rapping on one of my songs. That song was real sick, but I didn’t know if it was ever going to come out with the samples and that stuff, so I ended up throwing it on the Galt McDermot over one of his beats, and it came out sick.

AllHipHop.com: How does Galt feel about the project?

Oh No: Galt likes it. He was down with it right when they [Stones Throw] showed him the beats that I made. I made 27 beats in three days, turned it in, and they sent if off and gave him an idea of what I wanted to do. If we could make it happen, let’s make it happen. He sent me more records and all kinds of stuff.

AllHipHop.com: That’s dope. A lot of cats today don’t know about Galt. DJs don’t talk about pioneers like that. You can’t really stop in between playing records at a club and talk about, “this person was sampled for so-and-so.” With Exodus, you’re also teaching history.

Oh No: That’s what’s up – respect on that. I never really looked at it that way. I do kind of want to get people’s names out there like Galt’s. I’m starting to work with some other people that I can’t really speak on yet, but there’s a lot of things popping off. This Galt McDermot thing has opened up some lanes.

AllHipHop.com: These were the joints you were listening to coming up – you and Madlib?

Oh No: There was so much music being played. Pops [‘70s session musician and singer Otis Jackson, Sr.] had his own music. Or I went to ‘Frisco or Oakland and hung out with my grandparents, going to Jazz clubs with them, meeting all kinds of people. A lot of them are still doing it. People do what they love. If you love it, it’s kind of hard to let it go. Even if you’re not really getting paid for it, it’s still your thing.

AllHipHop.com: Do you make beats for artists, in particular, or on the spot?

Oh No: If the situation calls for it. If I hear someone that sounds tight to it, I’ll probably give it to them, but most of time, I’m making instrumentals. [I’m usually] making pure beats, then smoking to them and trippin’ out on ‘em. Then I’ll forget about them the next month. They’re just lost files, in the piles with everything else.

AllHipHop.com: Just like Dilla, or your brother, producing just to get the music out there. That’s creativity. Anyone can make a beat when they get a phone call, but if you’re waking up in the morning, getting zooted then going into the lab and sitting there all day, that’s living it.

Oh No: When I make beats, I don’t even think about eating. I’ll end up being hungry at like, one in the morning. Starving. I’ll ask my wife what I ate that day and she’ll be like, “Nothing, I told you to eat!” I’m like, “Oh, snap! Time to eat!” I’ll be busy…zonin’.

AllHipHop.com: You got kids?

Oh No: Yup – I got three boys. They get their grub on! [laughs] I used to be like that. In my passport photos, I looked hella big. If I go overseas, they’ll look at my passport picture and think it’s not me. I lost so much weight. I was like, 210, 215, when I first went on tour, and from there, it’s been going down. I stopped eating and started staying busy.

AllHipHop.com: Are you going to stick with the rhyming?

Oh No: Yeah, yeah, I’m still on that. I’m just not as heavy on it. I’m heavy on it, but I don’t be trippin’ off of it. I’m over a hundred songs for my next album. I got some crazy songs on there, too, but I’m not really sweating them or pushing them because I do so many other things. I don’t want to be out there on tour trying to rap and trying do videos, too, and trying to knock all these other things out.

AllHipHop.com: You’re lucky to be able to go both ways. Cats knew about the beats, but I don’t think people were ready for how you came lyrically on The Disrupt. It was like, “Who’s this Oh No dude rhyming like this?” No one was expecting that.

Oh No: I got some verses. I got songs for everything. Topics, that’s all I’ve been writing. Out of a hundred songs, I got 80 of them on topics. The other 20 are some straight murder on the verse. I don’t want to put that out, though, like I’m just a battle rapper. I’ll do the concepts, and then I’ll end up selling the beats for the other stuff. [laughs]

AllHipHop.com: Does your pops still get down?

Oh No: Yeah, you know what? My pops has an album coming out this year. Me and Madlib contributed to that. I did a beat for him and rapped on it, and Madlib did a beat for him, too. He’s definitely got his stuff going on. He’s getting a lot of props for the R&B. He’s doing his thing. I don’t really know too much about that realm, but that’s pops, so I’ll contribute to it. Whatever y’all need from me, I got you.

AllHipHop.com: How much older is Madlib?

Oh No: Like, five-and-a-half years. Everybody in the clique, they’re like big brothers to me. Everybody. I’m the youngest out of the clique.

AllHipHop.com: You all have a good family at Stones Throw, like Def Jux and Rhymesayers…independent crews that aren’t on that ground level anymore, but still not mainstream…

Oh No: Yeah, we try and keep it tight, but [Peanut Butter] Wolf, man…I haven’t seen that n***a for a minute! [laughs] The past couple months, he’s been in and out. I don’t know where he’s been! It’s hard to catch up with him. I just be seeing him, like, “Oh snap, what are you doing here?”

AllHipHop.com: A lot of times, cats put records out because they’re broke, but you don’t have to do it like that. Work at your own pace; make sure it’s sounding right.

Oh No: Yup, yup…I’ve been working on this record for a minute now.

AllHipHop.com: Yeah, it’s been two years since The Disrupt

Oh No: And I was pretty much done with that in 2001. It just didn’t come out until later. Like you said, Wolf’s a hard dude to get at! [laughs] I turned it in in 2001, but they weren’t really paying attention because there were other things going on at that time. [Quasimoto] just came out. MED started working on some stuff. I was working with Kazi and Kali Wild, so they didn’t think I had focus on my album because I never really sweated for it to be out. In 2004, they said I needed to turn some stuff in, so I turned it in again. Then, it was like, “Oh, you need to put this out!” [laughs]