I’ve heard that imitation is the best form of flattery. Some would debate that sampling is a form of imitation. Regardless, as a musician, it must be flattering to have a producer make an album based solely on your own personal body of work.
Such is the case with legendary Canadian musician/composer Galt MacDermot. The Stones Throw beatsmith Oh No recently released his latest album, Exodus into Unheard Rhythms, and it is based entirely on samples pulled from MacDermot’s catalogue. Fellow compatriot and Stones Throw general manager Egon understood the implications of MacDermot’s mastery when he pushed a fat stack of records into Oh No’s hands to do some remixes. Within a mere matter of days, the foundation for Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms was laid when Oh No did what he does best: crank out a mind-blowing amount of beats quicker than when Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” got played out.
Oh No isn’t just another producer handcuffed to his MPC. As he proved on his 2004 debut The Disrupt, he can write rhymes as well as pound the buttons on his beat machine. For Exodus into Unheard Rhythms, however, the Oxnard, Calif. native only appears on three songs. Meanwhile, a slew of Stones Throw affiliates drop in to work their lyrical magic: Aloe Blacc, MED, Wildchild, Dudley Perkins, DITC’s AG, De La Soul’s Posdnuos, Buckshot and Wordsworth, just to name a few. In the true tradition of hip-hop, new breathes life into the old, and Oh No adds his own style and flare while keeping faithful to MacDermot’s compositions.
Despite a case of walking pneumonia, Oh No made time to discuss music, family, video games and the “Ox.”
Plug One: How did you develop the idea for this album, Exodus into Unheard Rhythms, using samples solely form Galt MacDermot’s catalogue?
Oh No: I had been wanting to do a compilation for a minute, and Egon over at Stones Throw helped set that up. He had asked me to do a Galt remix for him, and then he gave me a bunch of Galt’s stuff. I flipped like 27 beats in three days. Egon was hyped, and approached Galt about the project.
Plug One: How did he react when you first approached him with your idea for the album?
Oh No: Galt was real cool about it. He was feeling the idea behind it. I mean he’d been sampled many times before, but this was something new to him. He was down.
Plug One: Describe working with Galt and your relationship with him?
Oh No: He’s a really down to earth person. It was mad cool meeting with him and talking about the music.
Plug One: Did he have a hand in the creation of Exodus at all?
Oh No: Besides using his samples, which added to the creativity, Galt got to hear everything beforehand, but that was about it.
Plug One: What has it been like for you making a name for yourself alongside your brother Madlib, who was already a recognizable name by the time you began making a splash?
Oh No: It’s been fun. You know, my brother has taught me a lot, and I’ve learned a lot from watching him. I appreciate it. Of course I’m just doing me, so things are going to be more me. But its dope that we both can get our stuff heard. Shoot, even my pops [soul vocalist Otis Jackson] is putting some stuff out.
[Editor’s note: Otis Jackson recently released The Art of Love on CDP Records. It features his sons Oh No and Madlib. You can learn more at www.myspace.com/otisjackson2.]
Plug One: What is the age difference between you and your brother?
Oh No: 33-28.
Plug One: The styles between you and Madlib are similar but still distinguishable. What part of your music is influenced by him and what would you say is your imprint?
Oh No: Madlib of course influenced me and helped me see some things, but the thing that we both are doing, is we are doing us. I’ve got stuff that’s hardcore, underground, funky, jazzy etc. Madlib does his thing too. He can do whatever he likes. The thing is that we are both just doing us. Do what we want.
Plug One: How has your craft of making beats changed for you over the years? In essence, any major changes in style or technique along the way, or different techniques after your beats began getting released on a larger scale?
Oh No: Well I don’t know if I can say the techniques have changed much. I still just create the way that I create. One thing that is different is that I’ve learned the technology and work with whatever I’m feeling at the time.
Plug One: What was going on in the life of Oh No before the world saw your Stones Throw debut on Lootpack’s Soundpieces: Da Antidote?
Oh No: Man, I was just rapping, producing, making music with my crew Kaliwild, CDP and others. Just working on the grind. Oh, and of course getting my game on…ha ha…
Plug One: Compared to past projects, what was different about making Exodus for you, if anything?
Oh No: Man, just trying to make sure everything was coordinated. Also being able to just sample whatever I wanted without worries. It was dope.
Plug One: What is it about Oxnard that seems to have generated such a multitude of unique, interesting and talented artists?
Oh No: Oxnard is just a little city by the sea. We really didn’t have much to do out here It was either doing music, banging or smoking. I chose smoking and music…ha ha…
Plug One: How did you develop the name Oh No?
Oh No: Oh No actually came from Wildchild. Kinda as a thing that just stuck. Oh No the Disrupt … Cuz I’m always disrupting something. Ha ha, just playing. Yeah…Wildchild gave me that.
Plug One: What’s the hot shit with the games lately?
Oh No: Scarface … check that out. I’m actually digitalized somewhere in the game, so you can see me and Roc C. Of course there’s a ton more, but Scarface is ill.
— James O’Connor