O.C. made his debut as the only guest appearance on Organized Konfusion’s self-titled 1991 debut album, where he spit a verse on single “Fudge Pudge.” That showing wasn’t quite enough to elevate the hungry up-and-comer to overnight prominence, but it set the table for what would turn out to make a legitimate impact on the game.
On the strength of his contributions to “Fudge Pudge” and the remix to MC Serch’s monumental 1992 smash “Back to the Grill,” O.C. proved to the industry that he had his game face on and was ready for the challenge of holding down his own record.
Two years later, a star was born.
O.C.’s inaugural album Word…Life hit the airwaves in 1994 and received universal rave reviews. The album is most known for hit single “Time’s Up,” which has indisputably gone down as one of the most impressive debut singles of the 90s era, but this wasn’t a one-hit wonder situation. Word…Life is a complete record, strapped with bangers from start to finish that amalgamate a remarkable blend of underground smashes with a variety of melodies that penetrate your ears from different angles.
One year into his career, Buckwild put his genius on display, producing eight of the album’s 14 tracks and complementing O.C.’s style and delivery flawlessly. O.C. planted his feet and made his presence felt behind top-notch production and showed off his captivating aura on the mic. The slick-talking Brooklyn emcee exhibited a terrific combination of crystal clear enunciation, clean and consistent flow, elite delivery and strong lyrical substance without having to flaunt a fabricated gangsta bravado to get his point across in hard-hitting fashion.
Word…Life is a classic golden age hip hop record. Let’s take a look at what makes it stand out.
1 – Creative Control
“Creative Control” is one hell of an intro. Word…Life‘s introductory track beautifully sets the tone for the album’s stimulating melodic temperament and transitions in fitting connection with the self-titled “Word…Life.”
2 – Word…Life
The aura of the self-titled track fills your heart with relaxation and peace, as O.C. speaks some truth throughout three verses and 34 bars of positive reinforcement.
Let the chime be a part of your mind
Let the rhyme intertwine like a vine
Work your mentally found intellect
I raise eyes like the sight of a tech
Take me in stride, O.C.’s worth listening
Watch the tricks of a ho who’s a vixen
Tender eyes, they only leading to a hard-on
Touching tongue state, two to be a part on
I max relax, smooth it out like a sax
One of my goals is to make fat stacks
Then I, flip the money to establish a business
This here beat, you see I already quizzed it
I gave it a test for the rhyme linguistics
Persons serve for purpose like workers
Yet there’s clowns making hip hop a circus
Me, I’m an architect, mark my sweat
Brain of the engine, better yet a Corvette
Thoughts are surging like a sub submerging
Some subjects never been touched like a virgin
Urging emcee’s – be aware of my wrath
I’m destroying all things that go through my path
The song concludes with some of the truest words O.C. ever wrote: “You need to stop flexing, stop vexing what you not… Be sure about what you got.”
3 – O-Zone
On “O-Zone,” O.C. flexes his impeccable flow and delivery over one of the rawest instrumentals Buckwild has put together, which includes a Mobb Deep vocal sample for the hook. All underground heads can break their neck to this as O.C. draws his lyrical prowess and profiles his infinite confidence on the mic, on one of his illest records.
O period C period, you’re fearing it
Next to me and my mic, rappers are just inferior
My posterior pose not my brain, but secondary
Mic to mouth, is how I drag down adversaries
Let me give you a brief bio, O’s not based on style
Innovations are my thing so I can go the extra mile
I’ll attack, attract maximum, rarely minimum action
Soon to be a club favorite, cause I’m the coming attraction
School a emcee with efficient composition
Parasol, a capella peep the weak competition
They should listen, is it live or Memorex, with lies
Scared to use intelligence, your methods are irrelevant
Home writing poems, the wrong niggas touched
The microphone blown up, I’m calling your bluff
Foes are flammable in its entirety
Step back a hundred feet or so cause what I let loose, is fiery
Fisticuffs, slips are blistered
Non-dread rappers wanna sell cause it’s hot, so they calyps’ it
Claims they rips it; “Yo man I can flow,” so what?
Every one, two or three bars all I hear is a cuss
You ain’t impressing me, manifesting meaninglessness
This is the second verse, so I’mma seal it off, like this
Here’s an invitation to be facing me
To seek salvation, the proper education
Step into the O-Zone
4 – Born 2 Live
“Born 2 Live” was Word…Life’s second single, following “Time’s Up,” and is full of soul as O.C. reflects on his upbringing. Unlike many rappers who choose to reflect on hustling as a youngster, O.C. profiles the positive aspects of his childhood while simultaneously touching on dealing with the loss of a friend whose life was taken as a victim of a car accident.
Now when somebody is gone, that’s when you realize how close you was
How close you are… like a star
This is just quality writing which connects a relationship with a living friend to the sun, and a deceased friend to the stars.
We’re born to live, a life to die
Life’s so damn short and I wonder why
The song is a firm reminder to cherish every moment of your existence, because you never know when it could be taken from you or a loved one beyond your control. The message is strong, as O.C. touches on the careless mindset of a child that took life for granted until he had to deal with the death of somebody close.
5 – Time’s Up
“Time’s Up” is a universally renowned classic and stands as O.C.’s most famous and recognizable track. As impressive of a debut single as you could ask for, it is full of quotables that called out the rap game and its emcees that glorified fairy tale images to get noticed.
O.C. was never in it for just the money and fame and on “Time’s Up” he says just that; “I’d rather be broke and have a whole lot of respect.” He commanded the mic for all of the right reasons and generally provided a message in his work, rather than spewing a whole lot of nonsense in the fake perspective of a thug. He respects the craft and encouraged all of his peers to do the same, as this track acts as a call out for whoever doesn’t.
You lack the minerals and vitamins, irons and the niacin
Fuck who that I offend, rappers sit back I’m ’bout to begin
‘Bout foul talk you squawk, never even walked the walk
More less destined to get tested, never been arrested
My album will manifest many things that I saw, did or heard about
All told first hand, never word of mouth
What’s in the future for the fusion in the changer?
Rappers are in danger, who will use wits to be a remainder
When the missile is aimed, to blow you out of the frame
Some will keep their limbs and, some will be maimed
The same suckers with the gab about, killer instincts
But turned bitch and knowin’ damn well they lack, in this division
The connoisseur, crackin your head with a 4 by 4
Realize sucka, I be the comin’ like Noah
Always simmer you down, perpetratin’ facadin’ what you consider an image
To me this is just a scrimmage
The “Time’s Up” instrumental stands as one of the illest the underground scene has ever been hit with.
6 – Point O’ Viewz
The first 22 seconds of this song contains a sample of Little Boy Blues’ “Seed of Love,” which was made famous in hip hop as the instrumental to Jay-Z’s “Public Service Announcement.” Buckwild, however, chose to use it as a quick introduction to O.C.’s “Point O’ Viewz,” which transitions into an absolute massacre of the microphone. The full instrumental by its lonesome would be enough to get your body moving, but O.C.’s signature style enhances it into an underground hit.
Whether either or how well you rock well
Whether behind bars or dead my spirit will still dwell
The eyes of the wise I size up the par
Plus shine potential from the twilight of a star
So who sets the norm for soft
I can call for the rhyme come back on time and still get off
No smokescreen can blind me on account of my crystal, I
Whistle through the air like the stray of a pistol shot
Listen up I’m here and I’m official I’m metaphysical
Bein’ worth seein’ soon you’ll be agreein’
I robbed the pulmonary, adversaries get sweaty palms
Ain’t ready for the mic, more or less clap it off the arms
So I can stick with the crew and takin’ mine after ours
Cause my purpose on the mic is to defeat all the frauds
On the hook, O.C. states that he intends to stay true to the roots of emceeing and “won’t pop,” which means he will never cross over to mainstream. There’s a difference between hip hop and what I like to call hip pop, and you have to appreciate the talented cats that refuse to sell out for a buck.
7 – Constables
The hook of “Constables” contains a vocal sample of KRS-One’s “Police be clockin’ me” from “Hip Hop vs. Rap” in a track where is O.C. expresses his frustration with police racially profiling him and trying to bring him down without reason. There are some cops that do their job the right way, and there are others that use their position of power as a free pass to terrorize the community. O.C., like many, has no love for the latter.
8 – Ga Head
Produced by Lord Finesse, “Ga Head” speaks on a scandalous female that played with O.C.’s heart despite how well he treated her. The track illustrates the process of denial predicated on his attraction to her, transforming into a realization that he simply shouldn’t continue to waste his time with women of that nature, until he finally says “Ga head with yourself.”
If you get yourself into that kind of situation with the opposite sex, it is time to move on. If you don’t, you’re playing yourself.
9 – No Main Topic (ft. Prince Po)
A more jagged approach is taken on this one, where O.C. teams up with DJ O.Gee for a street cut carried by some rugged keys. Absent of a hook, O.C. attacks “No Main Topic” by spitting 22 bars without a water break.
First of all what you call hardcore?
Who’s hardcore, I guess grittin’ ya teeth and lockin’ ya jaw
Best all is filled with crooks and criminals
Ill technicalities givin’ ‘em ill subliminals
I astound you from a rhyme that I wrote long time ago
Found this place I figure we would go, the body so cold
Talk about the mind
More powerful than anything known to mankind
My flight has begun stand clear of the runway
The only way I see it killin me is with gunplay
In many ways of O beatin’ styles in the raw
Flip the word around now raw spells war
Never could I kill a man to fill a void of prosperous, life
He gets burnt like phosphorous
“No Main Topic” also features Organized Konfusion’s Prince Po, a childhood friend of O.C., who lays down a few bars for the outro of the track.
10 – Let It Slide (ft. Pharoahe Monch)
On “Let It Slide,” O.C. takes the approach that sometimes beef is worth walking away from, as Buckwild hits us with a well-placed saxophone, horns and constant piano keys to combine for a splash of funk. It doesn’t make you any less of a man to let some things go and pick your battles. There are plenty of people out there who live their lives as instigators, just looking to push the buttons of anyone who is willing to let them.
If the beef isn’t personal, don’t let them make it personal. Don’t let the mean mugs get the best of your judgement.
The hook features vocals from the other half of Organized Konfusion, Pharoahe Monch, who is well-known for delivering complex lyrics but doesn’t lay down any bars on “Let It Slide.”
11 – Ma Dukes
Remember when Nas filled everyone’s heart by putting his dad (Olu Dara) on a song? O.C. drives down a similar road as he pays homage to his mom on “Ma Dukes,” which actually features vocals from his mother throughout the entirety of the song. This is just great stuff. How often does that kind of thing happen, especially in hip hop?
12 – Story
“Story” is the second and final track produced by DJ O.Gee on Word…Life. O.C.’s storytelling ability shines through as he paints the picture of a cat who got mixed up in a lot of crime-related endevours, vanished from home and left all of his loved ones behind to catch the consequences of his actions. His innocent family ends up getting killed in various ways while “Timmy,” the one who really caused problems, gets away and left his family for dead.
13 – Outro (Sabotage)
The instrumental to this bangin’ outro has been sampled and featured all over the place, recognizable from the scene from the classic movie Next Friday where a stoned Ice Cube imagines the hottie from next door dancing for him on his Uncle Elroy’s coffee table.
O.C. and Buckwild’s incredible work on Word…Life cemented their place in the Diggin’ in the Crates Crew, commonly referred to as D.I.T.C., with Lord Finesse, Big L, Diamond D, Fat Joe, Showbiz and A.G.
O.C. never quite matched the elite expertise of Word…Life, but he has shined in various D.I.T.C. appearances and followed up nicely with his sophomore album Jewelz, which features heavy production from DJ Premier, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, The Beatminerz and DJ O.Gee.
Word…Life has solidified its place in hip hop history as one of the classics of its time period. This record is timeless.