O.F.I - California Mack
By no means am I an authority on Chicano Rap, but I do consider myself a devoted aficionado. So it came to me as a surprise when this little gem was casually brought up in one of our conversations. I'm generally pretty inclined to knowing about the local rap releases from the 1990s coming out of San Diego. The existence of an EP that, up until recently, was off my radar came as a pleasant surprise. Once I got my hands on this, naturally, I felt compelled to share my thoughts with you all on a release, and a rapper, that deserves some much needed appreciation.
"South Bay Sway" was one of the first tracks I heard by the funkiest individual in the 619. Not to be confused with the L.A's South Bay, the San Diego South Bay consists of National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and South SD, giving us a glimpse of a different sector of the 619. I came across this rola on one of the Chicano Rap compilations from Familia Records back in my high school years. Never thought much of it. But I played this on and off until it grew on me. To be completely honest, I really expected more out of it, considering VMF was on the hook, though not produced by him (he mixed and mastered it), I had higher hopes. In all fairness the Al Green sample of "Love And Happiness" is kind hard to pull off. It's been sampled by the likes of West Coast artists such as Rodney O & Joe Cooley, Hi-C (produced by Tony A) and Blaquie (Battlecat produced) and I can't say I've heard a single song that I loved how the sample came out. In actuality it's O.F.I's flow that really saves this song. His style is smooth, delivery on point and rhyme scheme executed to the tee.
Low Profile picked up another single from the EP to feature on their compilation ("Brown Pride Riders") in 1999. "It Don't Stop" possesses a certain appeal, and from the get-go I was down with this funky tune. The beats composition can be attributed to VMF in the manner in which the "similarities of arrangement and sounds" appear (as J-Funktion phrased it). The way O.F.I drops lines reminds me of cyphers held around lunch tables, rhymes ping-ponging back and forth. It's hard not to like this song, virtually devoid of obscene nonsense and profanity. Some criticisms I have heard about O.F.I, including from some of the homies that put me on to Chicano Rap is that he sounds like a black rapper, as in his vernacular is too close to black vernacular. Chicanos in San Diego's rap scene in general have a different flow from their L.A counterparts. If you ask me, I'd say it's more akin to Bay Area rappers (RBL Posse, Spice 1, Goldie, and Rappin' Ron); it's spoken rapidly, high energy, or relaxed and pimp-like in its verbal strut where as L.A rappers have an annunciated approach that tends to be less fluid with a more consistent pace. Take it for what it is, O.F.I is underrated and that's a natural fact.
Resting on my Top Ten songs in Chicano Rap, "California Mack" is undoubtedly a piece of pure magic. Sampling a timeless classic by Whodini, this I dare say, even outshines it's original sample. This song is almost singlehandedly responsible for getting me hooked on the genre. My first glimpse of this came from an clip available online. I couldn't get enough of this. I showed my cousin this clip and by the grace of God he just so happened to have "Chicano Rap Volume 3" in his collection. Mellow beats with a toned down almost silent "Five Minutes of Funk" sample is just short of giving you that contact high. I'd say this is probably his most popular song to date, never met anyone that didn't vibe to this.
Unlike the previous songs, it wasn't until recently that I had the opportunity to listen to this song. I was instantly captivated by the use of Spyder-O's "Smurphies Dance". It's a popular sample among West Coast rappers. It slaps and was refreshing to hear. The chorus itself contains clips of the previous song. If you ain't coasting to this, you ain't living right. Maybe it's because I'm still new to this song, but I find this song addicting and among my favorites. At times the song feel really fresh almost like it was recently made but the funk still emanates.
O.F.I posses a rap style that he can rightfully call his own and adheres to it. Take it as his demo - or EP - or first album - whatever, the fact remains that this type of concentrated quality of rap music is in short supply. I'll remind you that less is more, the fact that this was only 4 tracks long is a plus, completely devoid of unnecessary tracks and skits. Consider the typical marijuana plant anatomy, if the entire plant is a full feature-length albums, EP's like this are the potent dabs you get when you've extracted everything else. My consensus: EP's should be the norm not the exception. Other fine examples of banging EP's are "Hoodlum Town" (D Lyrical & The S.A Mob), "Da Phunkee Hi Rolla" (Lowdown), and "For The 619" (Royal T & La Raza Crew).
01. South Bay Sway
02. It Don't Stop
03. California Mack
04. Weed, Money, Hoe'z & Clothes